It is not surprising that recreation was identified as one of the key priorities for newcomer health and wellbeing and was included in the Toronto North Settlement Strategy. Recreation helps people stay healthy and live longer. It is a proven therapeutic tool that helps to restore physical, mental and social capacities and abilities. The value of recreation for newcomers cannot be overestimated. By engaging in recreation activities newcomers decrease the negative effects of stress caused by immigration and settlement, make new connections and become a part of the community.
The key objective of the recreation services review conducted by our volunteer Pavneet Kaur Khera during the period of January-March, 2015 was to create a comprehensive, easy-to-use resource listing a variety of recreation services available to newcomers. It was anticipated that this resource would be used by both service providers and newcomers to identify and access appropriate recreation services in the city of Toronto. Through this review we were also hoping to identify gaps in the existing programs and services, and opportunities for creating more accessible programs for diverse population groups.
The resource produced as a result of this exercise contains a listing of over 120 recreation programs and services indicating eligibility criteria, types of services, contact information and links to websites. The types of services included in the list range from sports and fitness to arts, cooking classes and social clubs. There are services for seniors, children and adults. There are gender-specific programs and services for people with disabilities.
One of the major challenges experienced during the resource compilation was the fact that some information was outdated (e.g. inactive phone numbers). Another gap that the review showed is the fact that information on recreation services in Toronto is not available in languages other than the official ones.