Young immigrant family finds support they need at YMCA

When the Jikuri family, from eastern Europe, learned about subsidized child care through the YMCA, it changed everything.

Irakly (centre) and Maka Jikuri with their son Daniel.

Seven years ago, Irakly Jikuri left his family and life in Georgia, a small country at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, with a promise to his wife, Maka, that they would be reunited once he established roots in Canada.

The Jikuris goal was to raise a family in a country that offered many opportunities; where they could give their children the best chances in life.

Though the political and economic climate in Georgia appear to have stabilizing over the past couple of years, Irakly explained that it is a better life in the Okanagan.

“We wanted our kids to have access to a good education and grow up to have a successful life,” he says. “Life is better here in Canada.”

Creating a new life half way across the world, however, hasn’t been easy for Irakly. It took time to begin a new trade, in stucco and stonework, in an unknown country and it wasn’t until four years later, in 2011, that he was able to bring Maka to Canada to start their family.

Although they were together at last, times remained tough. For Maka, the culture shock of a different country, learning a new language and finding a job proved difficult. Their new family, which now included baby Daniel, meant struggling to make ends meet and they were worried the years of sacrifice and hard work to move their lives to a new country would go to waste.

Without family support nearby, they knew they would need to find care for Daniel if they were to get ahead in life. But there was one problem: They couldn’t afford it.

However, when the Jikuri family learned about subsidized child care through the YMCA, it changed everything.

“We are so grateful,” says Irakly. “Now Maka can study English and try to find work and Daniel has a safe place to go during the day.”

Irakly explained that they are only able to afford the care because of the Y’s financial assistance program. Since Daniel entered child care, they can focus on creating a sustainable life in their newfound home.

The Jikuris are laying the groundwork to ensure they have food on the table every night. And, at two and a half, Daniel is starting an early education which is something they had always dreamed of.

“It is excellent for him,” says Irakly. “He is really good with the alphabet and numbers and when I come pick him up after work he doesn’t want to leave.”

Raising a family is not easy and it is more difficult for those living in sole income-earning households. In the Central Okanagan 17.5 per cent of children under the age of six come from low-income homes. The need for support in our community is great.

The YMCA of Okanagan is a local charity reliant on the generous support of donors to provide programs and services to children, youth, seniors and families in our community

For those interested in helping families like the Jikuris succeed and provide proper care for their children, the YMCA’s Cycle for Strong Kids event taking place on Sept. 19 is the perfect opportunity to do so. It involves a 45-minute, un-intimidating, stationary cycle class with prizes, smoothies and treats.

Anyone can join up until midnight on Wednesday Sept. 16. There are still spots to choose from and every little bit helps. Get your friends out for a fun ride. Register today at ymcaokanagan.ca.

 

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