The work and expertise that OLIP brings to our community is so important as it helps us to build bridges and break down silos.  I look forward to our continued work together. 

Jim Watson, Mayor of Ottawa
The City of Ottawa will continue to play a lead role in the implementation of the Ottawa Immigration Strategy, just as we did in the founding of OLIP.

Steve Desroches
City Councillor and Deputy Mayor of Ottawa
The OLIP Council is committed to leadership.  In only a few years, we have a common vision and priorities, and are up to the task of implementing the Ottawa Immigration Strategy.

Salimatou Diallo
OLIP Council Vice Chair, Assemblée de la francophonie de l'Ontario
Canada has been shaped by people who came from all over the world to build this country. WOW offers a platform for us to celebrate this history and the future it will help…

Alex Munter, Chair of the OLIP Council and President and CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre
The WOW seminar on immigrant women’s nutrition and health was a step in the right direction towards closing the gap between academic researchers and service providers.

Josephine Etowa
Associate Professor, School of Nursing, University of Ottawa
All the WOW events that I went to were great – WOW does give a sense of a community trying to improve its attraction and retention!

Caroline Andrew
Professor, University of Ottawa
I’m really impressed with the level of energy and commitment around the Health and Wellbeing table and look forward to continuing collaboration between OLIP and OPH.

Marcela Tapia
Ottawa Public Health
I was happy to see integration to Algonquin territory and indigenous culture related programming in 2014 WOW. Please continue to involve local Aboriginal organisations and…

Linda Manning
WOW 2014 participant, Senior Fellow, University of Ottawa
The Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre is so happy to have joined the OLIP Health and Wellbeing Sector Table. It is clear that OLIP cares about immigrants and refugees and…

Wendy Tang, Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre
My nomination is an indication that our hard work in building Canada is recognized. All we do is to serve the community in return for embracing us when we needed it.  

Mehdi Mahdavi
Ottawa Immigrant Entrepreneurship Awards Nominee

Acacia Youth Wellness Program: Supporting ACB Youth Mental Health

October 29, 2020

The Acacia Tree Youth Wellness program was developed by the Somali Centre for Family Services (SCFS) to increase awareness about the importance of mental health in African Caribbean Black communities, dismantle myths surrounding mental illness and share lived experiences of ACB mental health service-users. This program also aims to bring to the forefront some of the challenges and barriers ABC youth face when interacting with police and through the Canadian justice system.

The program offers psychoeducational and support services to youth aged between 12 and 29 and solution-focused brief counselling, as well as service referrals and navigation. Their live broadcasted webinars feature ACB mental health professionals and mental health service users to share their experiences.

The Acacia Youth Wellness program is a result of the previous work the SCFS has done within the community with youth including a counselling program for children under 12; and a mentorship program for youth called Link-Up Series in which youth were transported to a Black-owned creative arts community space where they listened to various ACB mentors speak and enjoyed culturally appropriate food.

Through the above programs and its other advocacy work for children and youth in the education system to reduce the rate of suspensions, SCFS found gaps in culturally responsive mental health services for ACB youth which led to the creation of the Acacia Youth Wellness program.

Under the Acacia Tree is a virtual psychoeducational program developed to engage with youth where they already frequent, which is on social media. The name “Under the Acacia Tree” was chosen as a symbol of resilience to inspire youth and to convey a sense of communal gathering under its inviting umbrella-like branches.

Despite being fairly new, the program has known success including a high participation rate among participants, and the viewership has been increasing particularly because recordings are posted on SCFS’s Facebook page for on-demand access. Conducting sessions online also makes the program more sustainable and accessible regardless of where their audience is located.

Some of the challenges include reaching as many youth as possible within the ACB communities, and possibly overcoming a language barrier as the sessions are conducted in English only. For more information about the Acacia Youth Wellness Program, please contact Kahmaria Pingue at, or crisis line (613.686.5056).