The Founding of Here For You With Loukman Ghouti
Newcomers to Canada encounter challenges in daily things that we often take for granted- whether it’s the language barrier and understanding colloquialisms, or navigating their new home. To ease the transition of refugees and international students to Halifax, our National Young Leader, Loukman Ghouti, co-founded Here For You. Loukman describes his new initiative in the interview below, and includes details on how you can get involved.
What motivated you to found Here For You?
Well, the idea came about during an executive meeting at Dalhousie’s Arabic Society. All of us at the Arabic Society came to Canada as international students; coming here on our own hasn’t been easy. Finding the safest place to live, the best deals on groceries and things of that nature by yourself is difficult. With this in mind, we asked ourselves —how can we make this transition easier for students? To help address this problem, we created Here For You.
What are Here For You’s aims?
We have three primary goals: First, we aim to help new students settle in Halifax. Second, we want to help refugee students in high school gain access to undergraduate studies. Third, we want to provide a basic English tutoring program to help international students grasp language concepts.
How did you decide to focus your initiatives on hosting an English tutoring program and mentorship?
Well, speaking from personal experience, one of the hardest things about moving to Canada was the language. Although I spoke English, there were still some Canadian words and phrases that I didn’t quite understand. Through the English tutoring program, we hope to help cross this language and cultural barrier. We hope that the tutees will come to us with any questions that they may have regarding the language.
How can students volunteer for Here For You?
Great question! For the last couple of months, we have advertised both on and off campus to attract student as well as non-student volunteers to our program. So far, we have a wonderful set of volunteers who are very excited to start. Volunteers assist with all three of our aims: They can help with guiding students around Halifax, provide advice pertaining to accommodations, and tutor for the English program. If you are interested in volunteering, please do email me at [email protected] and we can take it from there. We believe that volunteers are extremely important for the success of Here For You and we couldn’t be more grateful to them!
How can newcomers access Here For You’s services?
Gaining access to the services provided by the program is still something that we are currently working on. We hope to advertise Here for You at the airport as well as at numerous high schools and universities throughout the municipality. So far, we have designed and dispersed a number of pamphlets throughout the city. The program will also feature a Facebook group which can be joined by those seeking our services.
As an immigrant from Algeria, what advice do you have for a newcomer to Canada?
The most important thing that you can do as a newcomer is to ask questions! If you are unsure about directions or anything else, the best thing you can do is to ask those around you. Also, make friends with those who are relatively native to the city, as they are aware of the best and worst parts of town. Another important aspect is conversing with native English speakers — it is one of the best and quickest ways to learn English and understand all the colloquialisms. Conversation groups for newcomers are held at most public libraries throughout Canada. Lastly, don’t be afraid! Canada is a wonderful country; the people are very kind and you will quickly adapt.