Toronto, ON – A Syrian refugee recently complained to me that we only have two months of good weather in Toronto. So in the spring as we hosted English Café in the community center it just seemed wrong to continue on each week under the fluorescent lights when the sun stays up so late and the weather is perfect outside. We simply moved outside to the beautiful park located behind the community center.
The ability to communicate is one of the biggest needs of newcomers to Canada. Many are enrolled in formal English classes but have very few opportunities to practice what they are learning with native speakers. This is the reason we started CGR English Café. We wanted to bring newcomers together with native-speakers to be able to talk and practice in a safe and relaxed environment. And what better place to do that than around a picnic table.
Each week in the park we would make tea and coffee and provide some sweets as local, native-speaker volunteers came for a couple of hours of English conversation with newcomers to Canada. Volunteers would lead participants through a good story helping them to learn new vocabulary and pronunciation. Then they would take time to discuss a topic related to the week’s story.
Being out in the park allowed us to connect with several new families who were also out enjoying the beautiful summer weather. We saw our average attendance more than double over the course of these two months. It was especially good for mothers who were able to bring their children and let them play in the park while they were able to practice English, which is a rare opportunity for them.
With the swelling numbers, the summer would not have been possible without our volunteers. We were blessed to have volunteers from local churches giving of their time each week along with a group of university students from Texas who came to serve the entire summer. We were also blessed to have two churches, one from the U.S. and one from Toronto, help us in hosting both a beginning of summer and end of summer BBQ. This was a great time to connect with families and for them to get to know us and how we can serve them in the community.
The above story was shared by the CGR Project Coordinator for the English Café in Toronto. To find more information about this project or projects similar to this one please contact our office at firstname.lastname@example.org or 403-512-5261.