Developing an English as a Second Language (ESL) program for foundation level language training right in Almonte became critical for our newcomer families. We have such a depth of volunteer talent and gathering numbers of adult newcomers that it seems unthinkable to not have ESL delivered locally. Designed and managed by Mr. Peter Belfry (who has had many years of ESL work in his outstanding career on the international front), the SRCMM-ESL program will launch on March 14, primarily hosted at the Almonte Branch of the Mississippi Mills Public Library, a most natural and comfortable learning environment. Alternative classroom space is being found for those days when the Almonte Branch cannot accommodate the program.
A small but important item has been the work to put together an Orientation Binder that reflects a common community theme and gives our families points of reference. Rather than a promotional brochure, we chose to focus on safety, the support team and reinforcing the family’s sense of security and independence in their new residence. Of course all nice-to-have material is there too in an Appendix and fully customizable by each group to suit their family.
We have been very privileged to continue to have the support of the wider community, working in unison, rather than letting our four sponsorship groups slog away in insolation. The SRCMM model facilitates this “working together” approach: community members are engaging with our newcomers, across somewhat artificial sponsor group boundaries, to make them feel welcomed, listened to and cared for as friends and neighbours. The SRCMM has received broad, tangible support through the work of many organizations and individuals to recognize and encourage the work of the SRCMM as a community initiative, including the Almonte Civitan Club, the Mills Community Support Corporation, Mill Street Books, the Pakenham and District Civitan Club, young Caitlyn and her crew of bakers, United for Refugees Lanark County and St. Andrews United in Pakenham!
Arnie Francis, Chair Syrian Refugee Committee of Mississippi Mills
Team Almonte is a large non-denominational group of local residents. Our group is working with Jewish Family Services of Ottawa and hopes to soon secure a Syrian refugee family. Due to successful fundraising, our group is now able to accommodate a large family.
While waiting for our family to be assigned, our group has been making use of this time by teambuilding and getting organized in designated committees to prepare for a family’s arrival. For example, team members have secured a house for our future family and much work has been done to ready the house for our family’s arrival. Thank you to all of the volunteers who have donated their time and skills!
As well, some of our members have been helping to support the families who have already arrived in town. This will help our group by adding to our collective experience and will better help us to assist our family when it arrives.
Team Almonte is an active participant in the SRCMM. We would like to extend a special thanks to the Almonte Civitan Club for organizing the Valentine’s Dinner and Dance on behalf of the SRCMM. This event helped to not only raise funds for this worthy effort but has also added to the momentum in the community in support of the new residents in our town!
Team Almonte is especially encouraged in witnessing our community working together and undertaking true community building. Through these community building efforts, we are reconnecting with old and new friends while learning to look at our community from a new perspective; through the eyes of a newcomer.
Katie Cotnam, Team Almonte
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