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Building welcoming learning communities

Posted on November 13, 2013 by 40 Mile Commentator

Being a newcomer to a community can be an overwhelming experience, but if there are language, cultural, or other challenges factored in, it can be more than a little stressing.

Many rural southern Alberta municipalities are seeing changes to the demographics of their communities as more Mennonite people move to the area.

For most people who are fluent in the English language, it is a simple task to call to get utilities and other services connected, enroll the children in school, and learn the laws and bylaws of the jurisdiction.

Because many of the Mennonites moving to the area are fluent in Low German and have a limited understanding of the English language, it is up to the people in these communities to ensure there are resources available to the newcomers.

Strides have been made already in ESL (English as a Second Language) courses, but until one is familiar with their new community, they may not know where to access this. Some Mennonite people who are fluent in both languages are already teaching some courses to those new to the area and most likely helping them in other ways as well as they settle in to their new surroundings.

The rest of the community needs to follow suit and embrace the new people to town. Perhaps a new family has moved in next door. It takes just a smile to let them know they are welcome AND that you are friendly.

The provincial government, along with agencies such as Community Adult Learning, Forty Mile Regional Family and Community Support Services, LEARN, and Community Learning Network are working with community members to ensure a warm welcome to our newcomers and to make the transition to living and working in southern Alberta a much more pleasurable experience.

The strategy is a work in progress, but a huge step in the right direction in becoming the vibrant, welcoming, learning communities we all want our towns to be.

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