Y Story | Amira and Maja

“The Y’s Second Stage Housing for Youth Program gave us the support and resources to feel safe, confident, and become independent adults. I don’t know where we would be today if we didn’t find this program.”

Sisters, Amira and Maja

Second Stage Housing for Youth Program

In 2021, at the ages of 18 and 19, Amira and Maja made the difficult decision to leave their family to pursue dreams of higher education and opportunity beyond their home country in the Middle East. With big ambitions and a little apprehension, the sisters left home together for the first time and flew to Canada. When Amira and Maja arrived in Ottawa they began looking for a place to call their own. Countless phone calls and emails to various shelters and housing programs throughout the city of Ottawa all resulted in dead ends.

Feeling defeated, they were thrilled to discover the Y’s Second Stage Housing for Youth Program (SSHP) online late one night, and sent an email requesting more information. By the time the girls woke up the next morning they had an interview set up for later that day. Their application was quickly accepted, and as luck would have it, there were two rooms available right next to each other.

Both girls came to Canada with similar goals; to continue their education and to immerse themselves in Canadian culture. The first few months were hard as they navigated the challenges of missing home and managing more responsibilities. With the dedicated support of Y staff, they began taking the steps that would help them reach their goals. “The Y’s housing program never felt like a shelter. It always felt like home. We felt 100% safe and comfortable exploring all of the resources available to us,” Maja affirmed.

Each girl completed adult high school while participating in the SSHP’s weekly life skills class. They were also introduced to other Y supports to help them thrive. At the Y’s Health and Fitness Centre they participated in physical activities that contributed to their overall wellbeing. At the Y’s Language Assessment and Referral Centre they took steps to begin learning French. And in the Y’s Newcomer Youth Leadership Development Program they made friends and learned important information like how to obtain an Ontario Driver’s License, open a bank account, and most importantly, that help is there if you ask for it.

Once their immigration status changed from refugee claimants to protected persons, Amira and Maja became students at a local University. They are both at school, volunteering in the community, and last summer were part of the Y staff team helping with summer camps.

“Being at the Y has taught me how to take care of myself. We are so grateful to this program and the people who run it for their unending support, for never letting us feel alone, and for providing us with the resources to build the skillsets we needed to be independent.” – Amira


With your support, the Y can help people like Amira and Maja access programs to support their physical, social and mental wellbeing. Give today and help your community grow stronger!

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