Post Banner CultureLink Important Message

Important Message

Aqeela Saddiqui News

Notice to our Community and Stakeholders, March 16, 2020

Dear CultureLink Community and Stakeholders,

Due to the growing concerns surrounding COVID-19, we have cancelled group gatherings for all of our programs as of March 17th until further notice. We are closing our physical offices while continuing telephone and virtual supports to our many clients, many of whom are isolated. If you require support, please contact us via email at A member of our settlement team will follow up with you as soon as possible.

We will be monitoring the updates from Canada’s Public Health Agency and sharing news with our staff team as needed. At CultureLink, we are doing our utmost to calmly address the current health concerns with diligence and information sharing as our guide. We appreciate everyone’s concern.

Yours truly,

Ibrahim Absiye,
Executive Director


CultureLink Post Banner Bed and Chair

A Bed and a Chair

CultureLink SWIS News

Ayham is new to Canada, he lives alone in Toronto while all of his family is back in Syria. A few weeks ago, he called 211 in search of a nearby settlement agency that supports the LGBTQ community and was referred to CultureLink.

He was working at a drugstore to gain Canadian experience while studying to upgrade his mechanical engineering degree. But the pandemic hit, leaving him isolated and feeling lonely. When he reached out to Dareen, he told her not only about how hard it had been to make new friends since he arrived but also about his difficulty to move due to back pain. Dareen became “his only friend”, and as any good friend would, she did her best to help him.

Dareen contacted Robin, one of our very passionate and dedicated volunteers. Robin and her family wasted no time. They purchased a new bed frame and mattress that they delivered to Ayham’s residence. They also got him a desk chair, so that he could continue studying without any discomfort.

With a bed and a chair, he was happy at home, but he still lacked social connections. Robin connected him with some friends in the LGBTQ community. Through these connections, Ayham will find new friends and someone to mentor him through his settlement process in Canada. He was also connected with 519, he got a referral for the Furniture Bank and received other donations/assistance.

“Dear Dareen & Robin, I hope you are well, I just wanted to say thank you so much for your support. I really appreciate you taking the time to call, message and visit me. I am happy to have this office chair and an AMAZING comfortable bed 😊.  Again, thank you so much, I greatly appreciate your assistance with my settlement here in Toronto.”

CultureLink Post Banner Essential Masks

Essential Masks

CultureLink News

When the project started, we had only one sewer and one sewing machine. And then there were nine volunteer sewers and another eight who are waiting to join the team. Most of them speak Spanish as a first language, so we have a Spanish-speaking program worker helping them register with Sewing for Change, the organization we partnered with to provide the material and handle the logistics. The Sewing for Change Covid-19 Community Initiative provided several sewing machines and Deborah L. from Canada Sews Toronto translated patterns into Spanish.

CultureLInk Post Photo Essential Masks Volunteer

Ludys Herrerra, volunteer sewer

Project ‘Sew to Protect’

One Wednesday during a Staff Meeting via Zoom, Shakira had an idea she wanted to share. She works in our Settlement Workers in the Community Program and is in contact with many homeless shelters, women shelters and community agencies serving vulnerable people. Her closeness to these organizations made her aware of their need for Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). She asked if CultureLink could start making cloth masks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in these locations. Management readily agreed and a committee was formed. The team searched for partners and began recruiting volunteer sewers to get the project started.

Our goal is to support the essential work of community organizations by providing cloth face masks and other fabric PPE.

We expanded the call for volunteers to not only sewers with sewing machines, but also drivers, professional fabric cutters and office administration staff. The response has been overwhelming, around 100 people await confirmation to start producing and delivering masks. Because we are a Settlement Agency, we encouraged immigrants and newcomers to join the team. When language is a barrier, we help with translation. All residents of Toronto can and should take part in this initiative. We are all in this together.

LSP: Successful Digital Transformation

Tanya News, Settlement in the Community News, Workshops and Group Sessions

With the library branches currently closed Library Settlement Partnerships program workers have been working remotely since middle of March. LSP team has switched to digital service delivery and developed creative ideas to design new webinars and trainings for their clients, adding them to everyday one-on-one settlement assistance. LSP program presented the current and upcoming online events and webinars at the Serving Newcomers: LSP Spring Event with Toronto Public Library on June 9, 2020.

LSP Virtual 5-day Training for Citizenship Test Preparation, organized by Claudia Montoya, has been delivered in collaboration with Learning Enrichment Foundation. The online training provided a broad scope of interest and participation, with more than 100 participants at the first two circles joined from all Canada to learn and review Canadian history, geography, the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, governing system and other Citizenship test topics.

Stanley Teo organized Zoom training sessions for his clients, as a result participants started feeling much more comfortable with online presentations and webinars. They really enjoyed Mental Wellness online workshop, presentations and film screenings for Asian Heritage Month and the National Film Board of Canada, learned about NFB’s YouTube Channel and how to use the Auto Translate function for subtitles to their preferred language.

Yan Gu had a Zoom workshop on EI Online reporting, that introduced the online reporting system with Service Canada, emphasized the importance of completing the report regularly and explained participants how to create My Service Canada account. Another workshop on Zoom platform “Understand foreign property reporting” helped newcomers who have assets outside of Canada, to learn types of foreign properties, the responsibilities of filing the declaration and reporting for the personal tax return.

Responding to the needs of newcomers and low-income families LSP staff joined Community Volunteer Income Tax Program and opened virtual tax clinic helping to file taxes before CRA deadline June 30.

You can join upcoming webinars and sessions or receive assistance for filing your tax refund by sending emails to LSP program workers listed below.

    Claudia Montoya
    Please register

  • June 15-19
    Citizenship Test Preparation: Virtual Training
  • July 8
    Dealing with COVID-related Financial Stress
  • August 19
    Elevator Pitch
  • September 5, 12 & 19
    The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth
    Stanley Teo
    Please register

    Tax clinic appointments until June 30

  • Friday, June 12, 2 – 4pm
    Discover Parks Canada in ON #1: Pukaskwa National Park
  • Thursday, June 25, 1:30 – 3 pm
    Responding & Fighting COVID Racism (Mandarin Session)
  • Tuesday, June 30, 2 – 4pm
    Trans-Canada Summer NFB Film Screening/ Discussion
    Yan Gu
    Please register

    Tax clinic appointments until June 30

  • Thursday, June 25, 1:30 – 3 pm
    Responding & Fighting COVID Racism (Mandarin Session)
CultureLink Slider Banner Eat at Home Campaign

150 Gift Cards Ready to be Distributed

CultureLink SWIS News

CultureLink’s Eat at Home to Learn at Home campaign raised $7,417.87 to provide food for the children of schools in Parkdale and Toronto’s Downtown-West area.

It all started with our SWIS team, concerned for the newcomer families they were trying to help during the pandemic. Some of those families relied on Student Nutrition Programs to provide their children with a healthy meal. Then quarantine started and they lost access to those programs. We had to do something for them, so we asked for help. And help we got. We received more than 70 individual donations over the course of three weeks!

With the funds received, we have purchased grocery store gift cards that are currently being distributed to parents in the mentioned neighbourhoods. Each $50 gift card will help them secure food for their growing children while schools remain closed and they continue to learn from home.

We want to express our sincere gratitude to all donors and people who helped us spread the campaign. Because you share our concern for others and thanks to your generosity, we are able to make things a little easier for newcomer families starting a new life in Canada during these strange times.

A special thanks to our campaign partners, Roncesvalles Refugee Relief, for your dedication to welcoming newcomers in our communities, and also to the Parkdale-High Park Rotary Club for their generous donation.

The challenges of getting settled in a new country continue and have been intensified during the lockdown. CultureLink’s dedicated staff are working remotely from their own homes to ensure that our clients have access to important information and resources. Our programs and events have transitioned to online formats where possible. Because of these changes in our operations, our clients and community members continue to gather to learn, break the isolation, share experiences and navigate their lives with the needed support and encouragement found in a welcoming -online- community environment.

CultureLink Bike to School project photo

Volunteers on Wheels

CultureLink Health and Recreation News

The ‘Families & Educators for Safe Cycling’ program is part of the Bike to School Project, our award-winning cycling program developed with Cycle Toronto. It provides free Cycling presentations and resources to schools, through a dedicated team of volunteers.

From Bike Host participant to Cycling advocate

One of our great volunteers at CultureLink’s Sustainable Communities department is Najia Zewari. Like many of the members of the Women’s Wellness Cafe, she connected and learned how to cycle as an adult newcomer from Afghanistan. With the support from Evergreen Brickworks and CultureLink Bike Host program, she learned the joys of cycling for recreation and transportation. Last year she sent letters to the mayor and several councillors in support of the new bike lanes in Thorncliffe and Flemingdon. She’s also the peer leader of Women’s Wellness Cafe and founder of the Women’s Cyclist Network. She connected the group with local bike groups, including the Gateway Bike Hub, Cycle Don Valley Midtown (CDVM) and Marc Garneau CI. Later she was a panel speaker at a major conference on cycling in Toronto, was elected Ward Co-Leader of CDVM, and is helping run campaigns for safe cycling infrastructure in her area on Overlea Blvd and Don Mill Rd.


Making his Neighbourhood Safer for Biking

Tom Eminowicz started working with CultureLink’s Bike to School Project a couple of years ago when he decided he wanted to help make his neighbourhood safer and better for people to ride bikes. He lives in Toronto’s east end with his partner and two girls and they all use bicycles, including a family cargo bike with a big bucket for the girls to sit in while dad pedals. Tom has been working with our ‘Families and Educators for Safe Cycling’ program to engage his school community with the Danforth Complete Street project. He attends public meetings, speaks face-to-face with decision-makers, writes reports outlining key safety issues along the corridor, and sits on a working group of local supporters hand-picked by a Toronto city councillor to help make the project a success. Tom’s hard work is paying off, as the city just announced plans to implement protected bike lanes along Danforth Ave, right through his neighbourhood.