By Cecilia Nasmith
The new Cobourg office of the New Canadians Centre had its grand opening Wednesday at 600 William St. in a jubilant celebration attended by staffers, dignitaries and clients.
Tamara Hoogerdyk, director of front-line services for the Peterborough office, said that the Cobourg office gets about 100 new clients a year in various circumstances, from refugees to immigrants who have been in the community for years to international students who decide they want to make this area their home.
The New Canadians Centre began as a volunteer group, Hoogerdyk said, a sponsorship group working with Vietnamese refugees. It became a non-profit organization in 1985. When she joined 11 years ago, there was a staff of six. That has grown to 26.
The Cobourg office was established in consideration of the many clients their Peterborough office would see who had to travel from Northumberland. On Oct. 28, 2008, they opened an office upstairs at Horizons of Friendship in downtown Cobourg.
“They have been a great partner, and it was with some sadness we leave – but a lot of excitement,” she said.
The new location offers many benefits – on-site parking, a location along the town bus route, and a variety of services on the premises, such as Northumberland United Way and county departments that offer resources ranging from entrepreneurship counselling to the Food 4 All Warehouse. And it's all on a single floor, with no stairs to negotiate.
It's a promising location for their efforts to help new Canadians become full and equal members of Canadian society, “regardless of where they come from, their status, how long they have been in Canada – we welcome everybody,” Hoogerdyk declared.
Those present had the opportunity to hear from Eduvina Duquinal, who came to Cobourg from the Phillippines. It can be an isolating experience to settle in a new country where culture, customs and language are so different, she said.
“Visiting the New Canadians Centre opened doors for us. We were able to connect with other newcomers and participate in community events. This really helped us to build a sense of home.”
Warden Mark Lovshin said one reason to celebrate was the on-going partnership between the county and the New Canadians Centre, connecting newcomers with resources that include housing and medical services, language assessment and entrepreneurship advice.
“Northumberland County continues to focus on fostering economic opportunities and community integration for newcomers as part of our larger vision to be a strong and vibrant community,” Lovshin said.
“This is well aligned with the mandate of the New Canadians Centre. Through this new partnership, we hope to reach more people with programs and services that create opportunities for newcomers in our community.”
Northumberland County director of economic development, tourism and planning Dan Borowec said the county's partnership with the centre is very much in line with their vision – People, Partnerships, Possibilities.
Representing Northumberland-Peterborough South MP Kim Rudd, Jamie Simmons offered congratulations and some musings on how the community has changed since he moved to Cobourg 25 years ago.
“All good changes,” Simmons stated.
“I'm particularly proud of all the groups that have come to this community over the years for what I think is a very rich multicultural heritage we are building on all over Northumberland.”
Having been involved with the recent spate of sponsorships for Syrian refugees, he added, “I am very proud to be a Canadian. I am very proud to be a resident of Northumberland County and how we welcome those folks with all the services to become part of this community.”