Over the course of the 2016 year, Marc Garneau C.I. has welcomed a number of Syrian refugees into its student body. While the initial flow of immigrants began in December 2015, a significant amount arrived in February; these immigrants are both privately sponsored, and government sponsored refugees. One of the individuals who helps facilitate their transition, Ms. Malika Shah, is MGCI’s School Settlement Worker. As a member of the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office, Ms. Shah says approximately forty-five Syrian students visit her regularly and attend her groups.
Ms. Shah’s helps run various programs and services in the school community to help immigrant students adapt to the new culture. Alongside the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office, she offers a number of helpful clubs and groups for immigrants looking for ways to excel further in school. For example, Garneau has a LEAP program that aims to help students who have gaps in their education, and many Syrian refugees meet the criteria. Ms. Shah says that “Garneau has been very accommodating to students in need of the program.”
As well, teachers, guidance counsellors, and the school in general are helping the new immigrants by working with the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office to offer English Conversation Classes in the summer at MGCI. These classes are meant to be a resource for students who are unable to take summer school courses, and will help them become more confident when speaking English.
Another concern that the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office hopes to address is the difficulty for refugees to gain work and networking experience. “Through the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office we offer a newcomer club for the Syrian students in the school called Social Integration Club. We meet once a week to play games make new friends and get to know the school and community.” Ms. Shah commented. The club has gone on field trips so the students may familiarize themselves with the city. Ms. Shah also spoke about how thrilling it was for the students to take the TTC for the first time.
The final program Ms. Shah mentioned was the Newcomer Orientation Week at MGCI that is hosted by Peer Leaders. In November, new students are invited to the school for an orientation that aims to provide students with a head start in school.
In general, Ms. Shah commented that the Syrian students are settling in well. “They are getting familiar with their new school and community. They are learning about the school schedules, routines and code of conduct.” she said. Many of them are also taking advantage of the programs offered in the community, and using the resources offered to them by the Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office.
Undeniably, the Syrian refugees at Garneau, and across the world, face numerous emotional and social challenges. As newcomers to Canada, the Syrian students must overcome language barriers and adjust to the cultural differences they face. Many of these students have just fled war and experienced significant trauma. “[The] Syrian families in general will require additional support with transitioning.” Ms. Shah said, at the end of her interview.
The Reckoner would like to welcome the new students to Marc Garneau. أهلا بك.