A program in Saskatoon is working to create cross-cultural friendships between those new to the city and long-term residents.

"A lot of the people that I've encountered have come on their own or maybe know a few people here but don't have very strong connections because they've left their families and their homes and are feeling a little bit lost," said Tanjalee Kuhl, co-ordinator of the Intercultural Mentoring Program with the Saskatchewan Intercultural Association (SIA).

"So, having that sort of more structured one-on-one relationship with someone who is willing to help them and connect them can be very helpful."

The program — which is about a year old — aims to assist new residents who are interested in learning about local cultural norms and gain knowledge about their new community.

According to Kuhl, the program is open to refugees, immigrants or Indigenous residents new to Saskatoon. Mentors are generally residents who have lived in the city for longer than five years.

She said, so far, there have been participants ranging from all over Saskatchewan to Congo, Colombia, Eritrea, China and Syria.

"I have been volunteering with SIA for the past three months and it has been a fascinating experience," said one of the program mentors, Tian Xia.

Xia moved to Saskatoon seven years ago as an international student from China, and was paired with Javier Reyes, a newcomer from Colombia who has been living in the Bridge City for the past three months.

Javier Reyes

Javier Reyes, a newcomer to Canada, arrived from Colombia to Saskatoon three months ago. (Submitted by Javier Reyes)

"The very first thing we talked about was different cultures, and I actually learned a lot about Colombia," Xia said. "We talked about the language, the culture, as well as different stories we had back home and we talked about the difference between our home to Canada."

Reyes said it was difficult arriving in a new city but is now feeling more comfortable.

"When I meet with Tian, I found a big friend," Reyes said. "With Tian, we share different places, we drink coffees, long conversations here, and it's a good support for me."