Integration Experiences of Syrian Youth in Canada

AN EXPLORATION OF INTEGRATION JOURNEYS AND WELL-BEING: A YPAR PROJECT WITH SYRIAN REFUGEE YOUTH uses a youth participatory action research (YPAR) process that engages Syrian youth as co-researchers to examine integration experiences. The proposed study sought to examine from the perspectives of Syrian refugee youth (ages 15 to 22) their integration experiences to better understand protective factors, as well as challenges and vulnerabilities, shaping well-being, identity, and belonging through a YPAR process. A socio-ecological framework was used to explore integration experiences and well-being within contexts of family and peer relationships, schooling and community belonging. Further, an intersectional lens is used to better understand diverse experiences of integration with respect to gender, age, class and pre-migration. The study design was a collaborative, community-based research process. The Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration MRCSSI works with Western University to recruit Syrian refugee youth (age 15-22) from the London area.

Key overarching research questions guided by the perspective of youth are:
• What protective factors and contexts of vulnerability shape the social integration experiences of Syrian refugee youth?
• And, how can supportive environments (community, school and home) be enhanced to strengthen protective factors and support refugee youth in experiencing increased resilience?

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Sample photos and meanings:

“The idea behind this video is to take the scene from the morning to the night. When I was coming back from school; I have noticed a narrow path. There were a lot of trees, the house! A lot of leaves falling. The scene was beautiful. I do not know what made me stop and take a video. It feels like it is a path to forget whatever sad and bad situations I went through. The falling leaves felt like saying let’s forget what happened and keep walking in this path. The leaves resemble us, and the nice breeze, Ahh. It felt saying nothing worth feeling this much pain. I felt it saying: let’s be as light as these flying leaves. This path for me seemed like if it was a time machine that makes you forget the past, the sad memories.”

“This is when we used to walk to the bus during winter. I have not seen snow in my life ever before we came to Canada. It snows in other parts of our country but not in my hometown where I used to live. It makes me feel happy that I finally see snow. You feel how winter feels like.”

Image retrieved from:

“My experience was like a door that has been opened for me. I had hoped to study, succeed in my life. The door symbolizes paths or ways for the things that I like to do in life. [the interviewer and participants commented on the side the door opens]. It is that I stand in front of the world. The whole world is forward. Look, there are trees, and it is green outside. There are things that give me the hope to keep going. I took this photo I was 16 years old.”

“This is the path that I walk step by step. It has no end because there is no end to things. Once I finish one thing, I start doing the other thing. There is always something in front. In this picture, there is this line, it is like a stumble or any other thing along the way that may shock you or stop you, but no, you will go back to your plan that you had for yourself. You may learn from it, and there is this small plant in between the tiles. While you are going through your journey, there are beautiful things. It makes you feel the joy of the experience during the tough times.”


We would like to thank the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for funding this study, which is a sub-study of the primary project titled (Child and Youth Refugee Research Coalition) CYRRC.

We also thank the Muslim Resource Centre for Social Support and Integration MRCSSI as a co-applicant and partner on this project for enhancing capacities for community-based and YPAR research.