We Won! BCLA Award for Programs and Services

The Library Champions Project recently won the British Columbia Library Association (BCLA) Award for Programs and Services!

The Library Champions Project was created as a new approach to help newcomers learn about the services available at local libraries. Immigrant volunteers are trained to connect with other newcomers in their community to share their passion for public libraries and raise awareness of the wealth of resources that libraries offer, such as:

  • Books in languages other than English
  • English language practice groups
  • Resume and cover letter writing workshops
  • Programs for children
  • Games nights, and
  • Many other activities and events that create welcoming communities and connections

In the past three years, this project has trained 600 new immigrants who have connected with 50,000+ newcomers!

The training program focuses on how newcomers can draw on their language skills, cultural knowledge, and understanding of the immigrant experience to personally and individually connect with newcomers. In short, newcomers ‘get it.’ Who better to articulate what services are best suited to each individual or cultural group?

LibraryChampionsThe ripple effect of this training program is vast. Newcomers who participate become more confident in giving public presentations, they build strong community networks, they have opportunity to practice spoken and written English, and they offer meaningful contribution to the settlement of newcomers. This is truly apparent at each year’s Library Champion Celebration. Participants of the project share their successes and celebrate their friendships. The room fills with warmth, camaraderie and laughter.

This project has touched on each of the BCLA Values Statements. It is the effort of newcomers, staff and administration at NewToBC libraries, staff and administration at settlement service provider organizations across Metro Vancouver, and our federal government funder (Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada).

What a feeling to be recognized for this collaborative effort of helping newcomers transition to their new life. Cheers to the continuation of this project and the deepening of connections we make along the way.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happy Census Day!

It’s officially census day!





Have you received yours in the mail? What better day than today to fill it out!

The information gathered from Canada’s census captures our changing society to better inform decision-making by governments, businesses, organizations and others. It is important in planning schools, public transportation, police and fire services and more. As a newcomer, it is important for your voice to be counted among these responses to better inform services that are help you and others transition to life in Canada.

The census is conducted by Statistics Canada to collect demographic information on all people living in Canada. The census is mandatory. One in four households will be randomly chosen to complete the long census – a 36 page document with questions about health conditions, place of birth, ethnicity, education, employment, commuting, housing costs and more. The remainder of households will be required to complete the short census – a shorter list of questions including how many people live in your residence, sex, age and marital status and languages spoken in the home. Information collected is confidential and protected by law.

The last long-form census was done in 2006. It was cancelled by the Conservative government and replaced with a voluntary questionnaire, the National Household Survey in 2011. This survey dropped the response rate from 94% to 69% and created data quality concerns. The new Liberal government has kept its election promise to bring back the mandatory census to ensure quality data.

Canada’s Census takes place once every five years. Let’s works together to make sure newcomers are part of this “rich and detailed picture of the country’s people and economy, neighbourhood by neighbourhood, from coast to coast to coast.” [1]

Further following information is available in Arabic, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), English, French, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tamil and Vietnamese:

The census and you

This fact sheet provides an overview of the census, when it occurs, why it’s important, how the information is used. 

2016 Census questions and the reasons why they are asked (short-form questionnaire)

This document is for reference purposes only and cannot be used as a census questionnaire. The census questionnaire must be submitted using the official online or paper questionnaire, in English or in French.

2016 Census questions and the reasons why they are asked (long-form questionnaire)

This document is for reference purposes only and cannot be used as a census questionnaire. The census questionnaire must be submitted using the official online or paper questionnaire, in English or in French.

[1] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/editorials/its-as-canadian-as-the-long-form-census/article29945412/

Posted in Immigrants | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Benefits of Youth Employment

When I was 13, I started my first job at the local grocery store in my hometown. I worked in the store every day after school and on weekends to stock shelves, sweep floors, and ring through customer orders among the myriad of other duties. This work paid for my clothes and gave me spending money that I wouldn’t have otherwise, but also did much more.

amniYouth employment teaches independence. It teaches money management. It opens up opportunities beyond just the paycheck. Canadian Tire provided a promotional video in 2007 outlining the inability for 1 in 3 children to play organized sport due to cost. While the video was trying to attract donors to their jumpstart program, it also illustrated a deeper point: youth have an ability to open their own doors and make their own opportunities in life.

During the five years that I worked at the store, I learned skills that have stayed with me to this day. I learned to be on time. I learned how to communicate appropriately with a diverse group of people. I learned responsibility – opening and closing the store and cashing out each night. McDonald’s famously coined the phrase ‘if you have time to lean, you have time to clean.’ There is always work to be done, things to improve upon. A young employee can learn this quickly.

