Thursday, March 31, 2016

CIES Visits Canada's Sports Hall of Fame

CIES recently took several of its clients to Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in Calgary Olympic Park and what a grand visit it was. It stands as a symbol of rich and storied Canadian culture and easily reminds one of just how ingrained sports are into the life of a Canadian.

When newcomers arrive in Canada they are often caught off guard at how much time we spend talking about sports, how many people and their kids participate in at least one sport if not several, and how pro teams like the Flames and the Stampeders are on the front page of the newspapers and mean so much to so many people

From cheering for Canada’s Summer and Winter Olympic athletes, to learning how to play new sports, to making new friends at their own or their children’s sporting events, new citizens often talk of how their involvement in sports makes them feel very much connected to Canadian life. Sports are clearly more than just sport here in Canada. They have the ability to connect people from different heritages and ethnicities, while providing a safe environment to explore different cultures.

For newcomers to Canada, playing and even watching sports with native or more established Canadians provides the chance to share and engage in discussions about Canada’s culture and history, helping them learn more about Canadian society and feel more at home with each passing game. And when Canadians take an interest in the sports new citizens have a passion for, sports becomes a powerful way to unite us all.

The story of a national hall of fame originally opened in Toronto on August 24, 1955 and featured the symbolic lighting of a flame that became the central image for Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame’s logo. When the Hockey Hall of Fame came on the scene in 1957, the two Halls joined forces and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame relocated to the Administration Building/Press Building on CNE grounds. The two organizations co-habited this facility until the Hockey Hall of Fame moved in 1993 to its new location in Brookfield Place, downtown, Toronto, ON. After the Hockey Hall of Fame moved, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame closed and the prized collection of sport stories and artefacts was put in storage at the Stanley Barracks.

In 2008, Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame Board of Governors launched a national bid process to rejuvenate and grow Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame – to find a new home. Nine cities bid on this opportunity and Calgary was declared the successful city. Only a few months later, all three levels of government committed to fund the construction of a 40,000 square foot facility that would be built on the west side of Canada Olympic Park in Calgary.

The new Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame building opened July 1, 2011 – offering 40,000 square feet of space dedicated to preserving and celebrating Canada’s impressive and inspiring sport history. Inside the new building, visitors are able to visit 12 galleries representing 65 sports, experience 52 interactive visitor experiences, watch an 11-minute feature film highlighting great sport moments in the 120-seat Riddell Family Theatre, and learn about Canada’s sporting traditions and artefact, video and photo collections in the Education and Resource Centre. School programs are offered to local schools and a Virtual Distance Learning Program is being developed for students and communities across Canada to ensure all citizens can experience this national treasure. For more pictures of the day's visit CLICK HERE.

CIES to Take Part in Calgary Economic Development's Soul of the City Event

Due to greater worker mobility, global cities are competing to retain their most creative residents and to attract talented newcomers. Only by understanding the needs of their citizens and by providing them with a high quality of life, can cities appeal to the 'creative classes' and prosper by fostering greater social cohesion. With this in mind, Calgary Economic Development launched the Soul of the City speaker series in September 2012 to bring Calgarians together to have this discussion and showcase Calgary’s soul.

With a start time of 4:00 pm on Tuesday April 5th, CED, in partnership with Calgary Foundation and RBC Foundation, presents its latest event - Soul of the City Neighbour Grants Pitch Night: A Celebration of Community. Five grants of $10,000 will be awarded to Calgarians who want to put into action their idea to improve, enhance, or revitalize their community or neighbourhood.

Pitch Night has the 10 Neighbour Grant finalists present their big ideas to a panel of "friendly dragons" and an audience filling the Glenbow Theatre. The 5 winners will be determined through audience voting. It will be an exciting night that will make you feel inspired and give you an opportunity influence the outcome by casting your vote for the winning groups. Their big ideas will help shape our community and increase citizen attachment.

CIES will not only be attendance, but will be playing an important part in one of the pitches being made. CIES' own Graham Mackenzie, with the support of CIES volunteers, will be presenting his proposal for the Stampede Pho Down - a fun and cultural event to promote the rich diversity and multiculturalism of Forest Lawn that will include the Guinness Book of World Record for the most people eating Pho in once place at the same time!  For more details and to purchase tickets to the event, simply CLICK HERE. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

CIES to Partner With AAISA in The Digital Narrative Initiative

March has been Social Media Month here at CIES and to mark the occasion CIES is very pleased to announce a collaborative partnership with the Alberta Association of Immigrant Serving Agencies (AAISA) to develop workshops on the effective use of social media, as well as the production of content with which to fuel it. The joint venture known as the AAISA / CIES Digital Narrative Initiative will provide professional development to AAISA’s membership and beyond.

Over the last 20 years the world wide web has fundamentally shifted towards user-driven technologies such as blogs, social networks and video-sharing platforms. Collectively these technologies have enabled a revolution in user generated content and the publishing of consumer opinion, now universally tagged as social media. This movement is dominating the way we use the internet and the leading social platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are now no less than mainstream. Sites like these are redefining how the internet works, with every site now incorporating features that allow users to publish opinions, connect, build community, or produce and share content.

