Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers expanding to meet increased demand

The Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers says demand continues to increase for its services, so it is expanding to offer more language classes and support for clients.

Organization expects to work with 20,000 people within next two years

Maysaa Faroun, who came to Edmonton from Syria three years ago, says the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers offered valuable services like language classes to help her feel comfortable in her new city. (CBC/Scott Neufeld)

When Maysaa Faroun moved to Edmonton from Syria three years ago, she knew it would be difficult to learn English.

But she also knew it was crucial to starting her new life. Taking classes with the Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers helped boost her confidence, and she's now studying to become an accountant.

"When I came, they helped me," she said. "Now I feel I'm comfortable, so I can do anything."

Faroun is one of about 17,000 clients who use services offered by the EMCN. Demand continues to increase, and the centre expects to serve 20,000 people within the next two years.

Demand for the services it offers, like language classes and mental health support, is also increasing. To accommodate more clients and minimize wait lists, the centre is buying and converting its building on 82nd Street and 117th Avenue into a language school.

Executive director Erick Ambtman says expanding supports will help reduce wait lists. (CBC/Scott Neufeld)

It is also expanding into the old Stantec Campus building on 101st Avenue and 112th Street.

The changes are expected to cost $10 million, which the centre hopes to fundraise.

The move makes sense for Edmonton's demographic of newcomers, said executive director Erick Ambtman. Most newcomers, when they first arrive in Edmonton, move downtown. Centralizing and expanding EMCN's services in the core ensures clients can access them faster and integrate sooner.

"As our wait lists were getting longer, we're having a hard time accessing the people who are asking us to help them," Ambtman said. "They don't show up when they don't feel like their needs are going to be met quickly.

"So for us, it's getting to people early and providing them with service quickly."

EMCN has supported newcomers for 37 years, and Ambtman said the expansion will ensure the organization can continue to help newcomers get settled in their new city.

"They're going to get to their goals faster and thrive faster," Ambtman said. "Edmonton is a better city when we open those doors."

The centre is buying its current building on 82nd Street and 117th Avenue and planning to convert it into a language school. (CBC/Scott Neufeld)


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.