What does a person/family do once they have gotten to Lethbridge?


Immigrant Services Interview: Tamara Sudar
Tamara Sudar is a 23 year old young woman originally from Mostar, a country boardering Serbia, is currently employed at Lethbridge Immigrant Services. It has been approximately 13 years since her and her family immigrated to Lethbridge where she eventually graduated from the University of Lethbridge with a degree in Political Science. Sudar is fluent in Serbian a characteristic which sparked her employment at Immigrant Services as a translator. Today she is working as a School Based Settlement Practitioner which works with youth and their parents to encourage successful educational outcomes. Sudar stated at the beginning of our interview that she "loves her job" and based on our conversation, that if very evident. Working with youth and their familes creates a work environment that is constantly changing. Her day may consist of piles of paper work, or she may be called out to a school because a child is not wearing appropriate clothing. For example, a child may come to school not wearing shoes, or a boy may show up to class wearing a pink shirt. The teacher will often find this unhygenic, unsafe, or disruptive and Sudar will have to go to the school and sort the situation out. I used Sudar because she was able to provide me with both a professional as well as a personal perspective of what the daily life is like for someone who has newly immigrated to Canda.

Tell me about Immigrant Services...
Immigrant Services is a brach of Lethbridge Family Services that provides a variety of services and programs for newcomers to Canada, more specifically in the Lethbridge region. lfs.jpgIt is important to note that while Immigrant Services obtains funding from the federal government, it is not a government based program; it is a "settlement program".
In researching this topic, Sudar opened my eyes to how many tasks North Americans may view as mundane and insignificant in day-to-day lives, that are entirely new concepts and very difficult for a new comer to understand. The purpose of the settlement team at Immigrant Services is just as the name says; they help people settle into daily life in Canada.Immigrant Services stressed the enhancement of life skills; the settlement team does just that as its assists people with health care, housing, education and school enrollment, English classes, setting up bank accounts, obtaining a social insurance number, and finding work. There is also an orientation process that is provided which offers information and resources on Canadian norms. Things like transportation: bus pass, drivers license, vehicle purchasing, walking on the sidewalk; hygene and nutrition information; access to outside services and resources such as counselling and job search options. As well as providing information on Canadian laws and policies, especially surrounding domestic violence. Issues surrounding domestic violence are particularly important because for many newcomers, this is culturally acceptable, even expected. During our conversation, Sudar stated that it is intersting to note some of the small differences between new immigrants and Canadian natives. Stigmas surrounding gender and gender roles do not seem to exist among many immigrants. If a young boy from Africa is given a pink shirt, he is going to wear his pink shirt to school and will probably be ostracized by his peers. Even differences in weather systems can be extremely frustrating and difficult to get used to. Part of the job of the settlement team is to make these transitions easy for newcomers.

Sudar explained some of the other programs avaliable at Immigrant Services such as the HOST program. The HOST friendship program is a volunteer program at that matches up Canadian citizens with newly immigrated persons in Lethbridge. The objective of this program is to provide newcomers support and friendship which will often develop into long-term relationships.

Immigrant Services provides an array of services, including some free counselling, but it is also a referral agency. Resources and information on professionals trained in several fields in the Lethbridge area can be accessed through Immigrant Services. These professional services can include individual and family counselling, career planning, and education explained Sudar.

According to Sudar, Immigrant Services is currently servicing approximately 500 cases, 250 of which are children. In the last year and a half alone, roughly 285 people have come to Lethridge from Bhutan alone. With so many new people to Lethbridge, I was interested to know if new immirgants socialized with one another. Sudar educated me on some of the senior group activities that happen at Immigrant Services, as well as some summer programs that are avaliable. These programs often provide subsidies as they do not deny people because of a lack of resources. Immigrant Services often advertises for cultural groups and events happening around the city, but unfortunately are unable to initiate new groups due to the issue of cost. But, for the most part, Sudar stated that "people just find each other".

Possible Advancements at Immigrant Services...
At the end of my interview with Sudar, she identified a few things she would like to see happen at Immigration Services. She feels that with more funding from the federal government, Immigrant Services "could expand and provide more services to a wider client net." She would also like to see an "in-agency English language learning center" as currently they only provide translation services and make referrals to agencies which provide English as a Second Language classes. Finally Sudar wishes Immigrant Services "had more opportunities to educate the Canadian public about the immigration process, cultural sensitivity, and overall understanding of what out clients experience".

Immigrant Achievement Awards
In March of 2010, Lethbridge has its first ever Immigran Achievement Awards. Scott Schmidt, a journalist for the Lethbridge Times, in his article in March of 2010 "Celebrating Success", gave Lethbridge an insight to the event. The purpose of this event is to bring knowledge and awareness to the Lethbridge area of the valuable contributions immigrants and businesses promoting and supporting immigration make in our community (Schmidt, 2010). This idea was first brought to light when some of the staff at Lethbridge Immigrant Services felt that in dealing with immigrants every day the staff "get to hear their wonderful stories...and we figured it was time the whole community get to really hear what we're hearing every day" (Schmidt, 2010). Last years event was headed by Aurora Bello, an immigrant herself from Mexico, who presented the awards in an Oscar fashion; complete with a red carpet to honour the nominees and we held at the Galt Museum. Bello stated that the purpose to hosting such as formal event is to ensure "people recognize that immigrants are not just those in poverty and that, while some do have to start from the bottom, many are so successful. And you see all walks to life here and we're trying to treat them to a night they'll never forget" (Schmidt, 2010). Nominations were called for in September of 2010 for the coming gala presentation of the winners. Several hours have gone into choosing the 16 finalissts who will be given awards this year in seven categories including: arts and culture, outstanding youth, community service, business, distinguished professional, sports, and workplace diversity. (Lethbridge Family Services website:http://www.lethbridge-family-services.com/documents/uploads/press%20release%20Feb%2024.pdf). The awards will be prestend at the Coast Lethbridge Hotel and will feature a performance from the Troyanda Ukrainian Dancers.