This Week at St. Stephen’s–June 5, 2016


June 05This past week St. Stephen’s took a major step toward helping Syrian newcomers settle into their new home. Dave Driftmier, of our parish, and Pat Glenn, a member of the cathedral, realized that language skills would be crucial to a family’s successful integration into their new life in Canada. Yet the ESL waiting lists for recent immigrants are interminable, leaving newcomers to languish, disabled, during their first months here. So the two former teachers envisaged a free ESL course offered here at          St. Stephen’s to any who need it.

Aided by George Odeh, a former Jordanian who now makes Calgary—and St. Stephen’s—his home, they have begun a bi-weekly ESL class supported by a team of over twenty volunteers drawn from here, the cathedral, and St. Paul’s. Their first classes involved a mother and her two preschool children as they sang songs, learned to read their names in English, and formed a rudimentary appreciation of their new language. More will come as George moves among the Arabic community, reassuring newcomers of both the safety and the good intentions of this program.

By the time our own Syrian family arrives, later in the summer, we will have an experienced team helping them to settle in and, most important, to learn English. The benefit to the family is clear. But to the big-hearted former teachers who started this program, they get to use their considerable skill and experience to help others, confessing, as Dave put it, “It’s hard to stop teaching!”

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