Thank you to Global News, Kelowna Daily Courier, and Castanet for spreading the word of our recent efforts!
This summer has been busier than usual here at International Gateway Kelowna. When displaced Ukrainians began arriving in the Okanagan, we knew that it could be challenging for them to adapt to a new life here in Canada. Knowing that many of them would be facing language barriers, or simply have a wish to improve their English, IGK put out a call for new arrivals, allocating a few, tuition-free spaces for any students who might be interested.
Those in the community were very, very interested! In fact, we hadn’t anticipated how popular this would be. We started with one family (all talented videographers and photographers), and 4 students became over 50 students, with an additional 70 students being processed and waiting for more classes to open soon! Thanks to the help and dedication of so many, we were able to offer a full morning class to beginners, spots in upper levels to more advanced students, and evening classes for students with childcare conflicts, and those who have already found employment during the day.
Being able to communicate in the workplace is key to future success and communicating in a new language can often be a daunting task. This language barrier is often overlooked in terms of public funding allocation for new arrivals to Canada. IGK is currently working with Kelowna Resource Centre and WorkBC to give the students the language skills required to work in a field related to their studies and work experience in Ukraine. “They’re all professionals hoping to work in Canada,” Kristin Burns, one of our teacher at IGK states. “They’re from a wide range of backgrounds, from realtors to beauty technicians, landscapers to illustrators. Accountants. Seamstresses. We have some students who work in early childhood development, which is greatly needed in BC. They need English to get them through certification in Canada. Once they’re certified, they’ll be able to find work easily, but they need English to make it to that point. A few of our students have found work in their field since finishing their studies with us.”
We’re so pleased with how far the students have come in their studies! It’s been amazing watching their progress. We’ve also enjoyed meeting everyone. “We found it’s become a meeting hub, a safe haven, or a place they could meet up with other new Ukrainians,” Blaine Melnyk said, adding that it’s been a lot of fun for all involved.