What is your name and role at DIVERSEcity?
Janice Bexson, and I am the Manager of Language Programs.
Can you talk a little bit about the Language Programs Department?
We provide free language and literacy programs for newcomers to Canada. The government-funded LINC program (classes ranging from pre-literacy up to workplace 7/8) are a large part of the portfolio. As well as traditional language learning, we deliver literacy classes which are structured to better support individual learner needs. The literacy classes are in conjunction with the Moving Ahead Program (MAP). LINC child care is another component, where the young children of LINC students attend childcare and increase their social, emotional, and cognitive skills through a play-based curriculum, so they are better prepared for kindergarten. We also provide informal conversation circles to support students with ongoing English language practice.
How long have you been working at DIVERSEcity?
Just over 2 months – I’m currently on a steep learning curve!
Did you have experience with language programs before this position?
Yes, through my work with non-profit agencies. I am a trained language teacher (TESL certification from the University of Saskatchewan). I taught when I first arrived in Canada, but found that teaching ESL was not my first love. I was also an Early Childhood Educator for several LINC/ELSA programs at the very beginning of my career in Canada. Although I have been in management for over 15 years, this is my first time managing a language program.
What inspired you to work here?
In BC, I’ve worked in the non-profit sector mainly in Greater Vancouver, but not in the Fraser Valley. I enjoy new challenges, and saw this agency as a good opportunity to use and extend my skills and knowledge within a different community. My desire is to explore unique ways to be innovative with the services in Language Program Department.
How do you spend most of your work time?
I don’t think I’ve seen the true picture yet, because I began employment at a time where the department was in significant transition. Right now, I am engaged in managing and guiding those changes which include departmental structure, staffing, programming, and administration. Change takes time and energy, so I imagine that most of my time will be based within the office at this point.
What advice do you have for immigrants and refugees in general?
I would encourage newcomers to connect to as many community resources as possible. I tell newcomers to be patient and believe in themselves, as it takes time to become acclimatized. Many newcomers feel isolated and alone, so they may lose confidence in connecting with others. Build your network and new doors will eventually open.
What advice do you have for someone interested in working with the immigrant or refugee population?
I think you need know yourself first and have an objective: if this is what I want to do, why do I want to do it? What’s propelling me to do that? Do I have the temperament to work with newcomers? What does the work entail? Are there are different ways I can work with newcomers? Ask yourself these questions and more, and reflect first. It is rewarding and challenging work.
What do you find most enjoyable about your work?
Staff and the clients; there are so many diverse personalities and energies. So far, learning about my peers and clients has been instrumental in helping me find my feet regarding the work at the agency.
What are some of the constraints you face in trying to fulfill your role?
The programs in the Language Programs Department are considered highly stable compared to other initiatives and projects, so I’m very grateful for the established environment. A challenge is staying abreast of technology so that our classrooms are responsive and reflective to how our world is socializing. and so that we can provide a variety of learning platforms. A long wait list of students is evident that learning space is issue, so being innovative with the established budget could be considered a constraint, when looking at renting/leasing alternate space or providing software for online platforms.
What do you do outside of work/what are your hobbies and interests/how do you de-stress?
This sounds extreme, but I’m either the party person or I’m the quiet person who needs her space. I love going to concerts and dancing, playing tennis and being active. On the other hand, I really, really need time and space by myself. I love to read or I love to “just be.” Reflection grounds and balances me. If I don’t get balance regularly, I’m really out of sorts.
What country/city would you like to visit?
My husband and I are hoping to go to Kyoto, Japan in the next year or so. Barbados and New York are next on the list too. I enjoyed exploring Budapest, Hungary, a few years ago. Although I found it a beautiful place, it was humbling to observe and be in the presence of the undesirable parts of history within that country.
What book are you currently reading or read last?
“I Almost Forgot About You” by Terry McMillan. The story line follows a successful doctor, in her field for over three decades. She is wealthy and healthy, but finding life unfulfilling in her 50s. She makes a courageous change in her life, taking the chance to quit her career and find something else that she finds joy with. A straightforward, but meaningful message.
What are your pet peeves?
Tardiness! And clutter – I’m trying to be organized and minimalistic.
Something quirky or interesting about yourself you’d like to share?
I crave baths – not for the sake of being clean ( 🙂 ), but the need to fully relax. I enjoy a bath at the end of the day, while reading a book, drinking tea and eating chocolate. My favourite time of the day is between 1 AM and 4 AM.
What impresses you during an interview or on a resume?
Correct spelling and editing on a resume, and I am impressed by people who quickly think on their feet when answering an unexpected question during an interview.
If you could talk to Prime Minister Trudeau regarding the refugees program, what would you ask him to consider?
To think about and see the big picture regarding resettlement – I’m referring to strategizing a decade down the road, not a few years. With that framework in mind, a more realistic two-year or three-year strategy might be sustained. Also, to treat all refugees from all countries with the same consideration regarding primary settlement needs.
If there was one thing you could get the general public to understand about refugees and, what would it be?
That they are part of our community. They are starting their journey in a new place, but they are not without valuable skills, knowledge and life experience, which can be well utilized as they become settled.