Discover Syria

Posted: 9 January 2018

Author: Shaba Qureshi, Community Learning Network

Found in:

Comments: 3

Recommendations: 1

This week, we are pleased to feature a guest blogger. The blog has been submitted by Alla Mysko-Henke, Adult Literacy Program Manager at the Red Deer Public Library.

Last winter, the Red Deer Public Library Adult Literacy staff hosted an event that provided a tutor training evening as well as a learning opportunity for Syrian refugees. 

Since many people are misinformed and have certain stereotypes about the Middle Eastern region, the Adult Literacy Program decided to host a VERY successful “Discover Syria” event. Part of our goal was to break the stereotypes, build more awareness, and create a more inclusive atmosphere. Our staff decided to open the event to the community by posting an invitation on the library website and as a paid ad on our Facebook page.  It was very well attended, and many had to be turned away at the door due to room capacity.

We began by reaching out to 11 Syrian refugees and asking them if they would share their knowledge with the Red Deer community. We guided them to produce presentations about Syria in certain areas of their culture, such as:  

  • The Arabic Language
  • Food and Culture
  • Education
  • Ethnic Diversity, and
  • The History of Syria

We also encouraged them to share their personal stories.

Our staff met with the Syrian refugees on several occasions to assist them with the materials they were gathering to present to the community. This process provided a tremendous language learning opportunity for each of them, as they gathered English materials to present, and each refugee had plenty of English language speaking practice on the night of the event.

On the evening of the event, 2 rooms at our local community centre were divided into 5 stations and the attendees were assigned a group number as they entered. After the initial welcome, the 5 groups were then each directed to a station. After 15 minutes, the groups were moved to the next station, and they continued until each station had been visited. 

The Syrian refugees had plenty of opportunity to practice their English Language Skills by teaching our community about Syria, telling their personal stories, and educating others. 

As a result of participating in this event, community members left with more awareness about Syrian refugees and their culture. Many also expressed interest in becoming volunteers in the Adult Literacy Program.

One comment we received on Facebook after the event:

"Just a little follow-up. My wife and I attended last night, and were very pleased. We learned all kinds of things about the history and geography of the region, the language, and the education system. We got to sample the food, which was delicious! Most importantly, we got to put real faces to the news stories, meeting parents, young children, students and workers. We discussed their lives here more than how it was back "in the old country." I think the attendees were generally pleased to see that the recent arrivals are fitting in nicely. Thank you for putting this on. I hope you can do more of it."

This event was a success not only as an English language learning opportunity for the Syrians who participated, but also as a tutor training and recruitment event, and community inclusion event.

If you would like more information about the event, please contact Alla or Carolyn at 403-346-2533.

Alla Mysko-Henke
Adult Literacy Program Manager, Red Deer Public Library


Sign in to view 3 comments