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NEWCOMERS TO SHARE THEIR EXPERIENCES DURING 'DEAR NEIGHBOUR' WELCOMING EVENT

The Cape Breton Welcome Network along with the Cape Breton Local Immigration Partnership are inviting community members from across the Island to an evening of storytelling by newcomers to Unama’ki – Cape Breton.

On Thursday, August 31 from 6 pm to 9 pm at the Cape Breton Farmer’s Market, you will hear from storytellers eager to share their Unama’ki – Cape Breton experiences and discoveries. The organizations are hosting the event so there is no cost to attend the event.

The title of Thursday’s event is Dear Neighbour. According to the Welcome Network’s Coordinator, Jessica Fogarty, the goal of the evening is to put established community members in the shoes of newcomers for the purpose of building a greater understanding of the newcomer experience.

Four storytellers, from different backgrounds, will take turns telling their tales of success; gratitude; struggle; and change.

“In true Cape Breton fashion will provide the audience with an atmosphere of sitting at your neighbours kitchen table with a cup of tea,” she Fogarty. “Also, not unlike a Cape Breton kitchen, a few tunes will be sung by one of our storytellers.”

The Cape Breton Welcome Network is an initiative of the Cape Breton Partnership that uses local, volunteer-led welcome groups made up of enthusiastic people eager to share their passion for Unama’ki – Cape Breton with newcomers.

Launched in 2020, the Network is designed to support Cape Breton communities in doing one of the things they do best: welcome.

“These volunteer welcomers’ are people who have a welcoming spirit; are open-minded and respectful of diverse cultural backgrounds; passionate and knowledgeable about their communities; and eager to share with newcomers all the great local activities and hidden gems,” says Fogarty.

Fogarty told The Third that the Welcome Network was sparked by a 2018 immigration survey by The Cape Breton Local Immigration Partnership.

“One of the outcomes of the survey was that there was a greater need for boots on the ground in support for newcomers in the community,” she said. “There are many professional resources for newcomers on the Island, but what new Cape Bretoners’ were looking for was friendship and a sense of belonging from the community.”

As the main focus of the Network is to welcome newcomers, each group of volunteer welcomers tailors its approach to the specific needs of the newcomers that they are working with.


Representational Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

The groups host networking events geared toward newcomers like trivia and bingo nights, information sessions, and community tours. But the most important, and the simplest role of a Welcomer is to be inviting.

“We hear from newcomers all the time that we are friendly, and we as Cape Bretoners’ know, we’re friendly, but we are well established in our communities, with our families and our friends and we often don’t think to be more inviting,” says Fogarty. “So, the role of the Welcomer is to invite their new neighbours for a cup of coffee and a chat, out to a community event, or over for dinner.”

When asked what Fogarty hoped is the outcome of the evening, and future ones like it, her response was a simple and clear one. “I want Cape Bretoners’ to be known for being great neighbours to newcomers who have travelled a long way to get here and may still be feeling a bit unsteady on their feet in an unfamiliar place.”

The Welcome Network model is already becoming a model across the province. Fogarty has helped establish networks in Truro, Antigonish, and most recently Annapolis Valley. She believes that the Welcome Networks will help with retention, and help Nova Scotia reach its goal of 2 million people by 2050.

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