A welcoming place for newcomers
Two years ago, North Kildonan resident Julia Todd wanted to help the newcomers she noticed were moving into North Kildonan.
A three-time immigrant herself, Julia knew firsthand the difference friendly locals make to those finding their way in a new culture.
Along with 10 friends from Gateway Church on Panet Road, Julia started a free conversational English class in January 2017 with 11 students. Now 15 months later, 25 volunteers have served over 120 students from Belarus, Brazil. China, Colombia, Congo, Egypt, India, Israel, Ivory Coast, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Syria and Ukraine. Each week there are approximately 40 students attending either the beginner or intermediate/advanced classes.
One student writes of the classes:
“My family and I arrived to Canada from Ukraine almost five years ago. [The] Conversational English Classes at Gateway Church help me improve my English …After the class about government and politics, I successfully passed my citizenship exam. After the topic about employment, I found a new job. At these classes I’ve found new friends. The volunteers …donate their time and skills to help us… Their help and support has made me a stronger person and I will forever be grateful.”
But in blessing others, the volunteers are enriched, too. One volunteer notes,
“The EAL program (offers) a place to belong and the beginnings of community… Hope is coming. Most newcomers go through set stages of culture shock and adjustment …[and] many lose hope. I believe we are bringing hope through improved language [and] a growing belief that Canada could actually feel like home some day. The whole atmosphere is one of genuine friendliness and welcome.”
Each year Manitoba welcomes 13,000 newcomers, and it is volunteer-based programs like these which ease the transition into a new culture. Classes include a short large group teaching on a relevant topic, further small group discussions using curriculum to effectively enhance language development along with grammar and interactive activities. Each lesson also includes a “tip of the day” on Canadian culture, and other useful information regarding upcoming free events and services in Winnipeg. Classes run on Sunday mornings from 11:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. and anyone is warmly welcome to attend.
On March 20, I was pleased to stand in the Manitoba legislature and congratulate Julia and her team for their service. Similar classes are held at the Church’s other location in the South Osborne area. At Panet Road, a third advanced Canadian Benchmark Level 7 class is planned in order to increase employment opportunities in the same field as newcomers worked in their countries of origin. This will occur both on Sunday mornings and Tuesday nights. Live translation into French and Russian is also offered by Gateway Community Church on Panet Road for its Sunday morning services.
More information can be found at https://gatewaywinnipeg.com/eal/, by calling Gateway Church at 204-989-6580 or emailing EALpanet@gatewaywinnipeg.com. My office is also available to answer questions about immigration or settlement services, Unit 3, 935 McLeod Ave., 204-289-4545, firstname.lastname@example.org, or online at www.andrewmicklefield.com