Preparing for newcomers – The Galiano experience

Public Meeting, September 18:

Newcomers Coming!

As Galiano anticipates the arrival of four newcomers to this island, preparations are underway to make their integration into island life as easy as possible. With many questions to be answered about how all this might work, a public meeting was held on September 18 at the South Hall where presenters gave updates to islanders about the four people about to join our community. They are coming from west Africa, from Cote d’Ivoire. The two women, one of whom has two small children, will be living in the suite in a house near the school.

The main issues of language and cultural integration were a focus of discussion; as well, Janice had on display a variety of food items that will be stocked in the house for the arrival of people who more than likely will not be familiar with some of the packages they will encounter on our grocery shelves. The more than forty attendees at the meeting were made aware of the degree of preparation to date, and the fact that while we know who is coming our way, we don’t yet know very much about them. For example, we can only guess at their clothing requirements, coming from equatorial Africa at this time of year.

We can at least anticipate that their transition here will be challenging in some ways, easy in others, and with the guidance of the counseling team we are working to co-ordinate our efforts and make it the best possible experience for these newcomers. The practical challenges of transportation for medical appointments and shopping, using our currency, dealing with household appliances, building trust and getting to know individuals on the team, and language acquisition are all factors we have to take into account. And there are more, no doubt: the best laid plans should have a back-up, and the team has done a lot of thinking and projecting in order to minimize the surprise factor for ourselves.

It should be interesting!


Team Training, September 20

Following the public meeting, Tuesday saw the Support Project assembled at the Lions’ Hall for a half-day training session with two presenters from the diocese in Victoria. Malcolm and Betty took us through scenarios typical for new arrivals and their sponsoring groups, and small group discussions allowed everyone to express a point of view and brainstorm solutions. It was easy to see how relevant the scenarios presented were to our anticipated experience, and it was a valuable exercise in creating dialogue and sharing concerns.

It was reassuring to come away from the afternoon knowing that we had already done a lot of pre-thinking over the previous months. The issues of respecting the personal needs and rights of the newcomers—of giving them ownership of their experience—became a significant theme in our discussions. We are there to offer guidance and encouragement, and to move them toward the goal of eventual self-sufficiency over a twelve-month period. We are there to help make the right things happen for them in what will be a totally new environment, and to help them see beyond the mandated time of sponsorship.