Imagine you've just moved to Canada from another country: you need to look for a place to live, find a job, learn how to get around, and if you have kids, enroll them in a nearby school...and that's just the beginning.
This is the start of your new life.
For thousands of immigrants arriving in Toronto, this is their reality. There are so many important decisions to make, with an overwhelming amount of information to sift through, that each step may seem insurmountable at times. The Settlement and Education Partnerships in Toronto (SEPT) program helps individuals and families make it through this difficult transition.
If you are a new immigrant to the city, and have children going to a Toronto school, you will probably meet one of our School Settlement Workers. They are the bridge between you and the resources available in your school and community.
Our School Settlement Workers are able to act as this connection because they are well-informed about the various services that parents and youth can access. They partner with other non-profit agencies, community centres, and city agencies to develop a catalogue of resources that can be provided to families at a moment’s notice.
Working one-on-one with newcomers every day, our SEPT staff provide assistance that is tailored to meet the specific needs of each client, whether it is about the education system, the job market, citizenship requirements, finding subsidized housing, applying for Ontario Works, filing income taxes, or any number of other topics.
In addition to this daily support, School Settlement Workers also organize their own workshops every month to address the needs of the immigrant community, such as newcomer youth groups, parenting classes, and computer literacy sessions.
DURING THE SUMMER BREAK
When schools are closed for the summer, the School Settlement Workers transition to working through the Toronto Public Library system, ensuring that newcomers are still able to find the best resources for their settlement throughout the year.
Before school starts up again in September, SEPT staff also plan and run week-long orientation sessions in secondary and elementary schools to welcome newcomer students and their parents. Similar to Frosh Week at colleges and universities, Newcomer Orientation Week (NOW) and Welcome and Information for Newcomers (WIN) offer hands-on leadership activities for youth just entering the school system. And, the Settlement Workers do it all over again in February when a new semester begins.
Using schools and libraries as the focal point for the community, our SEPT staff offer a wealth of knowledge and understanding that makes a tremendous difference in the lives of many newcomers as they begin their journey in Canada.
FOR NEWCOMER STUDENTS
For many newcomer students, being in an unfamiliar environment and facing a language barrier can lead to feelings of isolation, a loss of identity and bullying. Through our Digital Storytelling workshops, we've been able to provide a safe and supportive space for these students to tell their stories and shed light on the challenges they face.
Digital Storytelling has proven to be an effective tool for us capture the unique experiences of our diverse community. Participants create short videos using voice, images, and music as a way to share their personal stories.
A youth from Taiwan who had arrived in Canada in 2014 experienced just how difficult it could be to start at a new school as a new immigrant. As an ESL student, the language barrier prevented him from speaking to his peers or joining school clubs or teams, ultimately making it difficult for him to feel like he belonged.
When he saw a flyer for our digital storytelling program for newcomer youth, he joined immediately.
Although shy at first, he slowly opened up and started to speak with other youth in the group. By the end of the project, he stated that it was significantly empowering and healing for him. The workshop provided him with an opportunity to tell a story he had had on his chest since childhood but couldn’t share with family, friends or peers for fear of embarrassment and lack of understanding.
But, the impact of these Digital Storytelling workshops is not limited to the individual. The resulting videos are shared (with consent from the creator) with different audiences to raise awareness and inspire others who may be going through something similar.
84% of youth registered in extracurricular activities, both within the school and surrounding community.
96% of clients were more aware of community and government resources and were more confident accessing those services for their settlement needs.
80% of clients were more confident in speaking to unknown members of the school and community, as well as in larger groups.
96% of clients had a greater understanding of Canadian culture and customs.
91% of clients were more aware of community and government resources, with 83% of clients registering in programs because of that gained knowledge.
83% of clients were confident in their ability to access community services that would assist them with the settlement process.
In this Digital Story, Lakshita describes how she changed after moving to Canada. She overcomes the sadness she felt as a newcomer student in a brand new environment, especially through the Newcomer Orientation (NOW) Club at North Albion Collegiate Institute.