That being said, there is a debate on what Social Media has done to the populace at large, with some claiming we are more literate, more engaged and more connected than at any other point in human history.  As a result, some will say we are more open to generating new relationships, and more aware of the world around us than we ever have been before, while being more empowered to make the changes in the world we want to see. Sceptics will say social networking is dwindling our attention spans to almost zero, as well as drastically eroding our very identities. Some attribute the social networking template to fleeting relationships and a dehumanized sense of community, as our ability to empathize and communicate with our fellow human beings in the non-virtual world quickly becomes an endangered ability. Regardless of one’s stance on social networking however, its ubiquitous existence in not pejorative in nature, and the debate over whether we are being changed for the better or worse is a moot point. It is here. It is shaping our lives. Whether willing or not, we are all participants in quantum shift in human existence the likes of which happens every few hundred years. Understanding its effects, positive or negative, and both harnessing and utilizing its power to the best of our abilities thus becomes our target. The question is not whether we use social media any more, the question is how we are going to most effectively engage it.

In the short film below we talk to Kali Readwin, AAISA Project Officer, and Colyn DeGraaff, CIES Manager of E-learning and Special Projects about their take on the 21st century Digital Narrative and where we go from here.

Monday, March 28, 2016

CIES Continues Expansion with University of Calgary Student's Union Grant for Reading Room Initiative

CIES is always seeking out ways to best serve our clients and the community at large and a recent grant from the University of Calgary Student's Union is helping us further expand to do just that, The Reading Room Initiative's primary intention is to provide a quality, comprehensive reading instructional program to promote literacy through providing one-on-one or small group instruction to students who require extra help with reading.

Many of the students recommended to the Reading Room are literacy students who are learning English as a Second Language and may not be functionally literate in their own language for a variety of reasons. This program is run entirely by volunteers. We currently have a number of tutors volunteering their time in the Reading Room, and based on the high demand for this program, we hope to recruit more motivated and eager volunteers from the University of Calgary students to join us in further developing and implementing this innovative program.

Our goal is to run the Reading Room on a daily basis, estimating to serve 120 literacy students per year. The funding received through U of C’s Committee of 10,000 Grant will be used to purchase resources for the Reading Room, including adult literacy reading intervention software, and also to contribute to developing a curriculum and teaching manual for the program.

The Committee of 10,000 collects a small levy from the 27,000 undergraduate students of the University of Calgary to give to charitable causes throughout the city of Calgary, with the intention of the committee is to build relations with the community outside of the university. CIES would like to extend a big thank to thank you to the University of Calgary for approving our grant application and look forward to further collaborative efforts with our city's largest post secondary provider!

Community Investors XII - The Kerby Centre

The twelfth non-profit highlighted in the CIES Community Investors Series is the Kerby Centre. The Kerby Centre strives to assist older people to live as well as possible, for as long as possible, as residents in the community.

Regardless at what point in our lives we find ourselves, to  lead dignified lives as equal and essential members of society would be what all of us want and with the world undergoing a rapid demographic shift, the challenges are not in the increased number of seniors but in our innovativeness in adapting our work to ensure the dignity and well-being of each individual. Creating a positive aging society is key to a strong and knowledgeable society and this requires partnerships at all levels of government and individuals. Facing these challenges should be seen as an opportunity to think once again on how we choose to live in the 21st century, and beyond, and how to make the inevitable process of aging an enriching part of our lives.

In 1973, a seniors’ organization took up residence in a building at 1133 – 7 Avenue S.W., Calgary. This building began life as the original campus for Mount Royal College. Once Mount Royal College moved to the Lincoln Park Campus, this building at 1133 – 7 Avenue S.W. was named the Kerby Memorial Building to honour the founder of Mount Royal College, Dr. George William Kerby. Seniors began using the building and calling it the Kerby Centre and hence the organization was named.

Located in the heart of Calgary, Alberta, Kerby Centre is a not-for-profit organization, committed to enhancing the lives of older adults. Since 1973, the Kerby Centre has evolved into one of Canada’s flagship agencies; setting the standard for older adult services, information, and programming. With 203, 072 contacts in 2014, the Kerby Centre is a vital member of Calgary's non profit community. Offering everything form wellness clinics and abuse teams, to wood working workshops and comedy shows, the wide array of educational and recreational resources at the Kerby Centre are invaluable for older adults here in the city of Calgary.

CIES extends its heartfelt thanks for the invaluable contribution the Kerby Centre makes to our city. They are a vital cog in our community's cycle of life and we congratulate them on more than 40 years of service, while wishing a 40 more. For more information, along with volunteer and donation opportunities, please visit their website.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

CIES Attends and Screens Project @ CCMF's Anti-Racism Film Festival

CIES took in the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation's Anti-Racism Film Festival last night. The red carpet screening took place on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and showcased 15 completed films at the John Dutton theatre in downtown. The event was free of charge, as the purpose is to help mitigate racism by actively allowing citizens to participate and stand against racism.

CIES was very proud to submit Broken Heart of the West, as a non-competing entry to the film festival, A special thanks to Alison Karim-McSwiney, CEO of the International Avenues Businesses Revitalization Zone, and recently elected MLA for Calgary East Robyn Luff for their participation in the production of the film.

