NMC-CESI is a student led educational group at the University of Toronto that was founded by a group of students at the Dept. of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations to create a friendly space for Syrian newcomers on campus, while also providing language and cultural exchange workshops with students.
Since being granted our initial Faculty of Arts and Science funding in April 2016, NMC-CESI has held over 85 successful language-exchange workshops between U of T students and newcomer youth at the Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations and Victoria College. These weekly workshops are comprised of several activities that facilitate conversations among participants to help them improve both their speaking and writing skills in both Arabic and English. Additionally, the activities are meant to introduce both parties to different aspects of Canadian and Syrian culture. Over 120 youth have attended our workshops, with an average of 20-25 newcomers each week (matched 1-1 with students).
In addition to these workshops, our group provides student volunteers as interpreters/translators and support services to private newcomer sponsor groups and newcomer families, as well as to Lifeline Syria and UofT Syria Initiative. Our group consists of more than 160 Arabic-speaking student-volunteers, who have been assisting sponsors and newcomers to communicate, sometimes at various appointments, and to perform necessary tasks and achieve goals pertaining to their resettlement and adjustment to life here in Canada.
We are partnered with numerous U of T Departments and Colleges and have done our utmost to raise funds for our programming independently, including the NMC Department, Victoria College, Woodsworth College, the Munk School of Global Affairs, the Department of Anthropology, Political Science, Sociology, English, the ASSU, the School of Graduate Studies, and the Multi-Faith Centre.
NMC-CESI’s educational mission is foremost to create a positive learning space where newcomer youth can grow as individuals, be assisted with language acquisition and reading/writing skills. However, we also hope to create a network of resources as well as a constructive dialogue between the University of Toronto and other Canadian universities, governmental and non-governmental organizations. Ultimately we hope to provide newcomer youth with not only workshops but also scholarships and support networks that will help them continue their undergraduate or graduate studies, and to positively adjust to their new lives here in Toronto and within Canadian society.
Our initiative is primary sponsored by the Faculty of Arts and Science.
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