Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Library settlement program helps newcomers


A program that helps immigrants adjust to life in Canada celebrated its second anniversary at the Beaverbrook branch of the Ottawa Public Library on Friday, Oct. 28.
Around 40 people gathered at the Beaverbrook branch, with similar events held at library branches across the city.
“It’s a very good list of programs we have built through our libraries,” said Susan Kan, executive director of the Ottawa Chinese Community Services Centre and originally from Hong Kong. “The partnership with the libraries is very important.”
The program, which offers newcomers language training, help finding employment and housing and education opportunities as well as information on a wide range of topics, works as a partnership between the Ottawa Public Library, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the private sector.
Rupert Yeung immigrated to Canada from Hong Kong in the late 1970s to get an education at Carleton University. Yeung now works for the Ottawa Chinese Community Services Centre’s settlement program, which places workers in public libraries.
“They’re very serious learners,” said Yeung about those who take advantage of the program.
He said many of the people who use the service are spouses or parents of someone who’s found work. They may not know the English language very well and they may not know anyone in the community. The LSP helps them make connections.
“By coming out they form a lot of networks,” he said, adding the LSP helps over 1,000 newcomers every year. “It’s a great coming together.
Many people from mainland China settle in Kanata because of the high-tech sector, said Yeung.
“They enjoy living in this area,” he said.
Jennifer Olsen immigrated to Canada in 1970 from Taiwan. She first lived in the United States before coming to Canada after marrying her husband.
She said the LSP helped her to adjust and now she volunteers her time helping others settle into life in Kanata.
“I get so excited when I get to help others to not worry,” she said. “We can help so many people.”
She added it’s important to learn the language and the culture when moving to a new place to help give a sense of belonging.
“I can feel the need you have to get together,” said Olsen, who added many newcomers live in isolation because they can’t speak the language. “I’m happier then before because I can help.
“So many people need it.”
“It’s very important for so many people,” said Kanata North Coun. Marianne Wilkinson. “You see the program really reaches a lot of people.”

jessica.cunha@metroland.com