Catholic Centre for Immigrants – Ottawa
The Catholic Centre for Immigrants (CCI Ottawa):
- promotes and facilitates the reception of newcomers to Canada
- sensitizes the community to address newcomers’ needs and invites it to respond
- assists newcomers to realize their full potential in Canadian Society
Each year, the City of Ottawa acknowledges the business success of select individuals who were born outside of Canada and who now make Ottawa their home, for their considerable contribution to the Ottawa economy.
Nominate an immigrant entrepreneur for the 2016 awards today! The nomination period is open until September 30 and the awards will be presented on November 4, 2016.
(Photo left to right: Kim Davison, Kadijah, Wafaa Aun, and Nadia Almeshal)
“Remember the words ‘snow storm!’ When you hear these words you know that it will be very cold and that the snow will slow everything down and there might not be any school buses…”
This important heads-up about the Canadian winter comes from Nadia Almeshal, a Syrian volunteer who is taking part in “Listen, Talk, Learn and Practice English.” It’s a weekly get-together between volunteers and newly-arrived Syrian families. This one takes place in the social room at the Donald Street apartment building, where newcomers chat with volunteers in conversation circles, while their children do arts and crafts.
Nadia helps translate when necessary and provides important context for expressions like snow storm. Nadia already spoke English when she arrived as a privately sponsored refugee in 1993. She has completed her studies in office administration at Algonquin College and volunteers with CCI in office administration and as an Arabic translator. “This is my way of giving back and thanking Canada for helping Syrian refugees.”
Kim Davison is one of the newer volunteers. She trained back in April to help with CCI Ottawa’s resettlement efforts. Kim sits by a large window with Wafaa Aun and her 10 year-old daughter Kadijah. Both are making great progress and say the words Kim shows them on flash cards. Although Kim isn’t an English teacher, she uses creativity, lively body language and sounds to convey the meaning of the words on flash cards she has prepared for today’s lesson. “It is the best ‘job’ I have ever had! I come here every week with a big smile on my face and leave with an even bigger smile. It has been amazing,” she says.
The volunteers have been coming here every week for the past four months. Some have been involved with CCI Ottawa for many years; while others signed up to volunteer when the government announced Canada would be receiving 25,000 Syrian refugees. The groups were set up to create ongoing opportunities for newcomers to work on their English skills, and have an informal way to ask questions and learn about life in Canada in their own neighbourhoods.
Tell us about your volunteer experience with Syrian refugees. We would love to hear from you!
“When we first arrived, we didn’t know what to do and Tara helped us.”
“Tara is the best thing that happened to me and my children. She is always there for everybody.”
These are a few of the comments from people who nominated Tara Alani, CCI Ottawa staffer for the Ambassador Award. In fact, Tara received a special mention for being nominated by 12 different people.
During Welcoming Ottawa Week, the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership (OLIP) promotes and celebrates the spirit of genuine hospitality and respect extended by Ottawans of all backgrounds towards newcomers in everyday life.
A total of nine winners, selected from more than 50 nominations, were featured in a special Welcoming Ottawa Week photo exhibition by photographer Nyamulola Kambanji.
“A once in a lifetime opportunity.” That’s how CCI Executive Director Carl Nicholson characterized the informal visit of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to the Catholic Centre for Immigrants on Thursday, February 11.
Seven Syrian refugee families who had arrived in Ottawa in December and January were invited to participate in the special visit by His Excellency and his wife, Mrs. Ban Soon-taek. The Honourable Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, and Ms. Anita Biguzs Deputy Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada were also on hand.
Handshakes and cell phone photos were the order of the day as His Excellency and his wife made their way around the circle of chairs, greeting newcomers one by one, and leaning down to touch the faces of the excited children. His Excellency then began his remarks to the families by expressing his gratitude to Mr. Nicholson and the Centre for its generous support for the refugees. He praised the “long civilization and culture” of Syria’s people.
His Excellency Ki-Moon noted that the UN was mobilizing record amounts of resources, and “working day and night” to aid those affected by the crisis in Syria, through political negotiations and humanitarian aid. “Do not despair, do not be frustrated,” he told the group, saying that in his childhood his own country, South Korea, “was able to be rescued by the help of the UN.”
Participants took the opportunity during the informal interaction following His Excellency’s remarks to reiterate their gratitude to the Canadian government for the support, and for the honour of the Secretary General’s personal visit. “You’ve put hope again into our lives,” commented one family member.
Prior to His Excellency’s arrival, Minister Bibeau spoke about the work CCI and other Canadian agencies are doing to settle refugees. “You make us look good,” she joked to Mr. Nicholson. “You are doing the big job.” She encouraged everyone to “work hard to learn the language, it’s the key to integration and the key to finding a job.” Deputy Minister Anita Biguzs noted that her parents had been refugees to Canada who spoke neither English nor French, and probably never imagined that their daughter would become a Deputy Minister. She described herself as “very privileged and very humbled” to hold this office “because it has a lot of personal meaning for me.”