Empowering Newcomers for Recreation Leadership Project

Picturing Newcomers’ Recreation Project

Having enjoyable and meaningful free-time activities can support our physical and emotional well-being.  Newcomers, such as immigrants and refugees, may encounter barriers to recreation because of language, transportation issues and cost.  In 2019, colleagues in the Faculty of Health at Dalhousie University (Lauckner, Gallant & Hutchinson) and community partners came together to explore ways to support newcomers in connecting to their community through culture and recreation in a project called “Picturing Recreation”. The project’s aim was to gather the experiences and suggestions of newcomers and integrate, adapt or create meaningful opportunities for connecting with their communities through recreation.

Phase 1: Picturing Newcomers Recreation

Newcomers to Halifax and the South Shore were asked to take and share photos of what they do in their free time. Opportunities were then created to discuss with participants, “what recreation means to them”.  


Phase 1 of the project included:

Photo Training: 49 newcomers to Halifax and the South Shore attended a workshop to learn more about the project and photography.
Photos and Discussions: 40 of the participants (from 13 different countries) attended one of three focus group sessions to share photos and discuss (with the aid of interpreters) why the activities they portrayed are so important to them.
Identifying Common Themes: From these discussions, “Developing a sense of belonging - a series of small encounters” was an overarching theme that encompassed these four sub-themes:   

  • Continuity with, and freedom from, past activities and places,
  • Being in and connecting with nature,
  • Staying physically and mentally well, and
  • Connecting and learning with others through reciprocity.

The photo project showed that informal recreation like gardening, fishing or gathering with friends for a beverage, is meaningful for people because it connects them to the past and to nature, helps them to learn about their new community, provides a source of relaxation, socialization, and wellness, and overall, can contribute to a sense of belonging.

Sharing our Findings: Findings were shared at a local recreation conference, national leisure and occupational therapy conferences, and in two public photo exhibits:

  • Halifax Picturing Recreation Photo Exhibit was hosted at the Central Library from September 26-October 21st, 2019. The exhibit moved around to different community/recreation centers in the Halifax area in late 2019 to early 2020 and is now permanently hosted by ISANS.
  • South Shore Picturing Recreation Photo Exhibit:  hosted at the DesBrisay Museum, Bridgewater (March 3- March 27th, 2021). 

    Note: These exhibits may be available to be hosted at other local sites.  Please contact en4r@dal.ca if your organization would like to learn more about hosting the exhibit.

The videos below include 1 full length inclusive Digital Exhibit as well as 5 short theme-based videos. All videos include photos and quotes from the Picturing Newcomers' Picturing Recreation Project.

Newcomers Picturing Recreation: Building Belonging  Full inclusive Digital Exhibit [video 8:57 minutes]

Bridging Past and Present - Segment 1 of the Newcomers Picturing Recreation - Building Belonging. [video 1:58 minutes]

Being in Nature - Segment 2 of Newcomers Picturing Recreation - Building Belonging. [video 2:44 minutes]

Staying Well - Segment 3 of Newcomers Picturing Recreation - Building Belonging. [video 2:19 minutes]

Connecting & Learning - Segment 4 of Newcomers Picturing Recreation - Building Belonging. [video 3:29 minutes]

What Gets in the Way- What Helps - Segment 5 of Newcomers Picturing Recreation - Building Belonging. [video 2:49 minutes]

Please see this information sheet [PDF - 569 KB] for suggested uses and links to local resources. Please click on the headings below to learn more about the Newcomers Picturing Recreation Project as well as Project Funders and Community Partners.

Phase 2: Newcomers Recreation Navigators Training

Drawing on the learning of the Phase 1 photo project, published research and input from the newcomer participants themselves, a training program was developed to equip newcomers with knowledge and skills to support others in accessing recreation services/programs in the community. The intent of this program was to encourage participants to volunteer as “Recreation Navigators” with local organizations, to provide informal support to individuals or groups of newcomers who were looking for information and to support newcomers to access recreational opportunities in the community. 

Early in 2020, the training sessions in Halifax area started in person with 15 trainees. After several sessions, the program was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and then switched to an online format. During the sessions, participants discussed barriers to participate in recreation and strategies to overcome these barriers, as well as the role of Recreation Navigators in the communities. Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, 7 participants completed their training and received their certificates of completion.  While we had hoped to provide an updated Recreation Navigator training program in the Bridgewater area later in 2021, this training did not occur because of the ongoing pandemic restrictions.  

Also, because of the pandemic restrictions, we weren’t able to complete the final evaluation, which aimed to explore how recreation navigation could be integrated into community recreation service provision. However, we have updated training materials based on the feedback received from training participants and community partners. We hope that others will use and adapt these materials to support newcomers in connecting to their communities through recreation. These materials are provided below.


Each session discusses different topics as outlined below: 

Session 1:  Why Recreation?

  • Concepts of recreation and community
  • Benefits of recreation
  • Local recreation spaces and places

Session 2: Overcoming Challenges that Get in the Way of Recreation

  • Challenges and barriers in accessing recreation
  • Strategies to overcome challenges and barriers 
  • Community organizations that provide recreation-related information and supports

Session 3: Connecting through Recreation

  • Tips for registering and getting funding for recreation
  • Problem-solving to support newcomers in accessing recreation

In addition, we have created a "Video Tutorial" providing a brief overview of the Training Guide. [PDF - 1.6 MB] The presentation slide is also available.

We hope that you are able to use and/or adapt these resources to work your efforts in supporting people in connecting to communities through recreation. 

Project Funders and Community Partners

We would like to thank the participants of this project and our community partners: Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), Halifax Libraries, YMCA Centre for Immigrant Programs, Halifax Immigration Partnership, South Shore Multicultural Association, and HRM Recreation.


We also thank the Department of Communities, Cultures and Heritage and Support4Culture for funding this project and Dalhousie University (School of Occupational Therapy and Faculty of Health) for supplemental funding.