Registration Now Open for Our Annual Networking Breakfast!

Join us on Saturday, February 8th for our annual Networking Breakfast! This year's theme is Beyond the Welcome: Building Stronger Relationships with Newcomers. We will examine the ways we can intentionally build relationships with the immigrants in our church and social communities to create strong, healthy, supportive connections. Cost is $20 per person, $15 if you register now! Click here for more details.

Meet CESLM's New President

Cooperative ESL Ministries welcomed a new President to our board in 2013. We were blessed to have Ijeoma Chuku join us in June when CESLM's wonderful president of several years, Drinda Wilson, resigned.

Ijeoma has worn many hats in leadership, education, ministry and fundraising and has given expansively out of her time and love to many, many organizations. She has taught adult education to TESOL clients and holds volunteer positions with World Vision Canada, Bible for Missions Thrift Stores and the Igbo Cultural Association of Calgary. She is also deeply involved with her church, New Victory Church in Calgary. Ijeoma is an accomplished woman with a great passion for the Lord and it shines in all that she does. Welcome Ijeoma!

I recently had the opportunity to interview this passionate, exuberant lady for our newsletter. We discussed her experiences in Calgary as someone who came to Canada from Nigeria, as well as how she came to be involved with CESLM and her dreams for the Cooperative moving forward.

You have a rich and beautiful accent. Which country are you originally from?

The Federal Republic of Nigeria.

What is one thing that you recall being vastly different from Nigeria when you came to Canada?

The weather. We have basically two seasons, the rainy season, and the dry season. Sometimes the cool, dry, harmattan is between the two. But we never have snow.

 It was a bit awkward cooking in the living room especially when some of our foods are flavorful and spicy. We have the kitchen separate from the living room, and usually with its own windows and doors venting away from all living areas.  

How did you react to that?

It was not my first time with the four seasons, so I just took it all in stride. I have experienced these seasons in other temperate countries and continents …

When our clothes picked up the aroma of our rich foods, we learned to keep closets and room doors closed, and to vent during and/or after cooking.

What were your first impressions of Canada?

I found the people friendly and always ready to help Newcomers, say for directions. When they find someone intently studying maps for directions, they sense a need and readily come to the rescue … 

What do you like most about Calgary? What do you like least?

I like the cold weather and snow, but not the high wind chill. Incidentally I met a Calgarian on my flight to Canada and she enthused about the Calgary Stampede. I truly love Calgary Stampede, the food, community spirit, and all. And in all these years I never missed the colorful parade!

I am truly scared of temperatures above 19 degrees Celsius. It is difficult to function in all that heat. The credit system, especially where one’s car and house belong to the bank is depressing. I could not wrap my head around it because I was raised to ‘cut my coat according to my size, or cloth.’ So for more than two years I bought only what I could physically pay for. Then it was difficult to do some things without good credit history. So I jumped on that band wagon.  

What kind of recommendations can you make to Calgarians to help Newcomers integrate?

Calgarians are givers of resources God has blessed them with, and this attitude is infectious! They should never stop showing/giving love, respect, hope, help, et cetera to Newcomers, in the Church, School, at work, and the community at large. Every kind gesture counts and goes a long way in assuring Newcomers they are welcome. Calgarians should partner with CESLM, as we strive to enable Newcomers to settle in. 

How did you get involved with CESLM? 

I am passionate about serving Newcomers in various capacities. I was acquainted with the work of the Cooperative through Madeline Johnson, the founder of CESLM. My interest deepened this past year during the screenings of the Treacherous Heart Movie, as I interacted with other Board Members. Really their enthusiasm rubbed off on me and I am willing to work along-side them in meeting the needs of new Calgarians. 

Projecting into the next year, what are some of your hopes, dreams, goals, for the Cooperative? How can people help make that a reality?

That we do not deviate from our mandate of training, networking and inspiring hundreds of current and prospective volunteers who work directly with newcomers in Calgary and supporting church ministries and community-based programs that serve newcomers to Canada by providing services which help them. We desire the Cooperative to reach a level of funding that will sustain, and surpass, our core expenses. We need financial contributors for our many annual programs. We need to bring on new Community Partners to work with CESLM in helping new Calgarians settle in and fully integrate. We are people-minded!

Is there anything else you would like to add?

“Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain who build it; except the LORD keep the city, the watchman wakes but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so He gives His beloved sleep.” (Psalms 127:1-2).

I feel honored doing this fun job with fellow friendly and welcoming Board Members, dedicated Staff and tireless Volunteers. God will bless your efforts richly … Shalom & Maranatha!

Our thanks to Ijeoma Chuku for giving her time and passion to our organization, we are blessed to have her on board!

This 'n' That

KAIROS—God, the Church and the World, a course for life-long learners, is coming to Calgary. They are offering the course at three locations in Calgary: First Alliance, Full Gospel Tabernacle and Ambrose University College. For more details, please see our website.  

Nobody's Coming to My ESL Class!

By James Edel

At least Miguel is coming.  He enters the building warmly and comes up to everyone and gives them a warm handshake.  I’m almost worried he’s going to kiss the female teacher at our school and I’m always on alert in case he turns the handshake into a one armed guy-style hug.  Miguel is the kind of Latino student you hope you have one of in every class: Mr. Motivated, Mr. Friendly.  If it were only Miguel that came to class, I wouldn’t mind teaching just him.  But it is true that we started with 25 and last week we had 3.  What should I do?  First let’s think of the good reasons (or sort of good) why people might not be coming:

  • Work schedule changed.
  • Too many of one language group scared someone off.
  • Students come to class tired and hungry and decided to stay at home, to rest and eat.
  • Students feel too weak in English compared to the rest of the class so it’s too embarrassing to keep coming. 
  • The teacher does not listen to me and is strictly adhering to his or her own agenda
  • Students think English is too hard – I prefer to speak my language in my own community.  I don’t care if this disadvantages me a bit – at least I don’t feel stupid.
  • It’s too cold to go outside!
  • The lesson last week did not interest me.
  • My friends stopped coming.

Some of the above are reasons for not coming are ones that we cannot do anything about.  Others are reasons we might be able to mitigate.  The ESL program that I’m describing has chosen to plan a simple soup-and-bun meal for January – maybe they’re hungry.  We asked the students who are coming what they think of the poor numbers. Their answers varied: Charge less… Charge more!... Well, they weren’t really sure.  They all agreed, however, that they come because they need to.  So we need to teach.  

And for all of you teachers planning Christmas-themed lessons, here are some links below that you might find helpful:

(James Edel has taught in China and Japan currently teaches Literacy to ESL students at Columbia college. To contact him please write to:

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