If you are a youth, or if you have a teen in your household, who is looking for work, come to the Richmond Public Library on May 5th for a ‘Teen Job Fair’ for Youth Week. Avia Employment Services is hosting employers from:

Cactus Club
BC Auto Careers
Gate Gourmet
Shaw Communications
T&T Supermarket
Tim Hortons
Youth BIIS – S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Special Projects

As well as info tables with
Avia Employment and

Youth employment is a great first step towards a long and fruitful working life. Let’s make this a priority for today’s youth.

Posted in Careers, Education, Immigrants, Public Libraries | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From Manila to Canada

This week’s blog post comes from Melissa Chungfat (pictured holding a box of tinbits in the photo below) of MOSAIC – a multilingual, non-profit organization dedicated to assisting immigrants and refugees with their settlement and integration needs.


Denise and Red Amancio, wife and husband, have just arrived in British Columbia from Manila. They are excited to explore their community as well as the resources in the libraries.

Before arriving, Red took free online courses through the Settlement Online Pre-Arrival (SOPA) program, funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada. The five free courses are for immigrants who are approved to come to Canada and will give them a head start in preparing for Canada before they connect with in-person services in their province. The courses focus on job search strategies and communicating within Canadian work culture.

Red shares how helpful the courses were as part of his integration into BC and how libraries will help with their settlement process.

Why did you and your wife decide to move to Canada?

We believe that Canada is one of the best places for us to settle in. We factored in the government, pollution, transportation, and quality of life. Canada is one of the most diverse countries we know, so we thought we could fit in easily.

What is your professional background and where did you grow up in the Philippines?

I was a computer programmer in the Philippines during the first four years of my career. I decided to take my chances and work in Singapore for three years after gathering my IT experience. Later I finally moved to Canada to hopefully settle in. I grew up in the suburbs of Manila. It is a quiet place, probably similar to Burnaby or Richmond, and it is called Alabang, Muntinlupa, or “sunrise, a small land” in English.

Which SOPA course did you take and how did it help you?

I took the Working in Canada course because I was applying for jobs while I was in the Philippines. The timing was perfect because when I arrived in BC, I had a few interviews and I learned how to negotiate a job contract in Canada through the course!

I wish I had learned about the courses sooner so I would have had time to take the other courses. I recommend other people start taking the courses as soon as they can before arriving in Canada.

Why do you think people should take these courses long before they arrive in Canada?

There is a lot of information in the internet nowadays, but only a few organizations can summarize the most important information in a concise way. SOPA was able to do that for me.

You have no idea how many pages on the internet we have read and how many hours it took for us to analyze and make sense of everything. And after all that reading, we still haven’t figured out what laws we will be governed by and other important topics!

There is one chapter in the SOPA course that talks about understanding work culture through the different characters in the readings, audio clips, and videos, which was really powerful.

How helpful was your intake counsellor Anisha before you took the course?

She was really helpful and jolly. You can hear from her voice that she is smiling all of the time and for me that is very important for a webinar. The one on one session is a really difficult task as you need to really listen to the other party and not just give generic answers. I didn’t feel any generic answers from Anisha. She was nice and really accommodating.

How will the library resources help you with your settlement? 

My wife and I have been exploring different cities since we arrived and we are excited to check out the libraries. We will mostly see government and law related books because the laws are completely different than Singapore and the Philippines. We also want to read up on culture a bit more.


Posted in Careers, Foreign-trained Professionals, Immigrants, Public Libraries, Settlement Agencies | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

From Syria to S.U.C.C.E.S.S.

IDSC_1374 arrived to Canada July 9th, 2014, alone. The best day of my life was when I flew in an airplane from Syria to Canada for the first time in my life. My journey has been difficult, but not impossible. It was difficult to find a job related to my experience in hospitality, but I found an alternative one that I am passionate about.

When I came to Canada, I started school and did some field trips and tours. I learned about WorkBC where I participated in a variety of workshops: interview skills, resume and cover letters and the hidden job market. After preparing my resume and cover letter, I then participated in MOSAIC’s Job Option Program. While there, I learned about the Library Champions Program and knew I wanted to volunteer for this.

I registered twice to be a Library Champion: once for the New Westminster Public Library, then again for the Burnaby Public Library. In my country, we don’t have libraries as they are here – they were called libraries, but in fact, they are just bookstores and no more. I cried a lot for days remembering when I put my self in very dangerous situations during war just to get a book in my hands. I wish I could move the libraries from here to my country – there are millions of students in my country who suffer trying to find resources for their studies. What I loved most about the Library Champions Project was learning how to help newcomers adjust as quickly as possible in a supportive community environment.