In terms of the competition itself, The Grey Line by Zorthania took the evening's top prize, but each and every film stood for something far more important. The heart of the festival was about looking into the eyes of our neighbours and seeing ourselves; it was about not just saying racism is wrong, but standing up and doing something about it; and perhaps, above all else, the CCMF's Anti-Racism Film Festival, at its core, was about being Canadian.

Congratulations to the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation and Iman Bukhari for putting on such a worthwhile event and all of us here at CIES look forward more collaboration with you in the future. For photos of the event CLICK HERE and to watch the CIES submission Broken Heart of the West in full, simply click below.

Monday, March 21, 2016

CJSW interviews CIES

Another part of a yet another busy weekend for CIES, was accepting an invitation from CJSW 90.9 to come down to their University of Calgary Campus Studio to talk with Daryl Leman, host of Speaking in Tongues. For two hours every week Speaking in Tongues features the widest possible range of traditional and popular sounds from around the planet, from obscure to the newest of new releases being highlighted on the global stage. With CIES having an up and running seven day of week intentional stage of people from all corners of the world here in Calgary, it seemed like a perfect fit for us to come down and talk with Daryl.

Our topic of conversation focused on the racism and prejudiced behaviour that has seen an up tick in recent months and its alignment with the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation's Anti-Racism Film Festival, that will take place tonight, March 21st at 6 pm at the John Dutton Theatre. The CIES Community Investors Series, the digital narrative changing how we get our viewpoints out to the populace at large, the recent political atmosphere of both Canada and down south, all the up to what it means to be Canadian were also discussed in a lively conversation.

CJSW has been on the air for more than 30 years and has played an important role in the landscape of independent radio, media, the arts and culture here in Calgary since its inception. Once the snotty nosed new kid on the block, CJSW is an established, professional and important par of our community, and its 250+ volunteers and staff make it one of the most successful stations of its kind in all of North America, From punk, blues, folk and world; from international acts to local bands trying to make good, and talk radio that gives the city’s many cultural communities a voice, CJSW is, in a word, Calgary. It was our honour to sit in on Speaking in Tongues and CIES would like to extend our thanks to both CJSW and Daryl Leman for inviting us to their studios and helping us get out what is an important message. To hear the interview in its entirety simply click below.

CIES attends Major Minor Music Project's Second Show

Do you mostly listen to music while travelling from one place to another or when working out? When you think about music, do your MP3's, your iPod and headphones come to mind? If you can’t remember the last time you saw a live performance, the Major Minor Music Project is for you.

The project, brought to the community in association with the International Avenue Business Revitalization Zone, and promoted by CIES, is a great opportunity to take in live music that's always free and always all ages.

Old Wives, 36?, Bad Animal, Potato Rocket and Chained by Mind were at the artBOX on 17E this passed Saturday night, all of whom performed at no cost, and a great evening of music for all was the result. It lead us to think of how attending a live music event is actually a great opportunity to unplug from our devices and enjoy the present moment. There is so much to see, hear, and feel at a performance, and spending so much time plugged in these days we can easily forget music doesn't come out of a device or a cloud. People make music. It takes passion, creativity, energy, and commitment, all of which you see and feel at a live performance. Shared musical experiences will also very often become memories that last a lifetime. You will always remember the time your friends got together to see your favourite band or the new group who surprised you with their talent or message. Above all else, the feeling of being completely absorbed by and immersed in music to then look around the room to see you’re surrounded by so many others having the same experience is something only a live show can bring you.

CIES is proud to work in promoting this worthwhile endeavour and would like to thank both the Major Minor Music Project and the International Ave BRZ for making these shows possible. The next gig is next month and a shift over to Hip Hop could make for shift in perspective and yet another entertaining night of music. More details coming soon! For more pictures of Saturday's show CLICK HERE, 

Friday, March 18, 2016

CIES Family Tree - Heba Khalili

Having been around for nearly three decades, serving a quarter of million clients in that time and employing hundreds of people over the years and our extended family is, in fact, quite extensive. We are also a society that currently employs approximately 80 Calgarians, along with a roster of more than 100 volunteers, while serving more than 1000 clients on a daily basis. In other words, our current family is very sizeable on its own. Heba Khalili, new LINC Coordinator, is one of the many faces of CIES today.

Heba was born in Nablus, Palestine and made the journey to join her husband here in Calgary in 2014. While settling into to her new home, whether it was getting her drivers licence and simply getting to know our city, Heba first took a summer job working for impark before eventually signing up for the CIES Employment Skills Training Program, where she went from never actually typing to over 50 words per minute while gaining a firm grasp of Canadian cultural communication styles. Upon completion, Heba began volunteering for CIES in our SE location and became a jack of all trades helping in admin and at the reception desk. It was due to her hard work in the program and in volunteering with us after graduating, that when an opening arose CIES was quick to hire her and we couldn't be more than happy to have her be a part of the CIES team! Welcome aboard Heba! 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

CIES Interviewed at 106.7 RED FM

Yesterday CIES was at 106.7 RED FM Studios in Calgary for a brief interview about our society, the upcoming Anti-Racism Film Festival, the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation and the concept of being Canadian. Host Gurpreet Kaur graciously invited us for a live on air interview in their amazing building located in the NE. With RED FM actively seeking to reflect ethnic diversity in Calgary, we couldn't be more aligned with their vision and wish to extend our gratitude for inviting us to be part of their afternoon schedule. We hope to be back soon!

