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Literacy programming connects EAL students with newcomer families

Posted on October 8, 2019

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When Zahra Jalali immigrated to Canada as a young mother, she already had a degree in English translation from her home country of Iran. She soon realized, however, that knowing and using a language in everyday life were very different things, and she enrolled in English as an Additional Language (EAL) courses at VCC. 

Today, Zahra continues to study English at an advanced level. After recently sending her son to university, she was also ready for a new challenge. When a coordinator from the nearby Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House (MPNH) visited her VCC classroom one day, Zahra learned of the opportunity to work as a language tutor for newcomers and signed up right away.

It was also her first time working outside the home. "I got married when I was 15 and my husband always took care of me," she says. "Now I want to do something to help people."

Family Literacy Outreach Program

While it's common for immigrants to Canada to enrol in EAL classes, many women with children do not have this luxury. "These women are young and keen and they want to integrate but they have so many demands – in some cases, four or five children. There are transportation issues and poverty issues," says MNPH family literacy coordinator Morie Ford.

To better serve this population, in 2015, MPNH and VCC partnered to form the Family Literacy Outreach Program (FLO). Through this program, volunteer tutors receive training to visit the homes of newcomer families and teach fun and customized English lessons to both adults and children in the same environment. 

FLO tutors use borrowing cards from the VCC Library, have access to VCC's teaching resources, and are trained to connect families with other community and employment services.

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VCC would like to extend special congratulations to Morie Ford, who recently received the 2019 Council of the Federation of Literacy Award in B.C. This award recognizes outstanding achievement, innovative practice, and excellence in literacy work. Morie is a tireless champion for newcomers in our community and VCC is proud to continue working with Morie and the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House.

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Do you have an idea to enhance your community in partnership with VCC? Reach out any time to our Partnership Development Office by emailing partnership@vcc.ca.