Scrabble Event at Frontier College

This is a guest post by CYH volunteer, Natalie Youssef.  Read more about Natalie and some of our other volunteers on our Volunteers page.


Frontier College‘s annual fundraising event will be held on Saturday April 14th from 12pm to 4pm, which is a Scrabble event to help raise funds for Frontier College’s Literacy programs at Byrne Creek Secondary (Address: 7777 18th Street, Burnaby). Minimum Donation $10 – Limited space and register by contacting: Frontier College provides literacy programs including: tutoring for youth in alternative schooling programs, tutoring for newcomers (children, youth and adults), homework clubs, in class tutoring, as well as adult literacy and conversation classes.  Download an event poster here.

For the last 6 months I’ve worked with the DWA ESL program for Frontier College designing and running classes and workshops for migrant women working as domestic workers (nannies or care-givers).  This is a program offered through Frontier College run partially by government funds and partially by the hard work and dedication of the Frontier College staff and volunteers. To help promote this event I felt compelled to write a little bit about the DWA program, its benefits and pitfalls.  So here’s my story.

When I initially began, all I knew about the program was it would run once a week for 2 hours and the participants were women domestic workers predominately from the Philippines. So my first point of focus was to find out a few things I lacked knowledge on. Firstly what was this domestic workers program? A program which has become the primary pathway for migrant working women to come to Canada. Secondly what was I to focus on in the wide berth of literacy? And finally would the program be relevant to improving their lives?

I was quick to learn the domestic workers are mostly women who are either live-in caregivers or nannies for Canadian families, and predominately from South-East Asia and Eastern Europe. The women must work for 24 months as a nanny or care-giver to be eligible to apply for an open visa which would allow them to then choose alternative choices of employment. Prior to coming to Canada, however, the women were screened in their country for:

  • Their level of English
  • Whether they had a university degree
  • Also whether they had completed several expensive short courses to ensure they had sufficient knowledge of Canada.

Once I’d begun, I soon realized that this class needed to have practicality.  And this could only be achieved through full involvement and engagement with the women as well as observation to see what would be useful for them. Through ongoing dialogue, such themes were present:

  • Desire to find a better job (once completing the 24 months of work)
  • Not being sure of their legal rights
  • Lacking confidence in being able to find alternative employment from being a care-giver
  • Desire to be a Canadian citizen

From this, I helped create the following workshops: Resume writing, Cover letters, Interview skills, a workshop on their Legal rights (presented by a DWA Lawyer) assessing the study guide of becoming a Canadian citizen, exploring Stereotypes and Discrimination experienced and Goal Setting.

The program has been so rewarding for myself as well as the volunteer tutors that assist the women in class each week. The women are extremely grateful to be given the opportunities they receive in Canada which provides a means to support their children, partners, and families in their poverty stricken homeland. Many of them are passionate, hardworking, light-hearted and warm-natured despite the sacrifices they make on a daily basis. Their educational backgrounds and work experience include: nursing, banking and finance, science, teaching as well as import and export business. I see their hungry desire to put many of their skills, knowledge and experience into practice though they must wait the two years before being able to pursue another vocation.

Frontier College provides an avenue for the women to meet each week to learn, be empowered and form a community that honors each individual for who they are, free of charge.


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