Adjusting to a new community is difficult, and even more so if you were coming from across the world and didn’t speak the local language.
It can be isolating and intimidating trying to make a home in a new place, especially a place that is completely different than anything you have ever known.
Woolwich Community Services (WCS) has teamed up with Conestoga College to help try and make the transition easier for newcomers from other countries who have made a home in Woolwich Township. With the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program, newly settled residents in the area can get a helping hand with learning the English language, giving them the tools they need to feel comfortable going to the doctor, going to the grocery store and just living everyday life.
The program was previously offered in Kitchener-Waterloo, making it difficult for newcomers in Woolwich Township to make the trip to class five days a week, but as of last month, learners don’t have to go any further than downtown Elmira. The class is now being offered Monday to Friday at the WCS office on Church Street.
“I think trying to settle individuals in the community, and a number of the individuals who were coming to our Waterloo site, found that it was quite a distance to bring their sponsored individuals in everyday. They requested something potentially closer to home in the rural areas. That is why we thought the partnership would be a good fit,” said Crystal Brown, associate chair of the Conestoga Language Institute at the K-W college. “It starts with whatever the client needs and progresses them to be able to communicate for whatever reason in the community, whether it is shopping, or visiting a doctor, all the way up to employment. We cover the language that could be used in interviews, for example. It helps them settle and participate in the community, which is the ultimate goal.”
The class currently has only three students registered, and they are looking to have a few more to join in and learn.
“We are looking to promote the program and just get more people in there,” said Brown. “I really think it is closer to home.”
WCS executive director Don Harloff says the partnership with Conestoga College was a natural fit. The local community services organization was created with programs like LINC in mind.
“We were approached by various places, businesses and churches, asking if it was possible to provide a service such as LINC, and I said, ‘absolutely.’ That is one of the main reasons that we developed this lovely building and bring in services that were pertinent to local people,” he said. “With the Syrian refugees coming into the community in the last year, there was a lot of interest from community members on providing services locally so that families wouldn’t have to go into K-W.”
LINC is just one of many examples of the regional community coming together to help those who need it.
“I think partnership is one of our missions and our mandate. We have quite a few partnerships with other agencies and we want to provide great opportunities for township people to access those services that they are interested in. We have the literacy group of Waterloo Region coming in with Project Read, we have Carizon Family and Community Services coming in and using our building, we have Conestoga College employment services and career centre coming in, they are coming in and doing things out of our building and we have some private individuals using the building for their own programs,” said Harloff. “You want to make it as easy to access as possible. The harder it is to access, the less likely people are to seek them out. We want to reduce those barriers as much as possible so people have access to what they need.”
To learn more about the LINC programming, call WCS at 519-669-5139.