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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.