Trying to navigate Canada’s culture, society, and social structures can be difficult as a newcomer and finding people who are in a similar situation can be very beneficial.
To help those who are new here make friends and network with fellow immigrants, the Valley Adult Learning Association (V.A.L.A.) is hosting its second “Newcomer Meet-and-Greet” this Saturday from noon-3 p.m. at the Little Beaver Cultural Centre (by the landfill site).
“We want to do a slow approach and make sure people are enjoying being here, feeling integrated, and confident enough to take the lead,” said V.A.L.A. outreach co-ordinator Tracey Ormerod.
The organization saw great success in its first newcomer held in late November at the Super 8 here, which revealed a definite need for more events like it in the future.
“We thought it would be fun to do a winter event because after the last one, we were surprised with the amount of people that turned out,” Ormerod noted.
About 45 people from 15 different countries came out to that one, with each
family bringing a dish from their homeland to share with others.
Many of those who attended stayed at the event until the very end–and some even later because they were having such a great time.
“That really shows you how much the people enjoyed it,” Ormerod enthused.
“At the end of the event, we announced that we’re going to run a second one after Christmas, so we sat down at the table and planned the next one at a bigger venue,” she noted.
“It was quite small at the Super 8.”
V.A.L.A. is anticipating more than 60 newcomers to attend Saturday’s event, where there will be a fire pit, the roasting of marshmallows, a “Build a Snowman” competition, tobogganing, and a free lunch.
Any food donations are greatly appreciated and attendees are encouraged to bring accessories to decorate their snowman for the competition.
For some attendees, Ormerod said it may provide them with a “new experience” as many newcomers never have experienced a fire pit or wintertime activities before in their home country.
Those who are new to Canada or immigrated here in the past few years, are welcome to attend the event. They’re just asked to contact V.A.L.A. at 274-3553 and express their interest.
“It’s a very family-friendly event,” Ormerod stressed. “There will be lots of socializing, meeting new people, and generally having a lot of fun.”
In the last year, V.A.L.A. has seen a large jump in newcomers coming into their office. As well, many have left their families to come here, which sometimes makes their new adventure a lonely one, Ormerod said.
“They’re really on their own out here,” she noted. “They’ve got to be totally independent.”
Quite often, English is a second language for newcomers and it sometimes can create barriers, making it more difficult for them to really connect with the locals
V.A.L.A. has a strong connection to recent immigrants because it offers courses that teach English, how to use computers/technology, and other workplace training.
“We support newcomers to Canada in that we reach out to those people to get them integrated into society through education,” Ormerod explained.
“We will support them in any way we can because they’re very vulnerable and we see an increasing need for it.”
On May 30, V.A.L.A. will be assisting Gurvinder Grewal, of the Rainy River Future Development Corp., in hosting a South Asian festival that hopefully will be held at Rainy Lake Square.
The festival will be the town’s first cultural event aimed specifically at increasing awareness of the growing South Asian community here in Rainy River District.
It is designed to welcome newcomers within the district and provide an opportunity for positive interaction among the various cultural and ethnic communities living here.
The South Asian festival also aims to foster intercultural understanding by exposing people to South Asian dance, food, music, and fashion.
It is hoped the festival will become an annual event where the community can celebrate different cultures in the district.
Moving forward, V.A.L.A. will be supporting the upcoming festival and hopes to plan or support many more events like it.
“We’re totally excited to see everybody again this Saturday and have such a good time,” Ormerod enthused.
“We look forward to this happening on a regular basis in the future.”