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Breaking down language barriers

North Island tutor Teresa Heare, left, works with Lourdes Lomelin of Mexico during an English as a second language session at Port Hardy’s Avalon Adventist Junior Academy. - Photo by Julia Falla Wood
North Island tutor Teresa Heare, left, works with Lourdes Lomelin of Mexico during an English as a second language session at Port Hardy’s Avalon Adventist Junior Academy.
— image credit: Photo by Julia Falla Wood

PORT HARDY—Adult immigrants and refugee newcomers in several North Vancouver Island communities are getting help communicating in their new homes through a partnership between North Island College and the federal and provincial governments.

North Island College has launched the English Second Language Settlement Assistance Program (ESLSAP), a program funded by the governments of Canada and B.C. The goal of this program is to provide English language tutoring support to adult immigrants and refugees in three communities: Port Alice, Port Hardy, and Port McNeill. This program is based on community partnerships between the College and not-for-profit organizations and volunteer tutors.

The local director of the program is Julia Falla Wood, herself a naturalized Canadian Citizen originally from Peru. Before settling on the North Island, Wood studied language and other subjects in Peru, France, Belgium and Canada.

“My role as the ESL facilitator is to recruit and train volunteer tutors, and to seek out newcomers interested in learning or improving their language skills,” said Wood. “I assess newcomers using the Canadian Language Benchmarks, and facilitate learner intake according to Ministry expectations.”

Wood was selected in October 2012 by Douglas Campbell, Associate Regional Director of North Island College in Mount Waddington Region, and hit the ground running. Since October, 11 volunteer tutors have been trained, and on Jan. 7, tutoring sessions began with 28 students in the three communities.

“The variety of nationalities was a surprise for all of us,” said Wood. “There are 10 nationalities: Brazilian, Chilean, Chinese, Czechoslovakian, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Peruvian, and Russian. These tutoring sessions take place at North Island College, Community Centres, hotels, restaurants, and schools.”

The tutor training includes Ministry-mandated core curriculum, an online pre-service training, and face-to-face training. The tutors’ work goes beyond simply helping the newcomers with the intricacies of the English language. They also acquaint learners with community resources and acts as a link to the community. Each tutor commits to at least six months of participation in the program. While the tutors are trained through a core curriculum, the instruction they provide students, or “learners,” is not part of the North Island College curriculum. And, while some tutoring sessions take place at the college’s Port Hardy campus, the tutors typically meet the learners in their own communities, in a workplace, school or community centre convenient to them.

“I am sure that many more learners will participate when they will realize that they can learn English for free, at their own pace and on their own schedule,” said Wood. “The program also offers volunteer tutors a rewarding experience helping others to integrate into the community.”

Anyone interested in learning or tutoring, please, call North Island College’s Mt. Waddington Campus at 250-949-7912, toll-free at 1-800-715-0914, or email at: mweslsap@nic.bc.ca.

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