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National Volunteer Week: Barbara Campbell

After moving around the world for four decades as an ESL teacher and wife of a Canadian diplomat, Barbara Campbell knows how difficult it can be for women to in a foreign country to find time for themselves.

“I know for myself, moving every three or four years, you think of your children first, then your husband, and you think of yourself last – maybe after a year or so,” she says.

That’s why she knew a volunteer opportunity as a leader of an English Conversation Circle for Women was the right place for her.

Barbara is one of the 453 library volunteers who donated 10,585 hours of their time in 2016.

“You see a lot of happiness, you see budding friendships.”

The English Conversation Circle for Women at Central Library was originally created to help Syrian women who came to Waterloo Region in 2016, and includes child-minding services so that mothers can bring their children.

It’s now quite a large group that meets every week, and includes women from lots of different backgrounds, including some who have moved here while their spouses attend school. Some of the women have been here for 14 years, some arrived just a few months ago.

“It’s a large group, with language levels all over,” Barbara says. “You see a lot of happiness, you see budding friendships. People are free to voice their frustrations. They have time to think of themselves and they realize how lonely they are.”

Barbara, who is one of two group leaders who works with three volunteer assistants, says she likes to present a newsworthy or culturally relevant topic, then give the women vocabulary words and common idioms. Recently, they’ve discussed the arrival of spring, maple syrup, Easter, bullying, and the pros and cons of backyard chickens.

Barbara also likes to help the women practise pronunciation, because the English language is driven by emphasis on certain syllables, unlike Japanese or French, for instance. Frustrated by being misunderstood, the women have steadily improved with two or three sessions of learning how to stress syllables.

“I saw a lot of eyes brightening,” she says.

But perhaps more importantly, this is a place where women can connect with others in the community in a friendly, social environment.

“Many of the women have children in school and this is their first opportunity to get out. They call it ‘my time,’ and it’s fun to see,” Barbara says.

We’d like to thank Barbara and the other 452 library volunteers who use their experiences and skills to make our community a stronger place!

Learn more about ESL resources at Kitchener Public Library

Find out about volunteer opportunities


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Happy Canada Day: Welcoming newcomers

9 A conversation circle

We’d like to wish everyone a happy Canada Day, especially newcomers to Canada who are celebrating with us for the first time.

We’re pleased to announce that we’ve received a grant of $20,470 from the Immigration Partnership Council that we’ll be using to host English conversation circles for Syrian newcomers, beginning this fall. The grant funding will be used to pay for translation services, new resources,  and bus tickets for participants.

On June 24, Premier Kathleen Wynne visited Central Library and met with six local Syrian families for a private conversation circle of their own.

With an Arabic translator on hand, Premier Wynne said “We want you to fell welcome, and we want you to feel that you have opportunities.”

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Waterloo Region welcomes refugees

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It’s in the news every day. You’ve been talking about it with family, friends, and neighbours. The refugee crisis has been the topic of conversation for months now, and the Canadian government has revealed details of its plan for 25,000 Syrians to be settled in Canada by the end of February, 2016.

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It’s Citizenship Week in Canada!

Eltag Elkhalifa is a settlement worker from the KW Multicultural Centre who offers services at Kitchener Public Library.

Eltag Elkhalifa is a settlement worker from the KW Multicultural Centre who offers services at Kitchener Public Library.

It’s Citizenship Week in Canada (Oct. 12 – Oct. 18) and we wanted to let you know more about the services Kitchener Public Library and our community partners offer for newcomers to Canada.

Eltag Elkhalifa is one of several settlement workers from the
KW Multicultural Centre who offer services at Kitchener Public Library locations. The settlement workers help clients with immigration processes such as permanent resident applications, permanent resident card renewals, and citizenship applications. They also support clients in finding information on housing, education, and health.

“We don’t exclude anyone,” Eltag says. “Immigrants, refugees, refugee claimants, anyone.”

Eltag knows first-hand the challenges newcomers can face: he came to Canada from Sudan in 1993. “I settled in St. Catharines – that was my ‘birthplace’ in Canada.”

He came through the US and across the border, where he applied for refugee status upon arrival. He initially stayed with a Sudanese family that was already here, and got through the first years with support from friends and the strong social network of Sudanese people in St. Catharines.

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