CIES Joins The City of Calgary's Volunteer and Donation Management Committee

As part of the Syrian Refugee Project’s ongoing work with the Calgary community to support the successful settlement of Syrian refugees, CIES is currently sitting on the Volunteer and Donation management coordination committee. Joined by a a number of other community minded organizations, such as Immigrant Services Calgary, the Calgary Food Bank, 211 Alberta, Centre for Newcomers, Calgary Catholic Immigration Society and the City of Calgary, and Chaired by Calgary Neighbourhood's Alison Kent, the group is working together to develop a community-wide process for improved coordination of offers of support. This support will come twofold, both in the form of volunteers and in-kind donations, to ensure organizations can 1) more fully leverage these opportunities in support of refugees and others in need and 2) that staff aren't overwhelmed trying to manage it all.

The hub for this information will be 211 Alberta, where one can dial 211 to speak to an Information & Referral Specialist, or search our online community resource directory.  With a shared document already in place, coordination and collaboration is already improving and changes and adjustments will be ongoing in order to fine tune the information shared amongst service agencies here in Calgary. CIES is proud to work together with our fellow community investors to work towards getting information and services to those who need it most. More updates to come next month!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Elizabeth Fry Society - An Evening with Orange is the New Black Author Piper Kerman

The Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary has provided help, healing and hope to vulnerable women and youth impacted by poverty, legal and justice issues. Hundreds of years ago, this was the vision of Elizabeth Fry, a passionate advocate for those without a voice and a champion of prison reform for women.

To celebrate our 50th Anniversary they are hosting their largest ever fundraising event, The View from Behind Bars – An Evening with Piper Kerman, on April 14, 2016. Piper is the best-selling author of Orange is the New Black and is an advocate for prison and criminal justice reform.The Evening is about finding another chance. It will bring together people of all ages and walks of life that need to hear this important message that calls for reform and restoration.

Would you like to be part of an evening that is about creating another chance for women impacted by poverty, addictions, homelessness and trauma in our city? Tickets can be purchased by simply CLICKING HERE.  

Calgary Jobs, Information and Training

CIES always does our best to stay plugged into the Calgary community. so you can be too. From Day one CIES has always believed that strong community partnerships are the best way to have both a meaningful and sustainable impact on the life of immigrants here in Calgary.  We are affiliated with a number of key organizations throughout the city and this expansive network allows us to stay informed on your behalf. Below is a list of upcoming opportunities for a wide range of skills sets and experience levels to improve your skills, network and submit resumes for employment. Click on the provided posters for more details.

  • Aboriginal Spring Job Fair hosted by Aboriginal Futures on March 17 from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Delta Calgary South Hotel.  Connect with employers from a variety of industries who are actively looking to recruit Aboriginal job seekers. 
  • Job Fair at the Mustard Seed on March 21 from noon to 3 p.m.  Connect with employers from the service and hospitality industries.  
  • Connexion Carrière invites all bilingual applicants to come to the 10th Calgary Bilingual French-English Job Fair. This free event will be held on March 22 from 9 a.m. to Noon at Bow Valley College 
  • Clear Communication for Business for Internationally Educated Professionals in any occupation in any industry.
  • Clear Communication for Health Care Professionals for Internationally Educated Health Care Professionals 
  • Childcare Training for Low Literacy Immigrant Women offered by CIWA assists low literacy Immigrant women obtain a Child Development Assistant Certificate.  


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

CIES Attends ISC's Immigrants of Distinction Awards Gala

Every year, Immigrant Services Calgary (ISC) hosts the Immigrants of Distinction Awards, a gala celebration that honours the achievements of local immigrants and refugees. CIES was honoured to be in attendance this past weekend to take in the event and would like to congratulate ISC for putting on a wonderful celebration and to all the well deserved award recipients and finalists. The City of Calgary is blessed to have the opportunity, year after year, to celebrate our newcomers with Immigrant Services Calgary. CIES was privileged to be one of 600 of ISC's biggest supporters lucky enough to take in the event and look forward to attending next year! For more photos of the event CLICK HERE.

Major Minor Music Project - Saturday March 19th

The Major Minor Music Project is an all-ages volunteer-fuelled music and arts event organization. By engaging participants at all levels of music production and community organizing, Major Minor fulfils its mission to foster a participatory creative culture through popular music concerts, arts programs, experiential learning and volunteer opportunities for all ages, especially young people. Major Minor’s programs are always all ages, with a focus on young people ages 14 to 24 and new Canadians. The programs are in the artBOX, a perfectly suited, character rich community venue in the heart of Forest Lawn. The next gig is this Saturday! For more details watch the promo courtesy CIES Productions below!

Diana's Demo Reel - The Calgary Public Library

Your community public library is a vital part of a neighbourhood's stewardship, information, creativity and a sense of belonging. More than just books and banks of computers, libraries are places where people gather to explore, interact, and imagine. Our libraries are community builders, centres for the arts, champions of youth, proponents of child development, houses of knowledge, collectivities of culture and so much more.

Further still, although not often thought of as such libraries are economically efficient. Their model of sharing allows them to serve many people with few resources and as a result often have exceptionally high rates of Return on Investment (ROI). This means that libraries are excellent stewards of public tax dollars, as they use their budgets carefully and get the most value out of every dollar.

