English lessons a pathway for future opportunities: REACH

May 12, 2023

By: Amir Khan, Communications Assistant

Every day, MOSAIC continues to help provide newcomers with the basic right to an education.

Stefanie Dera Velasquez arrived in Canada with her child from El Salvador in July 2021. Sponsored by her husband who already settled in Vancouver, Stefanie was intent on starting a new chapter, in a new home.

Her arrival in a new country different from her own in language and culture posed challenges, along with a climate different from Latin America.

“At the beginning it was hard,” Stefanie says. “All my family and friends were in El Salvador. I didn’t know anyone here in Canada except my husband.”

It wasn’t until Stefanie’s husband suggested MOSAIC’s language programs that she was able to begin her journey to learn English. Upon further research, she came across the Ready English Accessible for Caregivers at Home (REACH) program on social media.

REACH allows newcomer caregivers, such as Stefanie, to access English classes online on their own time – without needing to attend scheduled, in-person classes. As a research project, the program is currently running a nine-month pilot with over 40 students in attendance.

Stefanie says she enjoys her English lessons, which gives her the opportunity to meet new people and gain confidence as she continues to learn. With COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses still circulating, she is happy that the program can provide a virtual option to keep her safe with her child.

While she remains open to employment options in different sectors to help support her family, the former nurse ultimately wishes to continue helping others as a nurse in Canada. More importantly, she sees English as a first step in getting her closer to realizing her passion again.

“I’m a people person so I would like to help people in different ways, but in order to help other people, I would like to communicate with them to try to understand what they need.”

Sahar’s experience

Fleeing war and uncertainty in her native Iraq, Sahar remembers feeling a mix of happiness and shock as soon as she arrived in Canada during the Fall of 2021.

Sahar, together with her husband and three children, struggled to find an Iraqi diaspora in Saskatchewan, their initial place of settlement. Sahar and her family felt isolated, prompting a move to Vancouver to start a new life two weeks later.

She began her journey with REACH after hearing about MOSAIC from an acquaintance. There, she was referred to the REACH program by a settlement worker.

“I wanted to improve my English,” Sahar says, “I know English, I speak English, but not well. I wanted to start from the beginning to be able to learn about everything.”

She was impressed by the level of service received during her time at REACH. She says her instructor was always attentive and ready to answer any question she had, and applauds the flexibility of being able to contact her instructor whenever she needed help with her studies.

“[The instructor] was very kind because she knows we have kids, and we sometimes don’t have time.”

Built on a schedule of weekly learning modules delivered online, students are expected to study for five hours per week, with teachers available to provide virtual assistance. In-person sessions are delivered every Saturday while MOSAIC provides childcare when classes are in session.

Among the growing challenges newcomers face, finding a skills-commensurate job is one of them. As a former teacher in Iraq, Sahar hopes to continue her teaching career by eventually earning a certification to teach in Canada.

MOSAIC is committed to investing in newcomers to realize their full potential in Canada. The Ready English Accessible for Caregivers at Home program provides convenient English lessons for newcomer mothers/caregivers who are unable to attend regular LINC lessons in-person.