We wouldn't be who we are as an organisation without the inspiring and dedicated team of volunteers from the Saint John community, helping us in our projects and activities. We are lucky to have over 50 volunteers working side by side with us now. Here are the stories of some of them.
Bonnie Fordham is a passionate volunteer, a driving force behind many of the Newcomers Centre's major initiatives (like our Community Scholarship Award) and a very inspiring personality too. Starting from January 2018 Bonnie is also facilitating an English Group for newcomers who have only started learning the language.
Here's Bonnie's story in her own words:
" I was born here in Saint John and received my education in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. I started out as a teacher and soon moved into the business world where my career really started. With the knowledge of business, as a project manager, I was able to travel and work at large industrial sites around the globe. It is here that I met and worked with people who like myself came from other countries to work and use their skills to build specialized projects.
I am passionate about newcomers as I have been one myself in the many cities and countries where I worked. I know how tough it can be to get started when you do not know where to start or who to ask. The Newcomers Centre is a natural fit for me because I have had similar experiences, just not in Canada.
My interests are wide and varied but people top my list as I want to know where they come from, what they like and how I can help them integrate into our great community of Saint John. It has and is my privilege to spend time with our newcomers and see them grow in confidence as they learn their new language and find their way around this community with like-minded people who help and want them to succeed in all areas of their life.
I have a deep and long interest in the fibre arts, and anyone who knows me will tell you of my love of knitting and the visual arts. When we have the Gallery Hops in Saint John it is fun for me take newcomers around to the various art galleries in our city. They enjoy seeing the artists’ work as much as I do, and good art is good art no matter where it comes from.
The thing I like best about Saint John is its history. It is Canada's oldest incorporated city and many first in the nation began right here in Saint John. Our museum is the oldest in Canada, we had the first police force and fire department as well as many others things began right here in our city. The face of this city is changing as it welcomes newcomers and it is a beautiful thing to see.
My top tips that I tell newcomers who come to Saint John are:
(a) practice your new language and do not be afraid to make a mistake;
(b) network and gain new friends;
(c) go to as many free events as possible to become familiar with the new place where you are living;
(d) if you do not know something, do not be afraid to ask someone for directions or help, but always do it in a public place where they are visible and not isolated.
I really enjoy working with newcomers and I hope that they enjoy spending time with me too. "
William Thompson is a fascinating storyteller, whose knowledge of local - and not only local - history is truly limitless. There's always something new you find out in his classes about Saint John, about Canada, about other countries and other peoples.
William leads Advanced Listening and Speaking English Groups.
Here's William's story in his own words:
" I was raised in the country so I appreciate nature in all its many forms. After high school, I worked as a nursing orderly for a number of years, before going back to the university through the day while still working evenings at the hospital, until I received my B.A. in History. Following which I left the hospital and began working for myself doing social and historical research. Over the years, I have worked on projects for many of the major companies in the city.
On a more personal note, I have three children and nine grandchildren whom I see regularly. My passions and hobbies are hiking, reading and local history.
The thing I like most about Saint John is the people who are very laid back, accomplishing their daily tasks while enjoying life.
My top tips to newcomers are to make a connection with your community, talk to your neighbours, go to a park where your children can play with other children in the neighbourhood. Ask for assistance when you need it, your neighbours know you are new to the neighbourhood and because of this, you will need it. Also, by asking for advice, you are showing them that you are willing to trust in their judgement and are eager to begin your new life in Canada. "
Steven Wills is a native of Saint John, who recently returned to Canada after fifteen years in South Korea where he worked as an English teacher and consultant. At the Newcomers Centre Steven facilitates several conversation groups for different levels, from High Beginners to Advanced speakers.
Steven became a teacher by accident. While he was in university, some homestay students asked him to help them study English which eventually led him to getting his TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) certification from the University of New Brunswick. After obtaining his TESL certificate, Steven tutored at Harbour View High School, set up and taught the ESL program at Centennial Elementary School before moving to South Korea.
In Korea, Steven taught students ranging from kindergarten to corporate CEOs with the same enthusiasm regardless of whether he was teaching a phonics class or a program of cultural sensitivity for international business.
Now that he has returned to Canada, Steven looks forward to continuing his passion for helping others.
If you would like to sign up as a volunteer with the Newcomers Centre, please get in touch with
Lina Gharbiya (firstname.lastname@example.org, tel. 506.642.7265).