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Community Connections: Frequently Asked Questions
Everyone Has Questions
1. I just arrived in Canada. I want to meet Canadians. How can I become involved in Community Connections Programming?
Call 519-432-1133 and ask to speak to a Community Connections Staffperson or email email@example.com to indicate you are interested. You will be invited for a newcomer interview where we will discuss your priorities in choosing a longtime resident as a mentor for you alone or for your family.
2. How much time is a volunteer expected to offer?
There are a variety of volunteer roles available. If you are a mentor, you are expected to share a minimum of 2-3 hours, assisting a newcomer to Canada, every 2 weeks over a minimum period of 6 months. Specific volunteer roles are created from time to time to respond to short-term needs. Remedial Tutors and peer mentors spend 2-3 hours weekly over a 3 month period. Volunteers also work as informal supports in ongoing small groups over several months as well as offering one-time or casual help.
3. Can I promote Community Connections and your social networking opportunities?
Our main goal is to encourage community members, groups, organizations and others to take time to learn about newcomers to Canada; their contributions, their challenges, their strengths, their culture and history of origin – to assist them with their community integration and to help us to understand how we can work well together. We offer small groups within which people share stories and experiences but one of the consequences of moving such vast distances is the loss of social connections and networks. We welcome your efforts to promote personal involvement in our programming and encourage you to contact us if you can help someone achieve a personal and/or professional goal here in London.
4. How can my faith group volunteer to help a newcomer family?
We assist groups of all kinds to take on a commitment to help a newcomer or newcomer family as they adjust to the Canadian way of life. Select one group member to undertake the volunteer interview process on behalf of your group. We are happy to come to your location to assist other group members with any further questions.
5. Can I drop in to the Youth Activity Room?
If you are interested, please give our Youth Staff a call. You are always welcome to drop by.
6. Can I practice my second language with a newcomer to Canada? Can I exchange Spanish for English?
We look at a variety of factors in “matching” our participants. Generally, we “match” newcomers and longtime residents on the basis of their interests, preferences, needs, family responsibilities, transportation needs and schedule. If we receive special requests, we try to accommodate. We have had many “matches” where an exchange of language interests or shared career/vocational experience were factors in suggesting appropriate “matches” for newcomers and longtime residents.
7. Can I volunteer with a group of my friends or colleagues?
Yes, you can. Several volunteers can proportion their time with a newcomer or newcomer family and share the experience together. It sometimes helps to maintain steady contact and to make personal connections based on individual interests and availability.
8. Can I earn my high school community placement hours?
If you wish a volunteer role which fits your schedule while at the same time fulfilling your high school community placement hours, we can discuss your skills, interests and availability at the volunteer interview. The most appropriate volunteer role for your needs can be determined in this way. If you have reviewed the volunteer roles in our program already, you can simply call the relevant Staff person to say that this is your purpose. We would keep a record of hours for you.
Many families have found that a family approach to volunteering brings them closer together. We lead busy lives. By blending a volunteer experience for community placement hours or by involving family members in an individual volunteering choice, two goals are achieved at the same time. All family members find something of interest or appreciation and individuals accomplish an individual goal. Newcomer families are very happy to have the opportunity to share family time, to discuss differences in schooling and family life and to participate in activities of interest to themselves as parents, at the same time as their children.
Those who still see themselves as requiring supports which are offered to permanent residents are welcome to participate in our programming as volunteers. Needs which you may presume require the assistance of dedicated volunteers can be met in interaction with others, in small groups or in casual volunteer support roles.
Over the years, we have had many former immigrants to Canada come forward to help newcomers. They tell us that it is an opportunity to give back and that by helping they are able to pass on what was learned in their family and to speed up the adaptation process. Many people understand that being a newcomer to Canada is full of unique challenges and questions. Many grown-up children of immigrants are particularly sensitive to the struggles which their parents and extended relatives have faced.
We have small group activities you might be interested in. You could be helpful to other newcomers with less English fluency than yourself in Conversational Circles. No matter what activity or group you choose to participate in, you will meet longtime residents and Canadians with whom you can share company and perhaps make further friendships.
We keep a roster of casual volunteers. We request that you attend for an interview so we can determine the fit between what you have to offer and newcomer and program needs at the time. You can become a peer mentor for cultural exchange, language practice and skill development.
No. There is no fee to participate in our groups or activities. We do have Potlucks throughout the year where each person is asked to bring a food item. We also ask participants to contribute a portion of food costs for Cooking in Friendship” where what is cooked together is then eaten together. From time to time, we develop programs in partnership with other organizations. These organizations may request a materials cost or fee associated with their specialized supports. An example of this would be a Summer Camping Weekend trip.
Yes. You are just asked to complete a shorter registration process with the facilitator of the small group you would like to join. Please see our list of current groups for youth, adults and families.
Your friends are welcome to join you in small group activities and other large group events. If your friends are interested to join on an ongoing basis, they need to register for an interview with a Community Connections Staff person. If your friends become part of activities you share with your newcomer “match”, we ask you to check with the newcomers themselves first, as you would in any other situation where unfamiliar people are expected to be present.
Children are welcome in Community Connections activities as long as there is a responsible parent or appointed guardian over the age of 18 years who has been registered and introduced to us, present with them. Youth are considered to be between the ages of 16 and 24 years of age. We request adult permission for youth under 16 who wish to participate on their own. For day trips and other off-site events, family members are asked to complete detailed information forms to be sure that children’s needs are taken into consideration.
We prefer that you contact us first so that we can explain the expectations, properly register you and notify the Volunteer Leader of the Conversational Circle you wish to attend. All small group participants are asked to complete a sign-in sheet upon arrival. If you have already come to see us at the CCLC, then the Volunteer Leader can take more time to assist with the other participants who have pre-registered. If you attend one or several Conversational Circles to see which one meets your needs the best, this is fine.
Community Connections has a Social Networking Club. This is a good group within which to share your stories and to receive feedback from others. Learning together is of assistance to everyone, no matter what stage of change you are undergoing. You could perhaps exchange a skill you have for one which another would find helpful. Sometimes there is more to be learned from other newcomers who have a similar set of goals and needs. We are currently developing more supports in this area. Call for information.
There are many ways to make friends. By reaching out and participating in activities which you like, you will find others with similar attitudes and perhaps similar interests.
We would be happy to meet with you to discuss your particular needs. We organize Social Networking Events to which we invite people to talk about their particular kind of work and careers. Call for information and/or to register to attend.
Yes, you can. Sometimes, it really does depend on “who you know” and “what they know” – when you are trying to meet your needs in a strange and unfamiliar place. Even as a Canadian, you may not be aware exactly how social networking skills helped you – it’s just part of the way you went about meeting your goals. Many newcomers can learn a lot about the steps you took and what happened or did not happen after each step. We are developing special supports for networking and small business development here at CCLC. Explore your experience and then, you could help someone else to do the same thing, one-on-one!
Time, commitment, reliability and interest are the most important assets. All volunteers should attend a General Orientation Session. These are held throughout the year. All volunteers must provide references, complete an application package and personal interview. All volunteers who head up a community support group off-site, must have a police check for one member on behalf of the group. This is the appointed person of responsibility, with whom our staff will be communicating, on everyone’s behalf. “Matched” volunteers are contacted on a regular basis by our staff and are expected to provide feedback on questions, concerns or necessary resources and information which newcomers might require. Volunteering also requires ongoing supportive feedback and training. Regular training on special topics and information supports are provided throughout the year.