While volunteering for months, I was searching and applying for jobs online. It was interesting and funny when I received a call from S.U.C.C.E.S.S. telling me that I’m the best candidate for position I applied for. It took me 15 minutes to figure out which job I had qualified for because I had applied for so many! I was the first interview of the day and my interview took 45 minutes. I remembered all of the recommendations from my facilitator in job options course and I applied every single word to make sure I landed the job. I really recommend newcomers to follow my steps, which led me to get a job within one and a half years.

I have an interest become a great public speaker one day, so I have attended six seminars on public speaking as well as participated in five Toastmaster meetings. There are so many ways to adjust to a new life. I’ve improved my language, met new people, and made new friends. Each step I have taken has helped me in so many ways.

I do miss my friends, my family, and my relationships a lot, but most of all, I miss the sun. The weather here has affected my breathing and I find this to be a struggle. I call my friends and family whenever there is a suitable time for both of us and we keep in touch on social media as well. Everyone is really happy for me and my relationships are stronger than before.

We’re currently seeking Library Champions. If you would love to learn more about your BC Libraries and share this with other newcomers to Canada, please sign up for an information session: http://newtobc.ca/newcomer-resources/library-champions-training-schedule/


Posted in Careers, Foreign-trained Professionals, Immigrants, Library Champions, Public Libraries, Settlement Agencies | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Library Champions’ Journey

RoyaEhsanRoya and Sean moved to Canada in June 2014. Both volunteered as Library Champions at the West Vancouver Memorial Library. I asked them if they’d be willing to share their journey and they agreed. Reading their responses, I am grateful for their honesty, transparency, and tenacity.

Tell me about your decision to move to Canada.

We had a few options: Canada, Australia or New Zealand. After doing a lot of research we chose Canada. We were looking to find a place for our kids to grow with more security, better education, and no pollution where they could live a happy and healthy life. We moved to Canada for us as well – we wanted to be able to enjoy watching our children grow and enjoy being together and doing activities together as a family as this is was not possible in our country. For instance, my husband could never watch my daughter in her swimming classes as men are not allowed at women’s facilities.

Why did you choose the community you’re currently living in?

We knew that Vancouver had the best weather compared to other cities in Canada and we chose North Vancouver, as there are many Iranians and Iranian shops here. This was helpful for us with adapting and getting used to living in a foreign country and made us feel less homesick. There are great schools in North Vancouver and it is very child friendly.

How long did it take you to discover your library?

At first, we knew nothing about the library. We didn’t know if you had to show a card when entering the library or if we were able to just walk in. We asked a few friends and eventually saw a few flyers about libraries and, after doing some research decided to visit the library. When we went we were asked for identification to register but we were still waiting for this. Once our identification was mailed to us we were able to register.

What has been the most useful service of the library for you?

The best service for us was being connected to the Library Champions project. This project has helped us extremely. We have more confidence, we’ve connected with the community, we have done things that we never thought we could do, such as outreach and talking to strangers to inform them of the library and the services there. We felt like we belonged somewhere and we had something to look forward to. It also gave us such pleasure to feel that you we were helping immigrants just like us get settled a bit easier by knowing what facilities and resources they have at the library.

Are you working in the career you had when you left your country?

No. We are still looking for work and have decided to continue our studies to find a good job in Vancouver.

Explain what steps that it took you to make this decision.

We first decided to look for jobs in our fields of expertise, but had no luck. We then found out through the information we gained from a session at the Library Champions Project of an organization called ISSofBC that offers a Skills Connect Program for professional and experienced immigrants. We went there and, after meeting certain requirements, such as enough experience in a professional field and English knowledge, we were accepted. We are currently enrolled in this program. Here, we have participated in different workshops: soft skills, interview skills, cover letter and resume writing, job search essentials and LinkedIn.

What was the biggest challenge for you in transitioning to life in Canada?

We would definitely say finding a job.

What do you wish you had known prior to moving here?

We wish we had know that it’s very difficult finding a job in Canada, especially when you have no Canadian experience.

Do you feel like you belong to your community?

We totally feel this and the reason is we have two kids. Our daughter is in school and wanted to have play dates and see her friends so we had no choice but to connect with parents and have them come over. This led to us becoming friends with the parents and now we see each other even without our kids. If we hadn’t had this, we are sure it would have been very difficult for us to connect with the community and we would have been stuck in the Persian Community.

