We ARTogether

A review of the importance of social support through the lens of newcomer women’s mental wellness programming


  • Naomi Ruth Levitz University of Windsor School of Social Work
  • Hugo Vega YMCA of Southwestern Ontario




This article highlights one approach used to solidify social support and bolster mental wellness for newcomer women through community, arts and connection. Core values of the program are presented along with examples of successful programming that has been experienced by hundreds of newcomer women in Southwestern Ontario. By using a trauma informed lens, staff and participants are able to share lessons and create community. Women were able to come together to learn how to connect across linguistic and cultural divides to unearth shared experiences of womanhood. The precursor to this article was presented at the international social work and social development conference, swsd2018 in Dublin, Ireland.

Author Biographies

Naomi Ruth Levitz, University of Windsor School of Social Work

Naomi Levitz has worked in both interpersonal and community social work settings in urban and rural areas in Canada, the United States and Haiti, in a variety of languages. She has spearheaded a newcomer mental health initiative in Southwestern Ontario and Windsor’s Take Back the Night program. She has been active on various local committees including the Violence Against Women Coordinating Committee, WEFIGHT Human Trafficking Initiative and Health Equity for Newcomers Initiative. She also chairs the board of directors for the AIDS Committee of Windsor and sits on boards for the Jewish Community Center, ALSO (Assisted Living Southwest Ontario) and has been the the Accessibility Initiative for the Ontario Council for Agencies Servicing Immigrants. Her professional focus has been on working with women experiencing trauma, community building, cross and trans-cultural initiatives, client/peer integration in community services, mental health and addiction. She has also created course materials for bachelors and masters social work classes and conducted student and peer supervision in the areas of interpersonal practice, field education, social work with mental health and substance use and social work with new Canadians. She has shared this expertise with non-profits locally, in Detroit, Port au Prince Haiti and the Ibasa region of Nigeria. Naomi’s work stems from a belief in inherent personal strengths and collaborative care in all settings and she has worked to create dynamic professional environments based on critical thinking about structural inequities and opportunities for creating new and alternate senses of self through stories that focus on resiliency and empowerment. Her current doctoral research is focused on immigrant and refugee healthcare, and the role for informal supports in healthcare utilisation. Naomi’s dissertation is focused on addressing challenges in working with and for new Canadians in order to help them navigate this new chapter in their lives and to help workers, as well Canadians as a whole, conceptualise their approaches towards this ever growing community. 

Hugo Vega, YMCA of Southwestern Ontario

Hugo Vega (He/Him) is the Regional Manager of Settlement Services at the YMCA of Southwestern Ontario where he oversees federally and provincially funded programs that assist immigrants and refugees as they settle in London, Sarnia and Windsor. His role includes leading the WE Value partnership, a pilot introducing innovation to the settlement sector in the areas of service delivery, technology and data management. He is the current chair of the Windsor-Essex Local Immigration Partnership, a cross-sectoral community planning body and of Legal Assistance of Windsor, a community Legal clinic for low-income residents. His previous experience includes working with migrant workers, establishing employment programs for at-risk youth and people with disabilities and being the chair of the board of the Downtown Windsor Community Collaborative, a network of people committed to urban renewal. Hugo was born in Mexico City, Mexico and is a Political Science graduate from the University of Windsor.


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How to Cite

Levitz, N. R., & Vega, H. (2020). We ARTogether: A review of the importance of social support through the lens of newcomer women’s mental wellness programming. Groupwork, 29(2), 85-93. https://doi.org/10.1921/gpwk.v29i2.1307