That being said, our second episode of Diana's Demo Reel takes us to the Village Square Calgary Public Library, where Diana takes her CLB 7 class to expose them to the wealth of resources offered. CIES would like to send out a big thank you to the staff of the Village Square Library for their hospitality as well as to Jacqueline Miles, Services for Newcomers Librarian, for arranging things for us to do our shoot on site. For pictures of the visit CLICK HERE. And now on with the show...

Monday, March 14, 2016

CIES Attends Welcome Ceremony and Newcomers Fair

Calgary opened its doors to welcome all newcomers to the city on Saturday afternoon, with the mayor there to greet and offer advice. Hundreds filled the atrium including many children and the day, by all accounts was a great success.  Mayor Nenshi told the crowd it's about the inclusive nature of Calgary and all of Canada.

"We're here today to officially welcome you to Calgary... To officially welcome you to a place where every single one of us, every single one of us regardless of where we came from, what we look like or how we worship, every single one of us, has the opportunity right here, right now to live a great Canadian life," Nenshi said.

CIES has been helping open the doors to Calgary for all newcomers for nearly 30 years and not only was in attendance but also set up one of the many booths throughout the municipal building, highlighting services available to newcomers and beyond. CIES highlighted our new Refugee Express Drop-In ESL & Integration Program, as well as our Employment Skills Training and was proud to participate in such a great day. For more pictures of the event CLICK HERE. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

CIES Short Film to be Screened @ Anti-Racism Film Festival

CIES is proud to announce their short film production, "Broken Heart Of The West," will be screened at the upcoming Anti-Racism Film Festival The festival takes place on Monday March 21st, at 6 at the John Dutton Theatre (616 McLeod Trail SE). The short film features, among others, Calgary East MLA Robyn Luff, International Avenue's Business Revitalization Zone CEO Alison Karim-McSwiney, along with a first hand testimonial of a local victim of racism.

The fact of the matter is that racism exists. One can argue how much or how little, but this is less significant than the actions and behaviours themselves. Part of the root cause is that many of us will live out our entire lives without ever truly experiencing being unlike all those with which we surround ourselves. It’s hard for many to understand what it’s like to walk into a room and have everyone take notice of our presence simply for being the only one. To fathom the self-image born from being a member of what society calls a minority can be very complicated for those standing amidst the towering forest of the status quo. Perhaps most importantly, it’s difficult to comprehend the enveloping sense of judgement and conversely, the tremendous feeling of solidarity amongst the membership of a societal out-group.

Throughout human history race has been our most defining characteristic. By extension, race has consistently produced powerful forms of judgement and continues to do so today. Although the concept of race scientifically does not exist and is purely a social phenomenon, the social reality of race permeates every part of human life. And that is what The Anti-Racism Film Festival is addressing. Tickets to the event are free, but you must register online and can do so here. All of us here at CIES hope to see you there to support this very worthy cause. For a preview of Broken Heart of the West, simply click below.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

The International Ave BRZ partners with CIES to run Entrepreneurial Focus Group

Working in partnership with The International Avenue BRZ, CIES recently conducted a survey of our higher level clientèle regarding entrepreneurial  home business ideas. From that survey CIES established a focus group for International Ave's BRZ.  With focus groups being used more and more often in health and human services research, the purpose was not to achieve consensus but instead to gather information that focuses on priorities.

In this project, both questionnaires and focus group discussions are being used. The reason for using both of these tools is that more in-depth information can be drawn from a smaller group of people. This allows for an understanding of the context behind the answers given in the written survey and helps to explore topics in more detail.

Participants, some with home business ideas, some who have already started a small business of their own, were asked to imagine that they were part of a committee of people designing courses for new Canadians who want to open a business and then directed questions like the one's below. 
  • What are the factors that you will make sure the committee considers in creating these courses? What are the things that you are sure would attract people like you to these courses?
  • Remember, these can be in many areas: the curriculum, the course length, the time of day it’s offered, the teaching style, the course materials, whether the course is offered online or anything else you can think of. 
  • What type of course do you think people like you are most interested in: those that lead to some sort of certificate, or those that can be taken to gain specific skills? What are the upsides and downsides of each type of course?
  • What topics would be important? This can be a wide range of services- business orientation, advising, assistance with access to financial capital, marketing, helping to navigate the rules here.
  • What influences you in your decision to start a business here? If you can list one factor most important to you what would that be?
  • If you could have one thing to help you realize your business dream what would that look like?What are some obstacles or reasons why you might be hesitant to start a business here?
  • Are there any services available to you now that you know of to help you start a business here?
In the end, interesting ideas and concerns were shared and the entrepreneurial spirit was well presented. As always, we are happy to work with International Ave's BRZ in working towards their goal of promoting, improving and creating a more pleasant community in which to shop and live here in Forest Lawn. For more pictures of the event CLICK HERE. Next up and coming soon... Earth Day!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Employment Skills Training Student Gives Uplifting Graduation Speech

Here at CIES our goal is to provide immigrants and economically challenged individuals the tools to be successful and active participants in the community. Beyond this however, many of us here at CIES become like extended family with our clients and take great pride in watching them grow and succeed here in Calgary. A wonderful speech by an Employment Skills Training student below serves as a reminder of just what kind of difference we can make with those who come to us for assistance during a time in their lives filled with the many difficulties that come with cultural transition. Watch her uplifting speech below.

