Enroll Today – FREE Vulnerable Youth Mentor Training MOOC!

August 29, 2017

Our very popular Engaging and Empowering – How to Become an Effective Mentor for Vulnerable Youth online training is back!  For more information and to enroll, click here!

Bike Host – Summer Update

August 29, 2017

It has been a busy summer with Bike Host – lending bikes, matching mentors and mentees, and leading bike rides throughout Toronto and even as far away as Hamilton! We are pleased to announce that this has been our most successful year of recruitment yet, with over one hundred participants! On August 8th, we piloted a family-friendly event called the Bike Host Family Fest. There was a dinner, games, a bike obstacle course, and a free kids’ bike giveaway to the children of participants. We were glad to be able to give a properly sized kids bike and helmet to all the children who showed up – nearly twenty in all!

Leslie Spitt group ride (above) .

Testing out new bike at the Bike Host Family Fest! (Above)

NOW Program at CultureLink

August 29, 2017

What is NOW?

For many newcomer students, high school in Ontario can be very different from their previous school and the first few months may be stressful. But, a new program promises to give them a better start. Newcomer’s Orientation Week (NOW) was first piloted in the summer of 2007 in eight secondary schools in Ontario.  Ten years later, Culturelink’s NOW program continues to orient students to the people and activities that can help them settle in their new school. They include a scavenger hunt to help them learn the layout of the building, skits about the challenges of school in a new country, a visit to the local library, as well as an introduction to the school system and the sources of help and support in their school.

Overall, NOW prepares newcomer youth for a smooth entry to school, reduces their stress and anxiety about the transition and prepares them for earlier participation in the life of their new school.

NOW is fully funded by Refugee Immigration and Citizenship Canada through local settlement agencies like Culturelink Settlement and Community Services.

How Does NOW Work?

A key feature of NOW is the role of Peer Leaders – fellow students who were newcomers in previous years.  The Peer Leaders lead the activities and share their own challenges when they arrived and how they succeeded.   In the week before the

Program, the Peer Leaders participate in several days of intensive training.  Teachers and settlement workers work collaboratively with them as they deliver the program.

Other learning outcomes for NOW participants also include:

  • Learn how to navigate the layout of the school,
  • Experience the routines of the school –bells, morning announcements and routines, locker usage, lunch times, School Code of Behaviour etc.
  • Learn some basics about the Ontario school system including the credit system and the importance and availability of extra-curricular and club type opportunities,
  • Begin to understand the differences in the culture of the Ontario educational system and discussing strategies for adapting to it,
  • Link to their local library and community centre for support, and
  • Make friends and acquaintances who can continue to support them once school starts.


Written by: Abdi Yousuf

Summer Settlement Program 2017

August 29, 2017

Our whirlwind of activities in the Summer Settlement Program (SSP) is coming to an end.  We would like to share some of the pictures from the Theater Workshop for the Newcomer Youth and from our trip to the Blue Jays game at the Rogers Stadium. Luckily, the Jays won both days. Thanks to the generous donation of the donor, it was a great experience for the newcomer kids to be part of the energy, light, sounds and cheers of the game.  The roof was open on the first day, which was an added excitement for them. The kids have thanked me repeatedly for this experience. We hope that you enjoy the rest of the summer.

Theater Workshop for the Newcomer Youth (above).  Newcomer youth enjoying Jay’s game (below).


Newcomer youth orientation session held at Culturelink (above).

Written by: Rehmat Afzal

Using Whatsapp in our English Conversation Circle

August 29, 2017

According to a study published by the Canadian Tourism Human Resource Council, Canada’s tourism sector is facing a potentially severe shortage of labor over the next 15-20 years. By 2030, labour shortages are expected to amount to over 25,000 full-time jobs. Newcomers to Canada are seen as a key source of talent as tourism organizations seek to meet their hiring needs.

We are launching The Hospitality Training Program in September 2017 in partnership with Hospitality Workers Training Centre. It is meant to help Syrian newcomers build their language, occupational skills and knowledge in the areas of food preparation, food safety and sanitation, guest services and customer relations, as well as banquet and restaurant services. They will be able to gain a strong foundation in communication and job search techniques as well.

I met with potential Syrian participants who are in need of employment and eager to join the workforce. However, the required English language level to be able to join the Hospitality program is CLB 4 and up. The English language level of the majority of interested Syrian newcomers ranges between CLB 2 up to CLB 4. So, to overcome this obstacle and to facilitate the possibility for Syrians to join the Hospitality program, I decided to use Whatsapp to teach them English. Now, we meet online every morning for an hour where I explain the lesson in Arabic and English. I then create related worksheets and send them to the group via the group email. In the next class, I check the homework with the participants and answers all their inquiries. During the class, participants practice the four skills. They record their answers on Whatsapp while the rest listen to the answers and comment, either by recording back or in writing.

At the beginning of this project, some participants were hesitant, embarrassed and worried about making mistakes. When they felt the benefit of the class and saw how others were active and enthusiastic, they changed and started participating. Even the families are becoming more involved, sitting beside their mothers and helping them to communicate even more effectively with the group. And, the word is spreading. I only had six participants when I started the class two weeks ago and now that group has increased to 19. All are looking forward to working hard to improve their English language level and get ready for employment.

Written by Hanaa Al Sadi