CHANGING FACES: Support Centres Help Newcomers Plant Roots in Bradford

Immigrants from Around the World Settling in Area

Local support centres are providing newcomers to Canada such as Gokce Saglampolat the opportunity to put down new roots, develop new skills and embrace life in their new country.

Arriving in Canada from her native Turkey in 2007 to join her new husband, Saglampolat says while she was excited to start a new adventure in a beautiful new country, her whole world was still “upside down.”

“Everything was so different and such a shock,” she says, especially for a woman who lived and worked as a graphic designer in Turkey’s capital city of Istanbul, which is home to more than 15 million people.This is the second in a three-part series about newcomers in BWG, the challenges they face and where they can turn for help.

The couple lived in Toronto and Maple before moving with their two-year-old son and baby daughter to BWG in 2011.
Saglampolat credits the non-profit Bradford Immigrant & Community Services (BICS) organization and Community Action Program for Children (CAPC) Bradford — a program of Catulpa Community Support Services funded by Simcoe County — both located at 11 Holland St. E. for helping her navigate many of the obstacles that newcomers face.

Gokce Saglampolat points out her native Turkey on a world map at Bradford Immigrant & Community Services and Catulpa Community Support Services. – Heidi Riedner/Metroland

BWG resident Gokce Saglampolat is one of many newcomers who fittingly add the word welcome in their native language to the offices of Bradford Immigrant & Community Services and Catulpa Community Support Services on Holland Street East. – Heidi Riedner/Metroland

“We work with families to help them understand Canadian culture, laws, the school system and parenting practices,” explains CAPC site co-ordinator Brigette Saniga, pointing to various workshops, school readiness programs and one-to-one support and advocacy offered via the partnership between the two agencies.

That includes the commissioning and translation of documents, settlement assistance, integration to Canadian society programs and English language instruction, as well as immigrant support groups run in partnership with the BWG library the second Wednesday of each month.

“We do not assume they already know,” Saniga says, adding newcomers such as Saglampolat are informed not only about what the laws are, but also what their rights are.
“For example, Gokce didn’t understand her children’s report cards or that she had the right to speak up, ask questions and advocate for her children.”

Parenting here is a lot different than in Turkey, Saglampolat agrees, but adds the staff at the two organizations “made a huge difference,” not only for Saglampolat’s peace of mind, but also her sense of belonging in the community.

“From the first day I came here with my two kids, the people have been so wonderful. It is like a family here and they helped me a lot,” she says with a beaming smile, not only with obvious gratitude and admiration, but also impeccable English.

“They are amazing teachers and this is a lovely place, like a home, and full of nice people.”

English classes offered helped break the language barrier for Saglampolat.

With usually close to 30 people taking a class at the same time and 15 of those speaking as many different languages, the experience is not only fittingly multicultural, but also representative of the vast number of diverse cultures calling BWG home.

“So many people from different cultures are connecting and that is very unique to Bradford,” Saniga says.

Through BICS’s partnership with Catulpa, Saglampolat also participated in the parenting program.

As a result, Saglampolat was eligible for the skills training program to gain Canadian work experience and now works with Catulpa’s MotherCare program as a children’s program team assistant.
Between that, working part-time in a local restaurant and cleaning offices after hours, as well as getting her Canadian citizenship after her kids started school, Saglampolat is continuing to upgrade her English so she can go on to either college or university.

Interested either in early childhood education or social work, Saglampolat says the opportunity to choose is just one of many freedoms she is thankful for in her adopted homeland.

“Nobody here asks your religion or judges you for what you think. You are free to speak. This a wonderful country.”

She also loves her new hometown.

“We go to the library, leisure centre, music classes, go to movies and eat such wonderful food in the restaurants. With more buses now, whatever we need is close.”
That includes her extended family at BICS and Catulpa.

“I can speak with them about any problem I may have. They are great people and have great programs. I thank all of them and I love them. I am so lucky.”

Saniga says Saglampolat pushed herself to seek out help, but not everybody can do that.
“We are lucky to have her, too.”

Story from Local Paper – CHANGING FACES: Support Centres Help Newcomers Plant Roots in Bradford


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Businessman from Colombia Re-defines the Meaning of ‘Mature Student’

Learning has no age limit for Manuel Maria Hernandez Jimenez.  Born in Colombia, he came to Canada with his family in 2003 to escape the daily environment of kidnappings, assissinations and extortion attempts in his home country.  He had to sell the family printing business that he operated in Colombia for 35 years.  Now, at age 85, he continues to enjoy learning English through LINC classes at Bradford Immigrant & Community Services.

Manuel came to Canada unable to communicate in English but can now bank, shop and go to church with comfort and confidence.  He has learned to write in English and enjoys reading English newspapers.  He enjoys studying with students from many different countries and is very interested in their cultures.  His LINC classes give him English skills, frienship and an opportunity to socialize.  Manuel is an active member of his church choir and often entertains his classmates with songs from his youth and native country.

Manuel says, “The support I have received through Bradford Immigrant & Community Services has reduced my isolation and supported my integration into Canada.”  Manuel is much-loved by his classmates and instructors.

Story from October 20, 2010 of SNAP Ontario – Settlement News Across the Province


Manuel Maria Hernandez Jimenez, Age 85