CIES Continues Expansion with the Refugee Express Drop-In ESL & Integration Program

CIES is extremely happy to announce the start of a new program, the Refugee Express Drop-In and Integration program funded by Government of Alberta. The Refugee Express Drop-In ESL & Integration Program is a fast track language training and social integration program designed for refugees to learn essential vocabulary and basic language skills and put hands on basic real life tasks in order to function in Calgary communities as soon as possible. The project is targeted at the group of refugees that are arriving in Calgary and is designed in the Drop-In nature with independent units so that newly landed refugees can fit in other life commitments.

The program delivery will be face-to-face English language teaching incorporated with community engagement modules and intensive reaching out and on-site activities to facilitate quick social integration. Child-minding will be available for students’ children of 19 months to 6 years old.

The community engagement modules will cover the most basic and immediate needs in life. Community engagement activities will give students the opportunity to visit Calgary Transit Office and apply for low-income passes, to go to grocery stores to learn to pay, and so on. In addition, presenters from banks, City, Calgary Housing, Calgary Board of Education, Alberta Health Services, Calgary Police Service, and other community service providers will be invited to give workshops. Through the field trips and workshops, students will have hands-on experience on each real life tasks that will enable them to function in the Canadian society.

In the end, the program is designed for express integration and to avoid wasting time in waiting for service in existing LINC and ESL programs in Calgary.

CIES Family Tree - Viola Olah

With CIES having been a part of the Calgary community for three decades, we have served a quarter of million clients  and employed hundreds of people over the years and our extended family is, in fact, quite extensive. For this edition of the family tree we go back almost 20 years, to 1998 and one Viola Olah (Hutchinson). Viola is a Hungarian raised in Romania, who as a young adult fled the communist rule of Ceausescu and moved to Norway, before immigrating to Canada, originally landing in Vancouver. Quite the journey! In 1998 she arrived in Calgary and looking to both make some connection and contribute to her new community, she began volunteering with CIES. Not long after she was hired on as a full time teacher.

She eventually moved on and took a position with Shell, but these days she is the founder of VH Marketing Ltd. Her company provides dynamic Internet marketing in Calgary, helping businesses since 2009 to achieve a web presence that generates qualified leads and brings in quality business. Her mission is to create online marketing campaigns with the most value for her clients; to be the online marketing company with which businesses trust and parter.

Viola stopped in last week to give a presentation to our Employment Skills Training Class, a program here at CIES that often brings in business contact from Calgary's vast community of professionals  to give advice, counsel, and at times hands-on training on the latest trends in self-marketing, resume writing, job search strategies and more.

Viola is a great example of an immigration success story and is very much symbolic of how Canada was built as a nation. A big thanks to her for stopping by and continuing to contribute to the community of Calgary. For more information about her company, simply visit her website.  

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Never A Better Time For Employment Skills Training @ CIES

The Employment Skills Training program (EST) launched in 2009 has now about to complete its 7th year of helping financially challenged newcomers in Calgary find suitable employment.With an average 75% success rate the program has been very successful. Over 500 students have now completed the program, with EST students improving their workplace knowledge, their marketable skills, increasing their self-esteem and confidence levels, and securing suitable employment.

The best part is that the EST program is a free, full-time program for permanent residents and refugees that have been in Calgary for less than 5 years.

This 310 hour (3 Month) program includes computer training in Microsoft Office, hardware and
software training, business communications training including Canadian Business Culture, and
job finding strategies as well as targeted cover letters, resumes and interview skills.Numerous guest speakers from different economic sectors present to the EST students about Canadian Business Culture, soft skills, interview techniques and how to secure a suitable job in Canada. There is also an optional one month voluntary job practicum.

Watch the testimonial below from a former client who completed the program and for more details give us a call at 403-235-266 or visit or website.

Community Investors XI - The Alex

The eleventh non-profit highlighted in the CIES Community Investors Series is the Alex, The Alex is a not-for-profit community health network, deeply rooted in Calgary’s history, and as our city has grown, so has the Alex.

For over 40 years, The Alex has listened and responded to the needs of Calgarians. Born of a community response to the absence of health and social services, in the neighbourhoods of Inglewood and Ramsey, they connect people to the services and programs they require to improve their well-being and the health of their community.

Providing Primary Health Care and Housing First support to our most vulnerable neighbours, the Alex tackles tough health and social issues head-on.  Keeping their fingers firmly on the pulse of the community, they respond rapidly to bridge service gaps, through interventions that strengthen the resilience and potential of the communities they operate in.

The Alex believes health is a complete state of physical, mental, emotional and economic well-being; not just the absence of disease, thus making their priority to break down access and social barriers by tailoring our services to meet individuals’ needs. From babies to seniors, every client that the Alex is as unique and special as the care they receive.

As Calgary leaders in the provision of primary health care, they demonstrate that when we stop treating symptoms and focus on addressing the issues that contribute to illness, a healthy community is well within our reach.

CIES extends its gratitude for the incredible contribution the Alex makes to our city. They are a vital cog in the health of our community. For more information, along with volunteer and donation opportunities, please visit their website. 

