Immigrant and Refugee Mentoring Program

Program snapshot

Age group: Late childhood (7-11); Adolescence (12-17)

Gender: Mixed (male and female)

Population served: Families; Newcomers, immigrants and/or refugees; Visible minority/ethnic group

Topic: Social development

Setting: Urban area; Community-based setting; Recreational/sport-based setting

Location: Alberta

Number of completed Canadian outcome evaluation studies: 0

Continuum of intervention: Secondary crime prevention

Brief Description

The Immigrant and Refugee Mentoring Project is a partnership between the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Edmonton and Area (BGCBigs), the Canadian Council for the Advancement of African Canadians (CCAAC), and the Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton (SCCSE). These partners provide familial support, mentoring and, critical hour programming through the Africa Centre for children and youth, aged five to 18 years old in Edmonton’s immigrant and refugee community. Project partners also work to enhance mentoring capacity for other cultural groups.


The main goals of the Immigrant and Refugee Mentoring project are to:

  • Engage immigrant and refugee children, youth, and families, in critical hour programming, summer and recreational activities, and mentoring; and
  • Provide ‘wraparound’ services for transitioning newcomer families by recruiting culturally relevant mentors who could relate to the complex challenges and help ease the family’s transition in to Canadian life and nurture positive bi-cultural identities. 


The appropriate clientele for the project are immigrant and refugee African children and families without social support networks. This program targets them to provide them with mentoring, critical hour programming, and leadership skills so that they can develop a sense of identity, increase engagement in their community, and decrease their involvement in high-risk activities. The participants are composed of children aged 5-12, youth aged 13-15 and youth aged 16-18.

Core Components

The core components of the Immigrant and Refugee Mentoring project include the following:

  • Critical hour programming;
  • Recreational activities; and
  • Mentorship.

Implementation Information

Some of the critical elements for the implementation of this program or initiative include the following:

  • Organizational requirements: Programs:
    • Service delivery for newcomers must take a ‘whole systems’ view; positive and negative impacts in one areas will directly impact the other areas; programing must be integrated with a systemic view in order to successfully ‘move the needle’ on priority outcomes;
    • Partnering between mainstream and newcomer communities requires humility, curiosity, patience, flexibility and perseverance; both sides need to be much more flexible than they think; keeping the primary focus on meeting the needs of the children allowed both sides to persevere in dialogue and problem solving for creative solutions; and
    • It is critical to keep the youth engaged; requiring collaboration across youth serving agencies to broker relationships and create synergy across programs.
    • Canadian ‘normal’ business practices are unfamiliar to newcomers (written vs. oral, criminal record check and data tracking appear suspicious, etc.). There is much need for organizational and project management capacity building;
    • Youth will not engage in some school recreational activities due to embarrassment that they do not know how (e.g. skating), and, therefore, can become isolated, but they will engage/learn those activities when participating with their cultural group; and
    • Systems need changing in order to incorporate new cultures; for example, public swim time is inaccessible to Muslim females.
  • Partnerships: Collaboration between the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Edmonton and Area, the Canadian Council for the Advancement of African Canadians (CCAAC), and the Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton (SCCSE).
  • Training and technical assistance: Limited information on this topic.
  • Risk assessment tools: Limited information on this topic.
  • Materials & resources: Limited information on this topic.

International Endorsements

The most recognized classification systems of evidence-based crime prevention programs have classified this program or initiative as follows:

  • Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development: Not applicable.
  • Crime Solutions/OJJDP Model Program Guide: Not applicable.
  • SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices: Not applicable.
  • Coalition for Evidence-Based Policy: Not applicable.

Gathering Canadian Knowledge

Canadian Implementation Sites

The Immigrant and Refugee Mentoring project was implemented in Edmonton (Alberta) from 2010 to 2013. Funding was provided through the Safe Communities Innovation Fund (SCIF), Government of Alberta.

Main Findings from Canadian Outcome Evaluation Studies

No information available.

Cost Information

A social return on investment (SROI) has been conducted on Immigrant and Refugee Mentoring. The findings from this study have shown the following:

  • The SROI ratio calculated for the program is 3.52:1 which indicates that for every dollar invested in Immigrant and Refugee Mentoring, there is $3.52 return in social value;
  • Social value created by redistribution of costs associated with mental health services for children, youth and family members; reduced demand on criminal justice system; redistribution of education system resources; and
  • Increased engagement of immigrant and refugee youth in recreation, mentoring, and youth leadership creates immediate social value for society.


Alberta Community Crime Prevention Organizations. (2015). Social Return on Investment (SROI) Case Study: Immigrant and Refugee Mentoring. Recipient of Safe Communities Innovation Fund, Government of Alberta. Available from: 

For more information on this program, contact:

Big Brothers Big Sisters Society of Edmonton and Area
Elizabeth O'Neill
Telephone: (780) 424-8181

Record Entry Date - 2018-02-23
Record Updated On - 2021-04-29
Date modified: