Learning About Yukon Cares by Anneke Aasman (Summer 2024)

Yukoners are incredibly fortunate to live in a peaceful environment. This is not the case in many places across the world. The lives of different families have been greatly affected by war, violence, and other unsafe conditions. The immigration process can be very difficult for refugees– they face many obstacles. It can still be tough when they arrive at a new home. Yukon Cares is an organization devoted to help and support refugees as they move to the Yukon.

In September of 2015, as a response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, Canada made a commitment to accept and resettle 25 000 Syrian refugees. Yukon Cares was founded in September 2015 in response to this call to action. The non-profit organization began planning and fundraising immediately and welcomed the first family of Syrian refugees to Whitehorse on January 30, 2016. Since then, Yukon Cares has welcomed 38 former refugees from around the world. When a new family arrives in Whitehorse, Yukon Cares provides them with a one-year sponsorship program that helps settle the newcomers into their new lives up north. This sponsorship also includes help with education, health matters, banking, language lessons, employment, and more. Yukon Cares remains in close contact with the families after this one-year period as strong, life-long connections are formed.

Moving to the Yukon is always a big change for newcomers. What is this experience like for a child? I interviewed a young boy who immigrated to the Yukon two years ago with his dad. He is ten years old and is currently in grade five. He spent the most recent years of his life in Bangkok, Thailand, so he was used to a different culture and temperatures. Bangkok has quite a hot climate – Whitehorse does not. His first winter was a wonderous shock. Before coming to the Yukon, he had never seen snow before, telling me that the first snowfall he witnessed was “memorable.”

The Yukon winter brings new activities. His favourite winter activity that he tried is ice hockey. He was the goalie and had a blast. Another notable experience was his first (and only) time cross country skiing. Skiing is an increasingly popular sport in Whitehorse – many people have fun on the myriad of beautiful ski trails. However, skiing was not this boy’s favourite winter activity. Falling painfully into a big pile of snow while going down a hill can do that to you, especially if you are not used to skis. In the summer, he likes to play basketball outside with his dad. Playing basketball is one of his favourite things to do in Whitehorse.

Attending school was also a first for this young boy. Although he does not have a favourite subject, he appreciates his teachers, his friends, and learning new things. One thing in particular that he is looking forwards to is a camping trip with his class as he has never been camping before. Christmas and other holidays were also a fun experience for him especially because he received time off school to spend with his dad and other friends.

Moving to the Yukon also brought new culinary experiences. He had the pleasure of trying an authentic Yukon meal: fresh moose meat. I was told that this was not his favourite and that he’d be sticking to chicken. His favourite food is ramen with different toppings and flavours. He told me that he has not seen a moose in the wild yet but has seen some mountain sheep. We also talked about the multitude of foxes around the city.

He wants other kids immigrating to Whitehorse to know that it is a fun place with lots of nice people and cool opportunities. And, he said that the cold isn’t too bad if you are prepared. He has comfortably settled into life in the Yukon, and we are so thankful that he and his father are able to be here in Whitehorse. The Yukon Cares volunteers have done so much for refugee resettlement in the territory, helping newcomers feel welcomed and valued in the community. Not only do they make it possible for refugees to move to Whitehorse, but they help them with whatever they need and provide joyful, memorable and safe life experiences.


Written by Anneke Aasman for a Social Justice Project at St.Francis of Assisi Catholic Secondary School in Whitehorse, YT