Wednesday, July 25, 2007

New Canadians

Ever since the day I wrote this post, I've been thinking a lot about challenges facing New Canadians, especially those who are coming to Canada as refugees or who come in hopes of escaping poverty.

A friend and colleague recently introduced me to William. William is one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" and moved to Canada seven or eight years ago.

William has been running an all volunteer-run after-school tutoring program for African kids who are falling behind in school. And here's but one example of the problems facing New Canadians: Kids coming from other countries are assigned to school based on their age. So a 13 year-old kid who has just arrived from Sudan is being put in the same grade as a kid who has lived here all their life. That would be no problem if Sudan taught the same things and had the same level of education as Canada but how likely is that? Never-mind homework! Homework is at least somewhat reliant on having a parent able to oversee, assist or at least encourage the child in their studies but many of the parents of these kids never had the opportunity to be educated, leaving the kid alone to study and figure it out. What good is the chance at a new life if they're not supported with the basic ingredients needed to have a chance at succeeding in the new life??

So that's part of the problem. Here's part of the solution: William has been organizing a volunteer-run tutoring program for New Canadian kids struggling at school. According to him, it's pretty ad-hoc and in need of more tutors and in need of a permanent space (the church that they have been using gave notice that they can no longer host the group for free) but from my conversations with William and others like him, I'm beginning to come to a few distinct opinions that I'm going to share in separate blog entries this week.

In summary:

I'm going to argue that it might be a better "investment" for us to focus on the New Canadians arriving here from lives of poverty and conflict;

For those that don't give abroad because "charity begins at home," I'll outline a "two for the price of one offer" (horribly crass but used with the intent to provoke);

I'll expand on what I think is an evolution from "Immigrant" to "New Canadian" to "Canadian" and provide an argument that if we make the investment in the resources needed to make the transition to "Canadian" that we'll create new capital (financial and human capital) that will find its way overseas to address international development issues;

And finally, I'll try and express my thinking around the concept of "business planning" for giving.

Please join the discussion.

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Hi there! I found your blog yesterday & I'm looking forward to your new posts. (I'm an arts manager & fundraiser in Philadelphia, PA.)

I wanted to comment today on the term "New Canadian". I love it. I wish we in the States had a better term for immigrants. It's a "dirty word" here lately (mainly due to the current administration and "homeland security"). It's not like anyone born in the States (other than Native Americans, who are treated about as poorly as immigrants) can't trace their heritage back to an immigrant somewhere.

Also looking forward to your updates on this topic. In the meantime, the isn't getting any better for those trying to enter Canada, in whatever capacity.

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