Almost 20 Syrian refugees that arrived to Canada almost a year ago came to UTM last Friday for a meet-and-greet event at the Faculty Club with UTM Helping Hands executives, the chair of UTM’s Department of Language Studies, and the program coordinator of the education studies program.

For a course spanning the length of eight weeks, the newcomers will have classes once a week for two hours, with content focusing on conversation, formal instruction on English, and information about Canadian culture. Skype-tutoring services are offered in addition to the classes if someone requires more assistance.

According to Emmanuel Nikiema, the chair of the Department of Language Studies, the ideal goal is to register 30 to 50 Syrian refugees in the language program, after testing the first term.

Also present at the event were the founders of the Syrian Canadian Foundation, which was launched shortly after the refugees arrived to Canada.

In an interview with The Medium, Bayan Khatib, the co-founder of the SCF, stated that since the Canadian government wasn’t able to fit all the newcomers to the services it offered, the SCF decided to carry out these services themselves for those who are waitlisted and for the seniors who can’t move from their houses. They were also the ones who helped UTM and UTM Helping Hands connect with the Syrian families.

According to Khatib, the age range of the newcomers registered at UTM is between 18 to over 40 years old.

“I’m not only delighted to do that as the chair of the program, but also as a member of the community, to see that the university will become with such a project [the tutoring services project for the refugees]—a place where not only students but also outside members of our community can join,” said Nikiema. “The university will be a place for not only academic knowledge, but also a reach out to the community and a cultural place for dialogue.”

As previously reported by The Medium, UTM Helping Hands has helped get volunteers from UTM, which reached almost 160 volunteer applications for the tutoring services.

Liz Coulson, the program coordinator of the education studies program at UTM, told The Medium that many of the volunteers are doing an education minor, which would help in their tutoring.

“It’s a really strong commitment, getting engaged in our communities and helping others. And these are the best situations where we can be together as a community like this,” said Coulson.

The event featured live music. Guests also gathered around in a circle where they all chose questions and answered, informing each other about themselves.

Upon the completion of the program, the newcomers will receive a certificate for finishing the program at U of T.