The Village Exchange Center's Youth Wellness Program will provide much needed after school support, leadership opportunities and recreational programming for youth from newly arrived refugee and immigrant communities in the Denver and Aurora region. The program was developed in consultation with refugee and immigrant youth and responds to specific challenges they face in adapting to their new environment through programming designed jointly with teachers, mental health specialists and artists.
Aurora Colorado is home to a growing number of refugee and immigrant communities and has been recognized as one of the 10 most diverse communities in the US, with 1 in 5 residents born overseas. While adapting and integrating into a new community presents considerable challenges for all newcomers, youth may face unique hurdles associated with displacement, past trauma, shifting family structures and feelings of exclusion that require specialized academic and mental-health support.
By creating a fun, welcoming and supportive environment, this program seeks to build self-confidence through an attractive after-school option. The after-school program has three main components: 1) self-prepared healthy snacks 2) tutoring and academic support and 3) wellness workshops and recreational activities led in partnership with local artists, musicians and mental health specialists. Leadership training is also provided to older kids who then volunteer to mentor others.
Parents of immigrant and refugee youth often work multiple jobs or shift work to support their families, which drains the time available to supervise their children or assist with their homework or school activities. By building young people's confidence and providing them with social, academic and wellness toolboxes, the project will support successful integration and empower them to become active and supportive resources to their families and communities.