ACC offers English courses to Ukrainians


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A group of 12 families who fled Russian aggression in the Ukraine and resettled in a Westman community are now able to take English-language courses through Assiniboine Community College, free of charge.

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A group of 12 families who fled Russian aggression in the Ukraine and resettled in a Westman community are now able to take English-language courses through Assiniboine Community College, free of charge.

As the Sun previously reported, the families, some of whom had been in Carberry since May, were still waiting to hear from local settlement services agencies about when they could receive English-language instruction.

The lack of English as a second language (ESL) services is something that has been holding the newcomers back, especially the adults and older teenagers, said Sheryl Neault, head of the Carberry refugee committee.

As soon as the families were settled in Carberry, Neault connected them with Neepawa and Area Immigrant Settlement Services (NAISS). Although the service’s executive director, Don Walmsley, said the agency recently expanded to serve the needs of temporary foreign workers as well as permanent residents, “no specific funds” had been identified to get the Ukrainian families English training.

However, temporary foreign workers, such as families and individuals fleeing Ukraine, can take English classes through Assiniboine Community College (ACC), said Jennalee Burch, ESL program co-ordinator in the college’s international department.

The program is fully funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), a branch of the federal government that is responsible for facilitating the arrival of immigrants, providing protection to refugees and offering programming to help newcomers settle in Canada. It also grants citizenship and issues travel documents, such as passports, to Canadians.

The fact that settlement services and refugee committees did not know about the classes highlights a need for more awareness about how to help newcomers, Burch said.

“It just kind of sheds a light on how there’s so many newcomers that are here in our communities and just are not aware of how many settlement services and providers there are out there to help them.”

The English training is offered on-site in Brandon and online and is open to all Ukrainian newcomers throughout the catchment area, which runs right across western Manitoba up to the Parkland region.

Resources for the training are “stretched thin,” so the college is asking the federal government for additional funding for similar programming.

“We’re so close. I think, in the coming months, we’re going to see more classes available for students,” Burch said.

The Sun contacted the federal government for comment but didn’t receive a response by press time.

Hopefully, that funding will come in soon, Burch said, since there’s already a waiting list for the ESL program. Adults aged 18 years and over can register for the program all year long.

“Newcomers come and go from our program. Some of them meet their needs and then move on to their next program, whether it’s further education in the college or maybe finding a job,” Burch said.

While the program was originally designed for permanent residents and refugees only, Ukrainians do fall under the college’s list of eligible clientele, as well.

“All Ukrainian temporary residents and their dependants in Canada are deemed eligible for our settlement program classes,” Burch said.

After learning about the program, Neault passed on the information to some of the Ukrainians in Carberry, who were so surprised by the news that their “mouths dropped,” she said.

The Sun contacted NAISS for comment but didn’t receive a reply by press time.


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