Leading and Learning graduates make change

Have a question about housing? Legal issues? Transfer of foreign credentials? Buying a good food box? Graduates from the Immigrant Women’s Centre’s new program, Leading and Learning, will be pleased to help you find the answer.

The program, which had its first graduation in October 2011, saw two more groups of newcomer women graduate this December. After learning about community resources and services, they were trained as peersupport workers to assist others with settlement in Hamilton.

As part of their training, each group collaboratively chose a settlement topic to create a project about. They brainstormed ideas based on the following questions: “Think back to the first month of your arrival in Hamilton: What information do you wish you had had? What could the community have done to support you better?”

The group then chose to (1) develop a tool to help others with settlement and integration or (2) raise awareness about settlement and integration issues in the broader community.

Project Facilitator Brooke Camplin explains the process: “The curriculum is grounded in popular education methodologies. We start with the experience of the participants and then examine barriers to settlement, and looked for common themes among the women. After identifying that, we brainstormed possible avenues for action so we could change that situation to help others.”

“They left a legacy we can use later on. It’s very hard to navigate the system. Having information in your language is very important.” – Radenka Lescesen


Each group of women brought forward unique stories and ideas that enhanced the program. While the first group of women, from the Somali community, put on a highly successful photo exhibit for the public addressing the ‘Pathways and Barriers’ of their settlement, the most recent two groups took a different direction.

Housing Information in Your Language
This group said one of the biggest barriers to settlement is not knowing their housing rights and responsibilities. They gathered the information they previously lacked, and compiled it into a booklet entitled “Housing Information in Your Language”. They then translated the booklet into Urdu, Arabic, and Karen, the languages represented in the group. Topics include: deposits, lease agreements, forms, repairs, subsidies, first/last name and rights and responsibilities of tenants/landlords.

“This is important because before I didn’t know much information about housing, now I can share information with other newcomers,” said Aye Mye, program graduate. “When Karen ( as well as Urdu and Arabic) people read this book they will understand and learn more.”

Naheed, who translated the book into Urdu continued, “The booklet will be great for newcomers. I am thankful we can provide this opportunity for others.”

Newcomer Path to Education

The theme this group chose was education, because many newcomers come to Canada with degrees but end up back in Grade 12. Often they haven’t heard of foreign credential assessments, and are not aware that there are more efficient ways of upgrading their education. For this reason, this group created a map of the steps newcomers to Hamilton should take regarding education, including acknowledging
foreign credentials and language skills. The map guides the reader with questions, and based on their answers they are directed to different actions.

“They have left a legacy we can use later on,” said Radenka Lescensen, Settlement Services Coordinator. “It’s very hard to navigate the system. Having information in your language is very important. I think it’s awesome work and very helpful for so many newcomers.”

Contact Brooke Camplin for more information at 905-529-5209 x 223.

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