When he arrived in April as a refugee from the Central African Republic, 20-year-old Nicson Yamondo spoke almost no English and had a limited grasp of IT in using a smartphone.
"Before, I know how to play a movie or send photos," he said. This summer, he spent seven weeks at the Living English for Employment summer program at Red River College. "Now I can work on the computer."
And he can keep it, thanks to Computers for Schools Manitoba — the non-profit organization donated the refurbished desktop computers used by Yamondo and his fellow students, so they can take the equipment home with them.
"I know that I will learn more with the computer, and I do not have a computer at home," Yamondo said Thursday, after a wind-up ceremony for program participants — adult newcomers with limited English who would otherwise be left with few community connections.
He thanked his instructors in a speech delivered without any notes, in English, his fifth language.
"If I don't have a computer, I will lose," said Yamondo, who lives in Transcona with his sister and her husband, and will attend high school in September.
He is right — newcomers need computers to gain communication skills required for school and work, said Hammoud Jumaa, an instructor at the activity-based Living English for Employment program.
"When I studied English, I used to rely on cassettes and paper dictionaries that consumed a lot of time," said the refugee from Syria, where he was an English language instructor.
"Today, (newcomers) have the opportunity to access a lot websites that are very helpful. Using computers is very important for education, for employment, for sending emails and filling out job applications on line."
Most of the students in his class were like Yamondo, who learned for the first time how to use a computer and keyboard for work or school, Jumaa said. "It will reflect positively on their performance."
Following next summer's session, the 11-year-old program is being shelved — the latest to have its federal contract for funding not renewed by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
The four-week newcomer orientation Entry Program (which Yamondo completed before the summer RRC course began began) is also being cut. Both are administered by the non-profit organization Altered Minds Inc.
Living English for Employment has changed and grown popularity over the years, said program co-ordinator Beverly Pageau. In response to a survey of recent newcomers, the program offered two new computer classes this summer alongside sewing, nutrition and gardening, she said.
With just 75 openings, they had to cut off registration after 143 people applied in a week, she said.
"There is a huge summer-time demand for this program," said Pageau, adding its demise will be a "great loss."
Federal Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen's office said it received a huge number of proposals for settlement programs and has approved 824 projects across Canada "to deliver services that are client-centred, outcomes-driven, responsive to needs, and use resources effectively."
"The volume of high-quality submissions received through this process meant that although there were many promising proposals submitted, only the most viable proposals that were consistent with the funding guidelines were selected," it said in a statement this week.
Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.
Read full biography