Monday, March 7, 2016

E.S.T. @ C.I.E.S.

One of the more interesting and practical courses we offer is the Employment Skills Training Program. Run by David Wright and taught by Celia Ho and Alex Hadden at our SE location, the three month course has been successfully running four times a year for the passed six years. Check out the video below for all the details! 

City of Calgary Welcome Ceremony

The City of Calgary is hosting a Welcome Ceremony and Newcomers Fair on Saturday, March 12, 2016 from 1 - 4 pm in the Atrium of the Municipal Building.  The city is expecting to have over 30 kiosks from different service providers and CIES is going to be there to showcase our resources.  

The purpose of the Newcomer Fair is for refugees and their sponsors to:

Learn about available services and resources from The City and the community.
Have an opportunity to speak to representatives from City and community agencies.
Engage with other newcomers and sponsors and build support networks.

CIES has been provided 200 wristbands to be given to clients.  The wristband enables participants to take Calgary transit for free for the day to attend the event and provides access to the Atrium.  All of the kiosks will have Arabic speaking staff.  Additional Arabic speaking interpreters will be on-site to assist if needed.    The wristbands are available at the reception in both locations and given to the people who are interested to attend. See you Saturday!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Major Minor Music Project - March 19th Show

CIES' very own Graham Mackenzie, in association with International Avenue's Business Revitalization Zone, is spearheading an absolutely great project right here in Forest Lawn. Music is as culturally relevant as it gets in terms of the arts here in Canada, but pricey tickets and over 18 venues often leave many unable to take in shows across the city. This simple truth was the inspiration for the Major-Minor Music Project.

Major Minor is an all-ages volunteer-fuelled music and arts event organization. By engaging participants at all levels of music production and community organizing, Major Minor fulfils its mission to foster a participatory creative culture through popular music concerts, arts programs, experiential learning and volunteer opportunities for all ages, especially young people. Major Minor’s programs are always all ages, with a focus on young people ages 14 to 24 and new Canadians. The programs are in the artBOX, a perfectly suited, character rich community venue in the heart of Forest Lawn.

Monthly concerts promote artistic experimentation and excellence in a professional setting, leveraging industry-standard technology to showcase music and arts. Events fuse with experiential learning opportunities and a volunteer-driven structure that engages young people and new Canadians in the arts, fosters inter-generational communication and gives constituents the skills necessary to pursue their creative and professional passions. The skills participants gain at Major Minor activate future creativity, careers and leadership within the greater creative community. Major Minor engages in the arts, develops the future of the music industry and supports a vibrant Calgary culture. Their second gig is March 19th @ the artBOX on 17E. Details below and see you there!

Free Tax Clinic @ CIES Starts Next Week

CIES has been a partner with the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program for more than a decade and have been proud to provide tax services at no cost to those who need it. The program was introduced in 1971 as a partnership between the Department of National Revenue (as it was known then) and various community organizations. It was intended to ensure that all taxpayers had equal access to the tax system. In 1988, the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) established a partnership with Revenu Québec and volunteers from the province of Quebec, to have volunteers prepare both federal and provincial returns for eligible individuals.

Each year volunteers and community organizations help over half a million Canadians file their tax returns. Through this program, CIES sees first hand the compassionate and charitable nature of Calgarians and the satisfaction our volunteers take in providing a valuable service to members of their community.

Typically, to qualify for services at a free tax clinic, your annual income can't exceed:
$30,000 for single individuals.
$40,000 for couples.
$35,00 for adults with one child (with $2,500 added for each additional dependent).

If you think you qualify or have any questions give us a call 403-235-3666.

Our NE Location in Whitehorn 
 3820 32 St NE
March 8, 10, 11, 18
April 23, 30

Our SE Location in Forest Lawn
Dates to be announced 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Heritage Language Day @ CIES

As the wrap up of LINC Month, CIES dedicated a day to celebrate language and culture and it was yet another colourful day of sharing. One of the best parts of working or volunteering at CIES is that one literally has the world all around you, with clients from as many as 30 different countries at any given time roaming our halls.

The day's focus was on language, as booths were set up in rooms throughout our NE Location that offered lessons on Arabic, Dinka,  Urdu/ Punjabi, Spanish, Oromo, Tigrigna, Nepali, Mandarin, Farsi and Chinese. Beyond language, cultural folk-tales and games were also shared, making the day a living kaleidoscope of our planet.

Events such as this often celebrate the differences amongst us, but when people come together to do so it then reveals our similarities. This is due to the fact that despite these differences, we are more alike than different, no matter how difficult it may be to recognize our similarities. It’s in our nature to see our differences before we see that which is the same, but when given the chance to truly see, like a blind man regaining his sight, what was always right in front of us becomes an emancipating vision of truth. On a grander scale, the reflection of our internal selves can be seen in almost any human soul. We are all mirrors, all reflections of one another, yet so many simply cannot see. That's what makes all of us here at CIES so lucky, we do get to see. Every day. For pictures of the event CLICK HERE.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

CIES Family Tree - Melissa Mckinnon

Melissa is originally is from Sussex, New Brunswick, a farming community of few thousand people. She moved to Calgary and began working with CIES. in March of 2013. After initially working as Senior Coordinator she has since become the Manager of ESL/Volunteer Programs and is very passionate about helping others. Her education background and her time volunteering in Uganda armed her with the skills to greatly contribute to the CIES.

