Ukrainian refugees who are coming to Portage la Prairie are going to be able to get some more assistance than otherwise would have been possible. Following Canada's changes to policy to receive Ukrainian refugees, the Portage Learning and Literacy Centre has some very welcoming news.

Settlement coordinator Miriam Turyamwijuk explains.

"We are basically ready to support in any way that we can," says Turyamwijuka. "The thing with English Immigration has historically only funded for services to permanent residents. We've been able to fill-in other services for other individuals who are not permanent residents through volunteers and also through some Manitoba funding from the province of Manitoba. But with this specific crisis, the federal government wants to make sure that the Ukrainians coming in, who are displaced, have the supports that they need. So, they're extending the funding for formal language classes to the Ukrainians coming in."

Turyamwijuka says it's great news that they can include them in their formal language classes.

"We're also assessing at the moment and just speaking with the Ukrainian community to try and figure out whether there is a need for extra classes during the week," continues Turyamwijuka. "We're are also looking for a possible special class for people that have no English at all coming in. That's something that we're unsure of, but we're ready to adjust if needed."

She explains a formal English class has certain criteria that have to be met as they're teaching the class.

"They assess for listening, speaking, reading, and writing," adds Turyamwijuka. "The teachers that are hired are professionals. So, they're specifically trained for this. Some of them are actual teachers who are doing this as kind of their part-time job. And others, they have training in the field. And then there are also ESL teachers."

Turyamwijuka notes they've always had these classes but the Ukraine refugee situation has opened this up. 

"In this case, we can extend that to Ukrainians who are displaced and no matter what their status is," says Turyamwijuka. "I'll also add that, in our regular services, we've been assisting people, bringing friends over -- friends or family who are displaced. We're just helping them navigate the website, which can be quite daunting for anyone. And when they arrive, we help with Manitoba Health Cards, Canada Child benefits, social insurance numbers, and any immigration-type related things. We are always trying to keep up to date on what's happening and what's new, so we can help in those areas, as well. I'm also a notary public, so that is also a way that is very helpful for people that are new to Canada."

In addition to that, she says she loves what's happening right now with the community stepping up and making sure that things are happening and prepared for people who come.

"I think this community is really good in that way -- seeing what they need, what that need is, and trying to step in and help," says Turyamwijuka. "Honestly, I think this is the best way to have the best result for anybody who's immigrating here. When they come here in the best of times, when they come through the skilled worker stream, or some other stream --- student permits or whatever -- this is their choice, and it's very difficult to immigrate in the first place,, and to come to a new place and leave your family behind. But in this case, it's all women and children, and they're displaced. They probably would rather be home. This is just that extra piece of difficulty for people that are going to be coming."