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A Volunteer’s Perspective

We have partnered with Harbourfront Centre to offer our Canada Connects Program. This program matches new immigrants with experienced Canadian Volunteer Mentors. Mentors help newcomers navigate the Canadian Culture, practice English, build their social network and ultimately increase their sense of belonging to their new home.

But newcomers are not the only ones who benefit from this program. Here’s the story of one of our Volunteer Mentors, Janet:

I started volunteering at Harbourfront Centre over four years ago and enjoy every moment of the activities I am/have been involved with.

In 2020 Harbourfront Centre introduced me to CultureLink. On our first meeting, the objective of the partnership between them was fully explained and outlined.  At that time they were recruiting mentors for the Canada Connects program. The goal of this program is to assist newcomers’ integration into Canadian society.

This has been such a worthwhile activity for me and has made me realize how important and essential such programs actually are.  It was extremely surprising to discover how difficult it is to integrate into a new society for people who come from totally different lifestyles, cultures and backgrounds. What many of us Canadians take for granted because it is familiar and common, turns out overwhelming, confusing and rather unnerving when being confronted for the first time.

The ‘Canada Connects Program’ covers so many aspects of everyday life: how to open a bank account and which accounts to select, how to contact children’s teachers, making appointments with doctors, hospitals and other institutions, computer programs, using the English language -both spoken and written- in all its basic and necessary forms etc. Participants learn about the Provinces and the differences and varieties in languages, population, environment, climate, culture, geography etc. The experience is challenging and also welcomed by the newcomers I have been fortunate enough to work with. They appreciate the connections they have made, as it provides so much information and at the same time, gives them a point of contact for the many questions and issues they have to deal with. It is also a good opportunity for networking, and they were able to join two career mentoring workshops (storytelling and job interviews) which was very much appreciated by all the participants.

Overall, everyone involved has found this partnership invaluable and greatly well received. Participants have been enthusiastic and, for me, easy to work with.  Being able to continue the program virtually during these unusual times caused by the pandemic, has been a great help to all involved. Personally, I have learned so much, I have made new friends and have a greater understanding of the basic requirements of new immigrants to Canada.

I heartily support the initiatives of the Harbourfront Centre/CultlureLink operations and sincerely hope they continue to grow the very essential services they offer.

Janet Harley Boomer

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