Facebook Twitter Instagram LinkedIN 211.ca - opens in a new window

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIN

Uma Pathmarasa and her son playing at the Agincourt Community Services Association’s (ACSA) Child and Family Center

A friendly connection to community

After moving to Toronto from Sri Lanka, mother of three Uma Pathmarasa felt isolated. Unable to connect with other families, and without a vital circle of support, she grew increasingly worried about her children’s futures. She knew she had to take action. “I was unsure of how to meet others,” she explains. “I was scared to go out because I didn’t know the area. But, for my kids, I knew I had to be bold.”

Uma found the courage to visit United Way–funded agency Agincourt Community Services Association’s (ACSA) Child and Family Centre. Here, she discovered Creative Play—one of the many critical programs aimed at newcomer families that you make possible by supporting United Way. Uma was instantly welcomed by friendly program coordinators and connected to a diverse group of newcomer parents and children—families who were experiencing the same barriers as she was.

Creative Play became all the difference for Uma and her family. This free drop-in program for children up to six years old provides an essential educational routine that includes literacy skill building, music and dance, arts and crafts, and even healthy snacks. “It feels like home here—it’s like family,” says Uma. “We’ve been coming here for more than four years now. All my kids have loved it!”

But, her children aren’t the only ones benefiting. Through Creative Play, parents and caregivers like Uma have also found much-needed resources and supports. “I’ve made lots of friends and I’m starting to take programming at ACSA, like the healthy-eating class for parents,” she says.

“Parents come together over and over again at Creative Play, giving them the opportunity to bond,” adds Program Coordinator Priyanka Kandasamy. “They unite from the start and their families grow together.”

In fact, with their newfound social confidence, many families take the initiative to build up their own communities, meeting outside of the centre at parks, birthday parties and play dates. What’s more, many of their children start in the same schools together, already friends thanks to their time at Creative Play.

“We have to do it for our kids,” attests Uma. “Language and culture cannot be barriers. We need to come out from behind our doors, get involved, gain knowledge and make friends. When we come together, it’s amazing!”

Today, with two daughters successfully transitioned into school, Uma is confident that her four-year-old son, Jonathan, will do just as well when he starts junior kindergarten. “Like his sisters, Jonathan is learning to be independent, follow a routine and socialize with others,” she explains. “He’s learned his ABC’s and, whenever we speak English, he catches the words and is getting it.”

Now, Uma has only one small concern for when Jonathan starts school—whether he and Elizabeth, his best friend from Creative Play, can continue to learn side by side. “Her mom and I hope they are in the same class together,” she laughs.