From: Dakai Maritimes, December 2013, page 3, 5:


Keshen Goodman: community centre for newcomers



Feature . Heather MacKenzie beams, reading a letter highlighting the great
work being served by the Immigrant Services Project at Halifax Public
Libraries. The letter is an emotional thank you to MacKenzie, Manager for
Diversity and Accessibility at Halifax Public Libraries and is personally
signed by 12 Arabic women who enrolled in the library's first computer
course conducted entirely in Arabic.

The women were grateful, not only for the introduction to much needed
computer skills, but grateful for what the course symbolized:

Independence, improved English, connection to local community and families
abroad, birth of new friendships and financial savings on keeping in touch
with overseas relatives.

"Reaching out and listening has enabled us to do some pretty amazing
things," says MacKenzie, a 30 year veteran with the libraries. She's began
working closely with immigrant communities in 2012, in her role as branch
manager at the Keshen Goodman Library. However, the libraries first began
reaching out to newcomers in 1998 when the English Language and Learning
(ELL) program first launched. Since then, it's evolved from basic language
classes to an array of programs designed to help immigrants integrate and

"Immigrant Services is the newest and fastest growing program at the
library," MacKenzie explains. Census 2006 found there were 6,500
immigrants living in the library's catchment area and MacKenzie is
confident the number has grown steadily.

MacKenzie says, through Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) funding,
she was able to hire three full time staff representing thearea's largest
populations of non-English speaking newcomers: Arabic, Chinese and Persian
(Farsi). She says the bilingual staff "brought respect and trust into the
library, which helped welcome immigrants to work with us."

Immigrant Services Library Assistant, Youmei Chen says there are more and
more newcomers registering every day. "The library is not just a place to
study and a place for books. It's a place to meet Canadians, a place to
integrate into the community," says Chen. "The library is like a community

Immigrant Services Project launched in November 2012 and addresses the top
priorities of the community:

Free Multilingual Computer Classes: The library offers computer classes in
Arabic, Persian, Nepali and ChineseMandarin. Classes include computer
basics to internet job searching and resume writing.

"It's easier to learn the computer in your own language and then translate
it," says Chen. "We want to help increase their employability and their
business skills," says Chen.

Women's Conversation Group: "Women are often isolated.because they're at
home or they haven't had the same educational other
people in their families, so they often have lower language skills," says

The Women in Conversation group connects Canadian women with immigrant
women, inspiring conversations around topics of interest. Chen says there
are more than 30 newcomers enrolled, representing a wide variety of ages
and ethnicity.

Fireside Knitters: An international mix of Canadian and immigrant women,
this crafty group has provided baby hats and blankets for the IWK, dish
cloths to newcomers and "generated conversation and friendships around the
common interest of knitting," says MacKenzie.

Chinese Income Tax Clinic: Another popular program the library plans to
continue in 2014 is the multilingual income tax clinics for the Chinese
community and other immigrant families. This clinic aims to simplify the
process, helping newcomers file their taxes with ease.

Mackenzie says she hopes to expand these programs to other branches and
has already formed partnerships with local university students to provide
language tutorials to refugees who aren't eligible for government funded

She's energized by how far they've come in a year, but says they always
need to be looking forward. "Our challenges are really the problems of
success.because we've been so well received; it's being able to manage
future demands and being able to serve." "It's very rewarding.connecting
with all the diverse communities we're serving through the library," says

See for more newcomer information


[see link for a picture of Heather MacKenzie]

Heather MacKenzie highlights some of the current Chinese magazines
available in the foreign language section at Alderney Gate Public Library
in Dartmouth. Cyndi Sweeney


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