In the 2011 National Household Survey it was reported Sylvan Lake was home to a population of around 550 immigrants. With the population having grown 10% over thelast five years it is likely this number is significantly higher.
The nearest Immigrant Centre is based out Red Deer but offers supports to immigrants located throughout Sylvan Lake offering a number of programs to new comersliving in the town.
While knowledge of the Immigrant Centre is often not known to those outside of the city, workers of the Immigrant Centre hope through their rural awareness programs they will become better acquainted with more immigrants in outlying communities.
Programs offered at the Immigrant Centre include English as a second language (ESL) classes, as well as assistance with paperwork, housing, health care cards,translation services, social support groups to make friends, and settlement support in schools to both the parents and students as they adjust to their new lives inCanada.
In addition, the Centre also partners with Catholic Social Services who has an Immigrant Settlement Team to help newcomers find employment as they have two workers who specifically help with employability of immigrants.
Frank Bauer, executive director for the Immigrant Centre, explained many families in rural communities aren’t aware of immigrant services being available in nearby centres and they often think they can manage without, however there will always be the odd situation or question where the Centre can be of use and help to them.
“Coming to a new country especially when you don’t speak the native language is a big step – it is quite often confusing and frustrating as well,” explained Bauer. “It can be really difficult to find your way and that’s on top of finding a house to live in, getting a job, finding a school – you can also get very home sick and so you also need those social connections.
“Everything from the way utilities are billed here compared to other countries can be quite different for newcomers or even setting up a mobile phone and knowing whereto go to do so.”
One program which Bauer says can be well utilized by immigrants in towns such as Sylvan Lake is the free online ESL classes offered through the Centre.
“For any permanent residents and immigrants who come to Canada, it is a free service that could be of good use and value to people in the community and can help people improve their English through reading, writing, speaking and listening,” said Bauer.
Other work the Immigrant Centre does in Sylvan Lake includes a number of Public Awareness Programs offered throughout the year.
“This program is aimed more towards schools and other organizations to create more awareness of cultural diversity,” he explained. “What does it mean when people come to Canada from other countries? Why might they have difficulties understanding our way of living and our habits? It just creates more understanding andacceptance of other cultures.”
Bauer added most immigrants come to Canada due to economic climates in their home countries and in hope of a better life financially or an all together better quality oflife.
“Alberta and Canada are great places in the world to live – there is lots of space and lots of opportunity to find jobs as well as good social systems and also very friendly and welcoming communities overall,” he explained. “Anything that we as immigrant settlement centres can do to make that relocation smoother – to help them adjust and find the right job then it will benefit the economy and the community as a whole.”
If you know some one who could benefit from the free ESL online classes refer them to the Immigrant Centre or if you are a newcomer and wish to learn more about their services call 403 346 8818.