Settlement workers are making a huge difference in the lives of newcomers to Canada – and local schools.
MOSAIC, a registered charity that’s been serving immigrant, newcomer and refugee communities in Greater Vancouver for four decades, has been partnering with the New Westminster School District on the Settlement Workers in Schools (SWIS) program. The program strives to help newcomer students and their families adapt to Canadian life and education during their initial years in Canada.
“Last year we served over 520 clients, with four staff alone,” said Ghada Tallia, manager of MOSAIC’s Settlement Workers in Schools Program. “We help all the 12 schools that are in New West. We manage all their clients in our program.”
Settlement workers help students and their families adjust to education in Canada and assist them in integrating into the community, which helps new families feel welcome and fully engaged within their new community.
“What my program does is we assist newcomer students and their families adapt to life in Canada through one-on-one consultation. We do workshops for children, parents and grandparents. We support groups for youth and parents. We do mentoring for youth and parents. We do some field trips,” Tallia said. “We have a lot of volunteer opportunities for people who want to go out there and learn. We do life skills and leadership training for youths.”
Now in its fourth year, the Settlement Workers in Schools program will continue for another three years.
“We are kind of the liaison between the parents, the students and the teachers,” Tallia said. “We kind of facilitate things because sometimes it’s difficult for the teachers to understand the situation with the kids, especially with the language barrier. That becomes a big issue.”
Settlement workers speak a variety of languages, but can also borrow staff from MOSAIC’s language centre if interpreters are needed to help with students who speak other languages.
“The schools have given us great feedback and said it has made a huge difference with the relationship they have with the parents,” Tallia said. “The students have done much better now that they have been able to communicate with the parents.”
Along with MOSAIC staff, volunteers also help newcomers adjust to life in Canada in a wide variety of ways, including facilitating English conversation circles, teaching different programs, providing informal language support, supporting MOSAIC’s many events and more. They work with seniors, families, women and job seekers and others in classrooms, offices and workshops.
“We have tons of volunteers,” Tallia said. “Under our volunteer program they have to go and do a criminal record check. They register there and tell us what they like. We have about 35 offices – different programs. Whatever their passion is, we look at what we have open.”
For more about MOSAIC’s programs for newcomers or to volunteer, contact www.mosaicbc.org.