REGINA – More than 25,000 Syrian refugees now call Canada home, but for many the task of integrating into society still looms.
The Regina Public Library is offering one-on-one tutoring for newcomers looking to learn English. In December, while preparing for the influx of Syrian refugees, the library put out a call for more volunteers to help with the program.
READ MORE: Regina Public Library seeking volunteer English tutors
“We’ve had overwhelming support from the community,” manager of community engagement and programming at RPL, Nancy MacKenzie said. “Three hundred and twenty-seven volunteers from Regina have come forward since the beginning December to volunteer with the library.”
One of those volunteers is Lil Morris. While only in her third week tutoring English, she’s noticed a marked improvement in her pupil, Bhupinder Hambaul.
“She works really hard, you can tell her heart is in it. She wants to learn,” Morris said.
“I can read, but [I’m] not confident to speak out or something like that. That is why I want to build my confidence,” Hambaul added after her weekly lesson.
There are over 1,200 Syrian refugees living in Saskatchewan, a number that continues to rise. Government officials initially expected 850 refugees in the province.
READ MORE: Syrian refugee enrolment increases in Regina as school feels strain on resources
“We always had a feeling there would be more.”
While other provinces like Ontario and New Brunswick are struggling to move Syrian refugees from temporary housing in hotel rooms, the additional refugees in Saskatchewan have been handled quickly.
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“It means working more hours, contacting more landlords,” manager of settlement and family services at Regina Open Door Society Getachew Woldeyesus said. “But we had done all the homework ahead of time before they arrived. So some of the resources was in place.”
Also, contrary to other communities across Canada, finding places to stay has not been an issue.
“It sort of was the perfect opportunity in terms of the supply of housing,” CEO of the Regina and District Chamber of Commerce John Hopkins said. “There was a good supply of accommodations whether it was rental, or a single family or whether it be condo.”