NMC-CESI Language Exchange Workshops for Syrian Youth
Team Member: Rasha Elendari
Darren Joblonkay wrote -
NMC-CESI is a student-led, educational and humanitarian initiative created by a group of students and faculty at the Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto. This initiative serves as an educational resource for Syrian newcomer youth who need help with language acquisition, and are interested in continuing their studies and engaging in a cultural exchange program here at the University of Toronto. Our newcomer students improve their English through the language and cultural exchange program, and our Arabic-speaking volunteers also benefit from our educational workshops. NMC-CESI facilitates an ongoing language and cultural exchange program between University of Toronto students and newcomer Syrian youth (who are learning English), but also connects fluent Arabic speakers, as translators and interpreters, to refugee sponsorship groups, including Lifeline Syria and the University of Toronto Syria Initiative. Our volunteers assist with a range of activities and needs, helping both sponsors and newcomers to communicate with one another, while also assisting newcomers in performing the myriad tasks necessary to achieve their goals and facilitate the successful resettlement and adjustment to life here in Canada. Our organization also serves to raise awareness about the ongoing crisis in Syria and the Middle East and the global reaction to these issues, raising funds in order to help Syrian refugees and students at risk.
NMC-CESI’s educational mission is first and foremost to create a positive learning space where newcomer youth can grow as individuals, and be assisted with language acquisition and reading/writing skills. However, we also hope to create a network of resources as well as a constructive dialogue between the University of Toronto and other Canadian universities, governmental, and non-governmental, organizations. Ultimately we hope to provide Syrian newcomer youth with not only English language skills but also scholarships and support networks that will help them continue their undergraduate or graduate studies - to positively adjust to their new lives here in Toronto and within Canadian society.
At the heart of our initiative is the Language and Cultural Exchange Workshop. Through the generous support of the Faculty of Arts and Science at the University of Toronto, this weekly program takes advantage of NMC’s unique linguistic and cultural resources to help newcomer youth improve their English, connect to Canadian society, and familiarize themselves with Canadian scholastic culture, all while helping Canadian students improve their Arabic linguistic and cultural skills. This program is expanding to other language groups such as Turkish, Kurdish, and Farsi as we cater to an ever diverse population of newcomers to Canada.
The one time donation from the Faculty of Arts and Science has allowed us to jumpstart the program and host weekly workshops since June 2016, however, we require additional funds to continue these workshops on a weekly basis. Our workshops, which have been featured on CBC, The Toronto Star, and Metro, have become a foundational pillar of the Syrian-Canadian community here in the GTA, providing a much needed space for newcomers to interact with their Canadian peers, practice their English language skills, and build a sense of community in their new country. Your donations will help us to continue these workshops and ensure these youths have a space in which to adjust to life here in Canada.