NEEDS gives newcomer tools for success

About 100 participants graduate from employment program


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This article was published 04/09/2018 (1492 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.


Blending into a new society isn’t an easy thing to do, especially when there are so many other worries in life taking a toll on a young person’s mind, but a Winnipeg program is making the transition easier.

Blending into a new society isn’t an easy thing to do, especially when there are so many other worries in life taking a toll on a young person’s mind, but a Winnipeg program is making the transition easier.


Photo by Ligia Braidotti Newcomer Employment and Education Development Services Inc.’s executive director Margaret Von Lau and graduate Aden Mohamed cut a cake at the NEEDS Inc. graduation ceremony on Aug. 28.

Newcomer Employment and Education Development Services Inc. handed out certificates to high school graduates and employment program graduates on Aug. 28.

Aden Mohamed landed in Winnipeg in 2013 with his father after living in a refugee camp in Kenya for 16 years. He was 17 and couldn’t speak a word of English. However, the boy had an enormous desire to succeed and was committed to making the best of his new life in Canada.

“I didn’t know any English or anything about Canadians and NEEDS opened my eyes,” he said, crediting NEEDS for helping him stay out of trouble. “They taught me how to avoid bad groups and about life in Winnipeg. I was with them for one month, and in that month I accomplished a lot of things, like improving my English.”

Mohamed, who still has family living in refugee camps in Kenya, recently graduated from Gordon Bell High School and is the recipient of the Arlington Street Foundation Scholarship, which awards students from Gordon Bell who have overcome adversity, and shown significant academic efforts and contribution to the school’s sports programs. The scholarship will pay for the four years he will spend at the University of Winnipeg’s Faculty of Science.

NEEDS helped Mohamed throughout his high school years. He spent hours in their after-school programs to get the skills he needed to enter university as well as employment. Through NEEDS’s Youth Employment Program, Mohamed secured a job at Winners after a 100-hour internship.

“When I came to Canada my intention was to have a future and be successful in life. So I’m chasing that dream and I know I did very good but there’s still a lot to do, and I’m going to do 10 times (better) when I go to university,” he affirmed.

Kathleen Vyrauen, youth program team leader, said staff work with program participants to help them build up their English language skills, get the credits they need to graduate, enter post-secondary education and have a sustainable experience in the workforce.

This was the most successful group of graduates, she said. More participants were graduating high school in honour rolls and getting scholarships.

“It’s something that we don’t see often,” Vyrauen continued. “Some of these kids came here, and they’ve been living here for maybe two or three years, with zero English language skills, and then they play catch up at the entire time.”

As the years went by, NEEDS adjusted the program to fit the needs of their participants, such as bringing people to talk about career options and the benefits of education in trade schools or university. 

“It’s a vital program. They need it. So many of these kids credit what NEEDS centre does and what our programs do to their success in Canadian society and in our education system,” Vyrauen said. “As a program, we try to develop so that we can support them better and whatever needs that they needed we were listening to them and sort of altering our program into that.”

Now that he’s starting his university education, Mohamed hopes to one day become a doctor or a teacher and to give back to the community that helped him settle in Winnipeg.

“It’s easy to give up at that time when you know no English, and you live in this kind of environment. It’s very easy to get distracted. I want to help them avoid that and to do my best to be successful in the future.”

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