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National Volunteer Week: Allana and Jessa

Allana Villabroza and Jessa Adloc are relatively new to Canada, but they’re already stepping up and making a big difference in our community.

Both of these young women are originally from the Philippines. Allana, 19, moved here two years ago, and Jessa, 17, moved here just nine months ago. Now they volunteer their time at Central Library, working with kids in Grades 4 to 8 who are learning computer science skills with Google CS.

Allana says volunteering has been a learning experience for her as well as for the kids, and has helped her improve her (already excellent) English fluency. She started volunteering as a shelf reader last summer.

“When I first came here, I didn’t really talk to anybody,” she says. “But this really helps me communicate and socialize with others, especially the kids.”

Allana was the one who suggested that Jessa, a fellow student at Eastwood Collegiate Institute, also volunteer at the library.

“I like hearing the kids ask questions and learning new things,” Jessa says.

Emily McLaughlin, senior library assistant and programmer, says Alanna and Jessa are problem solvers and role models in her Google CS programs.

“The girls are new to coding, but that didn’t slow them down,” she says. “To make solving problems easier, Alanna and Jessa asked to have the course code so they could work ahead of the class, and used their phones to compare the code they created in their own projects with the kids’ code to help them debug their work.

“Jessa and Alanna are always there to give the kids applause and high fives, and award them their badge for the week.”

After they graduate from Eastwood, Alanna hopes to go to Conestoga College to become a respiratory therapist, while Jessa wants to attend University of Waterloo for a degree in biochemistry.

They both miss family and the tropical weather back in the Philippines (“I hate snow,” Jessa says) but they’re beginning to feel like Canada is their home.

“I’ll go to the Phillipines for vacation, but I think my life is here now, and my future,” Alanna says.

Thank you both for volunteering with Kitchener Public Library, and making a difference in your community!

Jessa Adloc’s  recommended reads:


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Supporting newcomers and their sponsors

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“We’ll remember this day for the rest of our lives. And they probably will too,” says Laura Reed, Manager of Children’s and Teen Services at Kitchener Public Library.

Laura is surrounded by three dozen children – playing games, building structures, crafting, and eagerly trying to chat with all the library staff.

Last week, we welcomed our first group of newcomers from Syria to Central Library, and they’ve returned on several occasions for more fun, games, and videos in the Theatre. Staff mobilized quickly to start providing services for Syrian children who are currently living in transitional housing.

“We’re looking forward to giving kids an opportunity to be kids – to play and explore, through arts and crafts and technology,” Laura says.

She’s also investigating ways to  to offer homework help and a Reading Buddies program, once the children are in permanent homes and have started school.

Laura is a member of the newly formed Refugee Resettlement Children’s Services Working Group, a group of several community organizations and agencies dedicated to the health and well-being of children.

“As Kitchener is one of six cities in Ontario where government-assisted refugees will settle, the Kitchener Public Library has enhanced its refugee settlement services to meet the needs of our newest community members. Our library is a place for developing skills and literacy; a place with knowledgeable help – from completing forms and documents to job searches and translation services,” says library CEO Mary Chevreau.

“But, it’s more than that; it’s a safe, vibrant hub where families and friends gather and connect. I want to send a warm welcome to our new customers, and look forward to meeting as many as I can over the next several months.”

Kristin Johnson-Perlock, the librarian who works with our language collections and multicultural services, will be organizing a social event at the library for refugees and their sponsors, and has created a new page on our website with information that will be helpful specifically for them. Among other things, we offer:

  • Tours for newcomers and their sponsors, highlighting services of interest
  • Arabic books at every library location
  • Informal English conversation circles
  • English as a Second Language materials
  • Library Settlement Partners from the KW Multicultural Centre

Kristin is also a member of a working group – Community Integration and Language Supports. These organizations are working together to co-ordinate opportunities for newcomers to integrate into their community.

“Libraries are community spaces for everyone. I hope newcomers to Kitchener will experience this welcoming spirit by accessing library services and resources available at all Kitchener Public Library locations,” says Kristin.

“Libraries play an important role in community integration for newcomers. Libraries, of course, provide access to resources like books, but they are also spaces where newcomers can attend programs, meet new people, and spend time together as a family. It’s a space where newcomers can feel a part of the community and where they can create social networks.”

Like other community organizations, we’re looking for financial support to help with additional resources such as translators, language support, and extended programming.

If you can help, please donate now to support Refugee Programs and Services at Kitchener Public Library.


Visit our Information for Refugees and Sponsors page; please share if you or someone you know is sponsoring or volunteering with newcomers.

The website In My Language, funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, has general information about libraries, provided in Arabic and several other languages.

The Waterloo Region Record wrote about the library’s Arabic resources.