Melissa is responsible for organizing and coordinating the Drop-In ESL program and Literacy classes, assisting teachers and recruiting and scheduling volunteers. She loves the student interaction and in 2016 would like to focus more on recruiting volunteers, updating our drop in curriculum and possibly opening a new class. Volunteer recruitment is ongoing, as is keeping resources up to date. She is also nearly ready to launch our annual free income tax clinic that we offer every March.

Melissa sees the Calgary Immigrant Educational Society being very important to the city of Calgary as it assists many individuals on a daily basis with obtaining an education in whatever it may be they are studying. By extension, she sees the Society as making Calgary a better place to live for all Calgarians.

Any questions regarding volunteering or drop in classes can always be directed to Melissa, a key member of the CIES Family.

Basic Needs are Becoming a Challenge to Meet for Many Calgarians

According to Wikipedia "Basic needs" refers to those fundamental requirements that serve as the foundation for survival. Access to the basic needs of life, including shelter, food, and clothing is necessary to the development of a strong community and a necessary precursor to individual self-sufficiency.

Calgary’s Living Wage Action Team determined an individual working full time (35 hours per week, 52 weeks a year) needs a minimum of $18.15/hour without benefits to earn a living wage. Nation wide minimum wage ranges from its lowest in PEI at $10.45 to its highest to $12.50, meaning Alberta, up until October when minimum wage jumped from $10.20 to $11.20,  had the lowest on the country.

A good example of the repercussions of low wages, unemployment and / or a downward spiral of an economy is a place like the Calgary Food Bank getting more than 6000 calls per month for help, The larger problem however, according to Statistics Canada is that approximately one million people in Canada earn a wage that does no allow them to meet their basic needs. With persons under 25 and women from 25 to 54 accounting for 81% of minimum-wage workers, young people, single mothers and children are the most greatly affected.

What this all boils down to is the the non-profit sector is a vital necessity to the structure of our city. By extension, the non-profit sector is an important contributor to the economic health of the nation. In the end, this is what CIES stands for and we have been very proud to play our small part over the last 30 years. Further still, as our Community Investor Series trumpets. the non-profit sector of Calgary is a family of caregivers, helping those who need it most, however and wherever we can. Each has its own story, its own passion, All of us here at CIES strive towards collaboration with our non-profit family, as in the end we are all here to help those who need it most, and by extension, help in making Calgary the best city in can possibly be for all who live here.

Not sure what basic needs are? CLICK HERE to take a brief quiz.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

World Compliment Day

In case you didn't know, Today, March 1st 2016 is World Compliment Day! The initiative, in contrast to Valentine's Day, Secretaries' Day, and Mother and Father's Days, is not commercially oriented, so everyone can afford to participate. ‘World Compliment Day’ simply addresses the basic human need for recognition and appreciation. Nobody wins commercially, but everybody gains emotionally. And therein lies its power.

March 1st is just about consciously reflecting on what someone in your area does well and letting that person know he/she is sincerely appreciated for that. It should be done through words instead of gifts. A sincere and personal compliment costs nothing, but the impact on the recipient is huge. There is little that stimulates us more, gives us more energy, or makes people happier and as far as business is concerned, compliments increase both productivity and commitment, So, thank you World Compliment day and from all of us here at CIES, you are a beautiful day!

Community Investors X - Calgary Food Bank

The tenth non-profit highlighted in the CIES Community Investors Series is the Calgary Food Bank. Established in 1982, the Calgary Food Bank is a charitable, non-profit organization dedicated to gathering and distributing quality emergency food to those in need.The majority of people they assist are working-poor Calgarians struggling to make ends meet. The Calgary Food Bank is not a government or United Way agency. They rely solely on the generous support of our community. And while the Calgary Food Bank may be one of the better known non-profits we have highlighted in our community investment series, you may not be aware of the sheer number of Calgarians they help each year, and thus how truly vital the organization is to the city. Some quick numbers can be seen below:

  • 141,271 people accessed the Calgary Food Bank last year
  • Children make up 41 per cent of our clients. The national average is 36 per cent
  • 21 per cent of our clients are single-parent homes
  • 37 per cent came to us for help only once in their lifetime
  • Most of our clients come less than three times in their lifetime
  • For every one staff, we have three volunteers
  • In 2015, the Calgary Food Bank had over 35,410 volunteers who made up 105,951 volunteer hours
  • For every dollar donated, we stretch it into $5 worth of food thanks to our connections to the food industry

And the need for the Food Bank is only growing. The Calgary Food Bank distributed food last month for 13,000 people, a jump of 24 per cent from the previous year. Demand is up at food banks in not only Calgary, but Edmonton and Fort McMurray as well, swollen by people who have recently lost their jobs or have become underemployed in these tough economic times. While this issue is something that will eventually come to pass, no one can be certain of when and this is no doubt why the Calgary Food Bank and your donations are so very important at this time. 

CIES extends its gratitude for the contribution the Calgary Food Bank makes to our city. For more information, along with volunteer, donation and possible career opportunities, please visit their website.

Calgary Food Bank Mini-Documentary from Calgary Food Bank on Vimeo.