In 2015, Syrian refugee families escaped their war-torn country to come to Canada. When they first arrived, CultureLink worked with volunteers and donors to gather and sort hundreds of thousands of items and gave them away to more than 2,000 Syrian newcomers. Many community groups have come out to help us support them. Renewed Computer Technology provided us with 500 computers for distribution. Roncesvalles for Refugees provided clothing, food, furniture and more. Dinner with Syrians provided an opportunity for Syrians to eat dinner in Canadian homes. Quilts for Refugees provided some beautiful blankets to the group and donations from the United Way kept them supplied with such things as baby furniture, diapers and soap products.
Since then CultureLink has implemented a wide range of programming to meet their needs.
- Mentor Support – Many of the refugees who arrive in Toronto speak no English. Mentors works with them providing enjoyable ways for them to practise and use their English in their day-to-day living activities, learn about Canadian norms and values, socialize and connect to potential jobs in hospitality and general labour.
- Settlement Assistance – Arabic-speaking settlement workers help families better negotiate the school system and provide information, referral and support to enable them to address challenges.
- Employment Assistance – an Arabic-speaking worker helps them with their job search, resume and interviews.
- Artegration Project – an Arabic-speaking worker helps Syrian children integrate into their new communities through art activities, healthy lifestyle choices, leadership,
community capacity building, and forming a sense of civic pride.
- Nai Choir – 6-12 year old Syrian children receive free weekly music education with our musicians, their parents learn and practice English conversation with experienced ESL educators. The Nai Choir has performed before the House of Commons, the Luminato Festival, the Toronto Pearson International Airport and the CNE.
Currently we have nine staff who speak Arabic who work hard to ensure the Syrians are well served.
“I am so glad I volunteered to be a Hospitality Language Training Program mentor for Syrian refugees and other newcomers who faced barriers to securing permanent employment. These people are trying hard to make an honest living in Canada but find themselves unable to access the jobs they really need due to language, cultural or financial barriers. After getting to know each of the mentees in a small group setting over four weeks, I feel inspired by the tenacity of the mentees, my faith in humanity has been rejuvenated! I feel proud to be a Canadian, yet also humbled at the same time, after hearing about the hardships and sacrifices each of them had to go through in order to get to Canada and enrolled into this program. Most of all, I’m very grateful for settlement organizations such as Culturelink that have done so much for so many newcomers, delivering value-driven programs day in and day out.”
-Chelsea V. Chen
“It was a great pleasure for me to volunteer as a Hospitality Language Training Program mentor for Syrian and other newcomers. I liked almost everything about the Hospitality Language Training Program. I think it gives students an immediate career path without any required experience, which is really needed. I also think it provides an accessible subject around which to practice English, which is great. So, CultureLink keep doing what you are doing, and keep learning what works best.
“For the past year, I have had the privilege of working closely with the many wonderful families and volunteers who are part of this exceptional initiative and of seeing how the project benefits all participants. It has been exciting to witness the personal growth of the children and their parents as they become more confident in themselves, their English abilities and their ability to connect with their new communities.”