Library Champions. (Contributed)

Library Champions. (Contributed)

Library Champions making a difference in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows

Mahbub Morshed, who came to Canada from Bangladesh, became a Library Champion in Maple Ridge

Mahbub Morshed came to Canada from Bangladesh two and a half years ago with this wife and two children for a better future.

Life was difficult in Bangladesh for Morshed for many reasons.

“Social, political, road structure, many accidents, traffic jams. Not dangerous, but Canada is, of course, safer. Social harmony is more here,” said Morshed.

Even though Bangladesh seemed economically sound to Morshed, other sectors were not improving.

“You won’t get good service in government hospitals. Even sometimes you cannot go to the hospitals because of traffic jams,” he explained.

Morshed, his wife and children – a daughter who is now 13, and a son now 10 – first moved to Vancouver, where he has family, then to Pitt Meadows in March of last year.

Speaking English was at times difficult for Morshed, more so for his wife.

In Bangladesh, people speak the distinct language of Bangla. However, children in Bangladesh learn how to speak English at around five years old.

“When I came to Canada, I don’t know many words you use locally,” said Morshed, giving the English words patio and driveway as examples.

“Still we don’t know many words people normally use here because if you don’t have much association with local people, you will not learn the words that they are using in their day-to-day life. Normally we did not watch movies a lot. So we do not know colloquial English. But we are good in formal English,” he said.

“If I write a formal article, people would not find many mistakes,” Morshed added.

Then Morshed found out about the Library Champions program while submitting his tax returns with the help of the Immigrant Services Society of B.C.

The program is a collaboration between the Maple Ridge Public Library and NewToBC, a provincial organization that helps recent immigrants find their way by connecting them to their local public libraries.

Over the past couple of months, 13 new permanent residents to Canada had been meeting at Maple Ridge library with staff and a coordinator from NewToBC, to help them meet new people and ease their transition to life in Canada.

The group met once every two weeks starting in May, ending in July.

“I thought that I always loved libraries. In my childhood, I used to go to the library whenever I had the opportunity. When we were in Canada, in the very first week we went to the library,” said Morshed, who was also looking to volunteer, to add to his resume.

Library Champions consisted of men and women from 10 different countries who have chosen to make Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows their home.

Countries of origin included China, Poland, Romania, Iran, Armenia, Iraq, Bangladesh, Ukraine, India, and Syria.

The Library Champions learned about English learning materials, books and movies in other languages, and online tools, such as Lynda.com, where library cardholders can take free online courses.

Children attended programs such as storytime and the library co-hosted a variety of English conversation classes and special community events.

Library Champions then went out in the community to talk to friends, family, and acquaintances about the benefits of joining the library.

This not only helped the library, but it gave the Champions a reason to make community connections and help others. It also gave them an opportunity to practice their English and make a difference.

“When I see a person, I don’t know what to discuss with them. Now I know many library activities. So I can start talking with them about the library activities,” said Morshed.

“You don’t know what country they are coming from, what language they speak, but now you can discuss with anybody the library.”

Jessica Armstrong, with the Maple Ridge library, is hoping another session of Library Champions can be planned for the spring of 2019.

Over the last three years, the Library Champions project has trained more than 1,100 new immigrants.

And with improved communication and presentation skills, the Champions have shared library and settlement information with more than 70,000 other new immigrants, according to NewToBC.

To become a Library Champion, newcomers must be permanent residents of Canada, but not yet a Canadian citizen, 19 or older, enthusiastic about libraries and interested in volunteering in the community.

More than 50 libraries across Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley are a part of the Library Champions project.

“When I meet new immigrants now, I have new issues I can discuss with them. I can approach them and ask them how are they doing and where they can find some place to pass time,” Morshed said.

“Sometimes they ask me how can I find these things, so I tell them, ‘Go to the library,”

• To learn more about the program visit newtobc.ca.