Syrian Youth Mentor Initiative: Cultivating social-connectedness, linguistic acquisition and vocational goals

Presenters: Hsain Al-Shihabi and Sarah Mikhaiel, Youth Mentors, Canadian Mental Health Association
Date: Wednesday, September 25, 2018


This presentation will outline the Syrian Youth Mentoring Initiative at the Canadian Mental Health Association. The presenters outline the migration trajectory as it relates to mental health challenges and the role of mentorship in addressing these concerns. Program activities, core values, challenges and benefits of this initiative are explored.

Presenter biographies

Hsain Al-Shihabi

Hsain Al-Shihabi is a youth mentor, advocate, and educator. In 2016 he developed and implemented a specialized mentoring program for Syrian newcomer youth at Canadian Mental Health Association. Hsain's work involves the sensitive tasks of cultural bridging, advocacy, network building, and capacity building when mental health struggles combine with the immigration/refugee experience and youth's diverse and intersecting identities. Further back into 2013, anti-oppression frame works have guided Hsain's diverse work with youth such as developing and delivering workshops in media literacy and sexual education. Born in Damascus to a Palestinian-Syrian family, then immigrating to Canada as a youth himself, Hsain is passionate, goal-oriented, and focused when it comes to advocating for Canada's newcomer youth. When he's not in session or catching up with the day's loose ends, you can find him making grandma's latest culinary teachings or practicing for his next music recital.

Sarah Mikhaiel

Fadi Hamdan, BSc., is a leader in youth settlement work, having led a variety of related programs and events at the YMCA since 2007. As a youth outreach coordinator, Fadi has developed and delivered direct services to youth and built community partnerships and networks which have contributed to effective settlement experiences and practices.

Sarah Mikhaiel is a first generation immigrant and settler from the Middle East. She attended Carleton University, earning a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, and subsequently earned a master’s degree in Middle East Studies from the University of Toronto. Sarah has been an advocate for migrant justice rights for the past few years both in Canada and in Europe where she worked with migrants, included undocumented migrants. She has also worked closely with first-generation youth on campus, engaging them in issues of social justice. Currently, Sarah works as a Syrian Youth Mentor with the Opening Doors Project, combining her passion for supporting migrants and working with youth. She leads weekly group sessions on settlement and mental health, and offers supportive counselling and case management to newcomer Syrian youth.

Al-shihabi photo

Hsain Al-Shihabi

Sarah Mikhaiel photo

Sarah Mikhaiel