You volunteered as Library Champions. Tell me about this experience.

This was one of the best experiences of our lifetime. The best thing for us was getting to know Helene, the facilitator. She was absolutely fantastic and taught us so much about libraries and the great things offered there. She also taught us about life of Canadians as well.

Libraries in Iran are mostly used by students in higher education and don’t offer other services. We knew nothing about libraries here and we were amazed of the wide range of offerings. We learned that the libraries offer workshops and also free activities for families and kids of all ages, such as playtime and concerts. The things that were very new and interesting for us were the search engines available for job searches, and different workshops available to learn how to search for jobs which is crucial for immigrants. We also discovered that we were able to use Lynda.com for free, which is a wonderful opportunity. We felt that we belonged more to the community as we had something to offer.

During our meetings with Helene, we learned about the different ways of doing outreach and appropriate ways to do this outreach. We could help other immigrants just like us have an easier process in adapting to their new lives in Canada. We got the chance to talk to a lot of people and become friends with a lot of them, which was a great way to increase our network.

What is your favourite thing about where you live?

We love being here because it’s a small community and we know a lot of people. When we go out, we have everything we need around us: parks, libraries, shopping, coffee shops, community center and more. Our daughter’s school is absolutely fantastic with a lot of great families and kids going there. My daughter will grow up and be around kids that are from great working class families that work hard to earn a decent living for themselves. We also have a perfect ratio of Persians/ Canadians in our community.

What person or organization helped you the most in transitioning to life in Canada?

We had a great family friend who helped us a lot in our first few weeks in Canada and after that I would say the best place for us was the library. The library offered a place where our kids could have fun, connect with other kids, play, listen to stories, read books and color, and in turn, this helped us talk to people and get to know others in our community and learn their way of life.

What advice would you give to others who are considering a move to Canada?

Do a lot of research and have back up savings as finding a job can be very challenging. Also think of what you want from your life and consider what you want to gain from your move – with this in mind choose the place community or city that is the best fit.

What do you miss most about your home country?

Definitely the love and support we received from our family and friends, our family gatherings and also the great taste of food cooked by our beloved mothers.

If you’re interested in becoming a Library Champion, we are looking for new volunteers. Find out more: http://newtobc.ca/newcomer-resources/library-champions-training-schedule/ 


Posted in Careers, Education, Foreign-trained Professionals, Immigrants, Library Champions | Tagged | Leave a comment

Accessing Your Creative Silent Voice: Unblocking Creativity

A creative shift is occurring. We’re seeing a rise in sharing technology (e.g. Airbnb or Uber) providing alternative solutions to everyday problems. We’re observing an resurgence in crafting and making (e.g. Thrifty by Design or 3D Printing). We’re participating in classes and lectures on personal fulfillment. We’re redefining our world and how we fit in it.

Creating comes in many forms, sizes and guises. The physical aspect of creating: drawing, painting, sculpting and making. The organizational aspect of creating: culture, ideologies and connections. The personal aspect of creating: Brene Brown, American scholar, author, and public speaker argues that being creative means being involved in an activity that you don’t want to end. You’re doing something you love and time passes effortlessly. She argues, we must make time to be creative. This allows our highest potential to emerge.

ThCreatee North Vancouver District Public Library is offering just the workshop to bring creativity back to your life in “Explore your creativity! Accessing Your Creative Silent Voice: Unblocking Creativity.”

Do you look for clarity in your career, life’s purpose or creative dreams?

All of us have a creative silent voice inside; a voice that over the years has whispered to us to write, paint, sing, play an instrument, take acting lessons, direct a short film, try ice dancing, perform on stage, build something with our hands, or start a business. That same voice is often hushed by a fearful censor that immediately instructs us to stop daydreaming and be realistic. But what if the very act of tending to our creative voice was what our “realistic” life needed, in order to reconnect with joy?

In this 12-week course Martha Beck Life Coach, Yas Azarpajouh, will guide you through a series of proven methods to access your creative voice inside by discussing the groundbreaking work of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way.

This is a course to help you connect with your creative inner self, to give yourself permission to explore creative self-expression, and to bring forth the same uninhibited joy you experienced as a child. The insights and clarity that will follow will shine a new light on all areas of life. **Absolutely no artistic background necessary but a copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way is required reading for the course**

Register or call for information today at 604-929-3727, ext. 8166. Unlock your creative potential to make way for new opportunities in your life.



Posted in Careers, Education, Immigrants, Public Libraries | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment