October 12th, 2017 is a day that Yiwen will remember for the rest of her life. On that day, she got on a plane all by herself and travelled twelve hours to meet her family in Canada. She landed in a different country for the first time ever. Looking back at those first moments in Toronto, she says “I did not realize how different my life was going to be”.
A week after her arrival, she and her dad walked into her new high school: Central Technical School. She remembers being very nervous as neither of them could communicate in English well enough. Her father had asked a friend to translate for them, but she was busy and couldn’t come to school with them. However, she gave them a number to call and ask for help. The number was for one of CultureLink’s staff members, from the Settlement Workers in School team.
“She [the settlement worker] helped me register for school, select the courses and showed me the entire school. She also took me to the NOW club and invited me to a field trip the next day”. With a little help from us, Yiwen was all set to start classes. But it was on the field trip that she discovered that being new wasn’t all so bad. “Before this trip, I would have never imagined being able to make friends with a person from a totally different country and culture”, she explains, amazed at her own accomplishments. Not long after that, and to her own surprise, she was sharing her life stories in English, and speaking confidently too.
Almost three years have passed since the day it all began, and every now and then she thinks back and wonders what would have happened had she not come across CultureLink. How different her high school experience would have been. “Although I would probably still graduate successfully, have good grades and go to a good university as I planned, my experience would have never been the same. I would have missed all the fun I had with NOW Club during these years. I would not have met so many friendly people who support each other like families. I would even not have the opportunities to be able to present myself to others”.
For youth starting life in Canada, one of the greatest challenges is the language. Having trouble communicating poses a threat to their self-confidence. Yiwen remembers “I always thought that I was not good enough, and therefore was scared of standing up and talking about my ideas”. Programs such as NOW give them the opportunity to participate in a lot of lectures and meetings where they can improve their English. “During those sessions, I noticed the confidence in the eyes of previous peer leaders. I told myself, those are the people that I want to be”. She decided she would apply to be a peer leader the next year. She did, and she was selected.
“I could have never imagined that I would be able to use my strength to help others adapt to new studying environments as the old peer leaders did with me when I first came.” NOW is all of that and more. “Through these events, I even met some of my best friends and built life-long friendships with them”.
The best help you can receive as a newcomer is someone who understands what you are going through and who can inspire you to overcome all your fears, for he or she is proof that it can be done. “I really appreciate the help that I received from this club and from the teachers. These high school memories will be embedded in me forever”.
Leadership doesn’t come with a title or seniority. Experience and hierarchy might give you authority and power, but do not make you a leader. Leadership has little to do with personality. One could be a low-key introvert with leadership skills. Leadership is the ability to listen to others and lead by example. Leaders act with determination and integrity. A leader is honest and patient, they express their thoughts while showing respect and appreciation to others. A potential leader is born every day and it is our job to prepare them for the future.
CultureLink’s Summer Settlement Program hosted two Leadership Training Sessions for youth this past month. Altogether, there were 38 participants between the ages of 14 and 24. Not only did they learn some essential Leadership Skills, but they also had a good time while doing so. The information as presented in an interactive way, which was essential to keep them engaged.
“Thank you so much for today’s program, it was amazing. The leadership session was really good. It kept me entertained for more than an hour. Which is a really good thing.” – Binita Karmaker
“The session was awesome! The most important part of the seminar was of course the information that was presented in an interesting way! Thanks so much!” – Ayush Verma
We all need a confidence boost some times, but especially young people, as they navigate through life and changes within themselves. High school students were very appreciative of the lessons and tools provided.
“Being able to interact and learn from others made it so much easier to understand the factors of leadership. If I am given the chance, I would for sure take this opportunity again and join. I think other youth will make use of this session for leadership is something that is common especially in the lives of high school students. Presentations, assignments, activities etc. leadership is needed and with what we’ve learnt yesterday, my confidence in my ability to lead has increased along with my knowledge. The strategies such as the OREO and SMART goals were what I liked the most, also the fact that it was a very interactive zoom meeting! Thank you so much for this!” – Niha
Our goal was to build an informative and enjoyable session for youth. Thankfully, the feedback received indicates we succeeded. Here’s to more empowered youth!
See other Summer Settlement Program activities this year: Youth Talent Show
Ramiro was a university professor in Cuba. He taught Political-Economic theory, sharing with students his knowledge and experience in working with different stakeholders to develop partnerships. This year, he moved to Canada. As a newcomer, his first goal was to find a job. He reached out to us hoping to find support in understanding the Canadian workplace environment and improving his resume and interview skills.
We invited him to join our Interview Squad program, where he would receive an enormous amount of information and practice on how to apply for jobs in Canada, and especially on the interview part of the process. The Interview Squad Mentors work to help participants tailor their resumes and run a number of mock interviews to prepare them for the real thing.
The program also includes a training session in ‘Diversity and Human Rights’. This session prepares participants for cross-cultural interactions in a professional setting. It also encourages respect for human diversity.
On special training sessions such as the one mentioned above, we ask participants to fill in a survey for feedback. From those surveys, we learned that Ramiro was impressed with how much information he received and how prepared he felt to start his life in Canada. He wrote:
“It was a very good time to learn about a lot of things, new definitions, concepts, history, and (to get) a feeling of belonging that has been developed in a brief time. Canada is a very multicultural society, the tools and knowledge provided in this training are just the beginning of a lifetime experience. This training has positively impacted me to become an active part in supporting and understanding people in my workplace, and society.”
Ramiro was also surprised by the news he received at the end of the Diversity training. The note continues:
“I would like to highlight the perfect timing of this training, and the happy news I received yesterday. I have been offered a job at Mount Sinai Hospital. This job, Healthcare Screener, presents for me a very special opportunity to start building my career, interact with Canadian society, and pay forward the support provided by the Canadian government, even more in this unprecedented time of COVID-19. I am truly excited to start working. As a newcomer, I feel ready to transfer my skills and contributing to the safety of my workplace environment. Diversity and Human Rights training has been a perfect complement to face my first job experience in Canada.”
When we develop our programs, we think of the challenges newcomers face and try to provide solutions to their needs. It often escapes us, however, the impact of our contribution. That is until we read lines like this:
“My infinite gratitude to CultureLink’s staff, the Interview Squad program, and the mentors who supported me during this time. I grew personally and professionally, and as said previously, this is just the beginning of a lifetime experience, I want to keep growing and contributing to my new society”.
Congratulations Ramiro! We wish you nothing but all the very best in your new Canadian life.
It was the coldest season of the year 2017. Ahlam, 36 years old, arrived in Canada speaking very little English. Nervous about starting a life in a new culture and a new society, she decided to sign up for ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. She achieved CLB (Canadian Language Benchmarks) Level 3/4 and enrolled herself in the Food Handler Program, which she successfully completed. She was ready and eager to fully integrate into Canadian society as a successful woman but had to put her plans on hold to take care of her newborn baby.
In her new role as a full-time mom, she had to find a way to continue improving her English while taking care of her family at home. In her search for a class with flexible schedules, Ahlam came across CultureLink’s ‘SOS English Conversation Circle via WhatsApp’. She liked the idea of studying with an all-women group, and without leaving her house. The WhatsApp group was perfect as it allowed her to practice English while still being close to her growing family.
Our program helped Ahlam and other participants with their speaking, listening, writing and reading skills. It provided a safe space for them to makes mistakes, learn and improve their English. For one hour a day, the group participated in listening to recordings and reading the chats, following a workbook created especially for these classes.
Ahlam was able to put into practice what she had previously learnt and appreciated having different teachers, with different experiences and teaching styles.
“This is a great program. I hope it continues to help other ladies who are eager to improve their English Language skills and unable to attend daytime language school. It is also good for ladies who feel shy to speak or are worried about others making fun of them if they make mistakes. I am so grateful to have been a part of it. Thank you!”
Upon completion of the SOS English Conversation Circle, she took the language assessment at YMCA and showed remarkable progress (CLB level 4/5). She is now ready to take her Citizenship test.