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Southeast College helps newcomers get to know Estevan

Southeast College found a way to help immigrants from Ukraine and other countries integrate into the community.

ESTEVAN - With more newcomers arriving in Estevan this spring and summer due to the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war, Southeast College found a way to help immigrants from Ukraine and other countries integrate into the community.

Katie Burham, co-ordinator of the English as an additional language (EAL) classes for newcomers at the college, saw a need for something more than just their traditional program due to unique circumstances this year. So this summer their English Language Circles program that incorporates elements of the EAL was adjusted to serve newly arriving families' needs.

"Because there was an increase of new immigrant families moving into the area, and a lot of the immigrants were coming towards the end of the school year, we wanted to ensure that the new members ... had a connection to the community," explained Margaret Duncan, one of the program instructors involved with the summer project.

"So, Katie Burham had arranged for a partnership with the Estevan Public Library, that's a part of the program. Over the summer months, we worked with the library four or five times … the library has been really good working with us … and then we have other activities."

A group of newcomers that joined the Southeast College to learn or improve their English, on top of the language progress, also had a chance to tour the Shand Greenhouse, visit the Souris Valley Museum, have a trip to the Downtown Night Market, play some baseball – which for many was the first time playing this popular North American sport – and also explore the Woodlawn Regional Park.

For their latest activity, students and the instructor went to Fresh Air Fitness and one of the group members, Viktoriia Sadick, who moved to Estevan last winter, hosted a relaxing yoga class teaching participants to deal with heat through practices.

They also planned more visits to Woodlawn to enjoy the Estevan Art Gallery and Museum's Inside Out exhibition and possibly check out the park's water rentals. They also have a bannock-making workshop on the agenda at the library, a bit more of a traditional language-learning session and a summer wind-up planned.

"We will have a windup and we're going to just play some games and hopefully introduce them to some Saskatchewan food. I hope to find some Saskatoon berries and maybe make Nanaimo bars, different things that are Canadian-based that they maybe wouldn't experience otherwise," Duncan said.

"We're really hoping that the families can have a connection with the community, but also with themselves, so that they find other people that are maybe going through the same experiences that they are, and also feel comfortable to find somebody else in the community to say, hey, how do I do whatever it is that they're seeking to do," Duncan said. "And of course, through all of this, we want to improve their English language skills."

The program offered this summer is different from the EAL program that happens throughout the regular school year. Duncan noted that the usual program is consistent across Canada and follows the standard protocols. During the regular year, the SE College also offers a language circles program, but it's not as intensive in the sense of community engagement.

"In this one [summer EAL], we're still trying to improve the language, but really get a strong community sense and show them what all Estevan has to offer," Duncan explained.

She noted that it's been a wonderful experience for herself as well, as she also got to learn and discover new things in Estevan, even though she's been living in the community for many years.

With it being the first time that the college offered a language program over the summer, Duncan said the results are really inspiring.

"Last year, there was nothing that ran during the summers that I know of, so this is the first year that this has run. We have run 13 classes, and they've all been successful so far. And we have another four left. So hopefully, more people come out and take advantage of the experience," Duncan said.

The Southeast College receives funding from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to offer LINC programs and Language Circles, so there is no charge to the participants.