Since its establishment in late 2015, NMC-CESI has worked tirelessly to create a welcoming community within, and beyond, the University of Toronto for Syrian newcomers to Canada; forging friendships between the newcomer Syrian youth and our student volunteers. Such friendship has proven vital as the newcomer youth find their unique niche here in Toronto and at the University. During this time of adjustment, NMC-CESI has provided a much-needed space where our newcomer youth feel safe, wanted, and where they can learn and grow as both students and individuals adjusting to Canadian life and the educational system.
We began facilitating Arabic language support for Lifeline Syria and the UofT Syria Initiative in January 2016. Thanks in no small part to the funding generously provided by the Faculty of Arts and Science, and the NMC Department, NMC-CESI is happy to report that this summer we held 18 successful language-exchange workshops with Syrian newcomer youth. These were held at Victoria College and the NMC Department at the University of Toronto, and focused on disseminating English reading, writing, and oral communication skills to the Syrian newcomers. We also hosted several successful cultural awareness events with our refugee youth and our NMC-CESI/UofT community. These included attending exciting cultural activities such as Tafelmusik’s Tales of Two Cities: The Leipzig-Damascus Coffee House at Koerner Hall (Thanks to Tafelmusik’s Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir for offering our initiative tickets), and several Syrian-based documentary films, as well as tours of the University of Toronto campus and facilities – all in the month of May alone! On July 9th, we brought a group of over 50 newcomers and volunteers to Toronto Centre Island to celebrate Eid al-Fitr with a picnic and several outdoor activities.
Our preliminary statistics indicate that over 40 Syrian newcomers have attended one or more of our workshops, with an average of 20 Syrian newcomers attending our Saturday workshop each week, and the number of attendees continues to grow! We have helped facilitate the placement of two Syrian youth into high school, and have arranged for four of the youth, over the age of 19, to attend ESL classes at the Pacific Gateway International College, in downtown Toronto. Furthermore, we are excited to report that one of our Syrian newcomers has just recently been accepted into the Pharmacy School at the University of Toronto!