CRS Seminar: Exploring belonging: Experiences of refugee children and families in Camp Cosmos
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Prof. Nicole Ives, Associate Professor, McGill School of Social Work
Hend Alqawasma, PhD Candidate, McGill School of Social Work
This study explored how participation in recreational activities shapes refugee children’s sense of belonging. Researchers documented experiences of children, parents and staff at Camp Cosmos in Montreal. Camp Cosmos aims to foster a sense of belonging by providing children from diverse social, economic and cultural backgrounds with a safe and fun environment to play, learn and grow. This research described the experiences of campers, parents and staff who were part of Camp Cosmos in the summer of 2018, highlighting their perspectives on the Camp’s strengths and key benefits as well as areas of improvement.
There is very limited research on the sense of belonging held by refugee children and parents in early childhood educational and recreational settings. Assessments of integration often center on financial independence and access to rights and services. Sustainable integration, however, is much broader than economic participation; long-term integration consists of social, economic, cultural, and political participation in the host country while maintaining a relationship with the country of origin. For refugee children, participation in new educational contexts like Camp Cosmos typically creates a greater sense of belonging, associated with lower depression and higher self-efficacy.
Study findings can be used to inform research-based models and policy regarding culturally grounded recreational programs. Such programs would work towards developing a sense of belonging among refugee children and families by supporting their integration.
Nicole Ives is an Associate Professor at McGill University School of Social Work. She has been working with refugee populations in the resettlement context for more than 30 years in Canada, Denmark, and the USA. Her research has explored refugee resettlement in Canada, Denmark and the USA, refugee sponsorship, recreation and education as vehicles to promote integration for refugee children, youth and young adults, long-term health outcomes for Syrian refugees, and refugee communities’ access to virtual mental health care and experiences with public health messaging during COVID. Prof. Ives has published articles focused on refugee resettlement as it relates to integration and sponsorship and has presented her research on refugee issues both nationally and internationally. Within the refugee communities in Montreal, she is involved in ongoing collaboration with community organizations working with refugees and immigrants to present their organizations’ work in social work courses and provide networking opportunities for students.
Hend Alqawasma completed her MSW and is a PhD candidate at McGill University School of Social Work. Her dissertation focuses on refugee youth’s experience of resettlement and integration while enrolled in Canadian universities. She teaches Anti-Oppressive Social Work Practice for social work students at McGill university and has been working as a field instructor for World University Services of Canada (WUSC) in the Student Refugee Program (SRP) since 2018. She joined the Centre for Research on Children and Families (CRCF) in 2018 as a research assistant under the supervision of Dr. Nicole Ives. Through her experience as a research assistant, she was in contact with many young refugees and families who wanted to resettle and build a new home in Canada. She focuses on identifying the needs, vulnerabilities, and strengths of newcomers.