Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.
My name is Sandy and I'm the Program Manager for Multicultural and Immigrant Services of the Langley Community Services Society.
I am a first generation immigrant in Canada. I was like an elementary school student when I arrived in Canada in 1996. I have learned English and a new culture here, even though at times I felt like I was learning how to cross a street. As you can see from my immigrant story, people believe that Canada is the best place, where everyone’s dreams can come true.
The purpose of the program is to assist and support new immigrants and refugees in a smooth transition to settlement in the Langley area. We help clients with their problems in filling out forms and applications, in five different languages: Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Spanish, and for the Karen refugees. In our program, only the Karen settlement worker and I are full-time staff. The other workers work part time only.
We provide orientation to newcomers, such as information on housing, banking, transportation, schools, and family doctors. We help clients apply for their SIN card, MSP premium assistance, child care subsidy, and EI, and we also help them to renew their PR card or apply for citizenship and/or a passport.
We offer citizenship classes in Mandarin.
We do referrals to free English classes, ELSA. In the Langley area, the only ELSA provider is New Directions. They impart the ELSA program, but only levels one, two and three. If newcomers need level four or five, they have to go to other cities, such as Surrey or Abbotsford.
It’s very inconvenient for them to travel to other cities to get the ELSA program, so we provide ESL services in our agency. For new immigrants, the biggest problem is the language barrier. We have beginner, upper beginner, intermediate, and upper intermediate ESL classes. We also have conversation, reading, and advanced classes, as well as a Korean children’s class.
There are five support groups in our programs, covering the Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Spanish, and Karen refugees who access our offices. There are one or two seminars or workshops every month to help them get more information so they can go about their daily lives.
Our buddy program promotes cultural understanding between Langley residents and immigrants and also provides an opportunity for newcomers to learn more about Canadian society, culture, and history.
We provide income tax services to our new immigrants and low-income families. Every year we send volunteers who speak different languages to the Canada Revenue Agency to get more income-tax training and to get the software from CRA.
Before I moved to Canada, I was a computer systems analyst for an IT department at the Taiwan national revenue agency. I worked there for more than 13 years. I know that all of our settlement workers had to renew their knowledge of the income tax information. We understand that income tax services are very important to our clients, who came from different countries with different tax systems. We served 420 clients last year in the two months of March and April.
For social activities and recreation, we have tai chi, tai chi sword, chi kung, and international folk dancing classes, which are very popular recreation classes for new immigrants. We encourage newcomers to attend community activities like Langley’s International Festival, the East Indian Diwali Festival, the Baha’i Festival, and our Multicultural Lunar New Year.
We also have a good relationship with community leaders. For example, I am the current president of the Fraser Valley Taiwanese Association.
We provide interpretation and translation services to immigrants and third parties like Langley's Douglas Recreation Centre, the Langley School District, employment services, Service Canada, and the Christmas bureau).
For immigrant employment services, we provide orientation and seminars, help clients write resumes and cover letters, or refer them to Langley community employment services, but there are only English services in Langley.
The Safe Harbour program is a provincial program funded by the B.C. government. Our tag line for Safe Harbour, “Respect for All”, includes all segments of a population that is rich with diversity.
On Karen refugee services, there are 55 families or 350 individual Karen refugees from Burma who have been living in Langley since last year in the apartments just across the street from our agency. For Karen people, language is the biggest barrier, along with long-term diseases, transportation, and job searches. Some families still do not have a family doctor. They need an outreach worker to help them with translations and interpretation.
We have only one Karen settlement worker, who helps by providing basic life skills workshops for the Karen community. With their limited English, it’s very hard for Karen people to find a job. Most of the job offers they receive are due to connections, volunteering, and shortcuts. They need skills training and long-term jobs.
We have another project for children from zero to six years, the early years refugee pilot project, which provides intensive early childhood development support as well as orientation and assistance in settlement.
We have a new one-year project that started at the end of September and is called the senior immigrants and refugees program. We offer seniors information workshops on H1N1, old age security pensions, health and wellness, cultural celebrations, and individual support and referral. The program is delivered in five cities in Greater Vancouver: Surrey, Langley, Abbotsford, Mission, and Maple Ridge. Langley's is the only agency to provide senior immigrant and refugee services. We offered more than 10 activities in the two months of October and November.
Today, I have to say thank you to my supervisor and our executive director, Bill Dartnell, and to the two mayors, Mr. Fassbender, from the City of Langley, and Mr. Green, from the Township of Langley. I always got a lot of support from them. I'm very appreciative of all the settlement workers. Not only do they have settlement knowledge, but they also work with passion and consideration.