Our History

The Circle of Friends for Newcomers (Hamilton) was founded in 1980 by a group of individuals representing various agencies in the City of Hamilton who came together as a coordinating committee to respond to the settlement needs of government-sponsored refugees.

At that time the number of South-East Asian refugees arriving in Hamilton was at its height. To assist in the settlement of government-sponsored refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, the Coordinating Committee put in place a “Circle of Friends” host programme with a coordinator and trained volunteers to provide friendship and practical support to government-sponsored refugee families and single individuals. Other early initiatives included a clothing “store” and drop-in centre in the apartment building at 151 Queen St. North. In 1981 English classes for women, with a nursery for babies and toddlers, were started in the basement of the building.  A few months later Circle of Friends job-search classes for men began at a downtown Salvation Army centre.

English classes in the Victoria Park Community Centre at 155 Queen St. North supported by child care have continued to be a priority up to the present time.

In 1990 the Circle of Friends became a registered charity with Revenue Canada (now CRA) and was incorporated under the name Circle of Friends for Newcomers (Canada).  Supported by grants from a number of agencies, the organization worked to help new communities establish self-help groups; notably, the Hamilton Seniors Association for Chinese-Vietnamese seniors and the Khmer Youth Association of Hamilton for Cambodian youth.