The ribbon is cut to officially open the Eastman Immigrant Services and the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce by Minister of Labour and Immigration Jennifer Howard, Premier Greg Selinger, President of the Steinbach Chamber of Commerce Keith Unger and Steinbach Mayor Chris Goertzen.
By Marianne Curtis
The Steinbach Chamber of Commerce and Eastman Immigrant Services recently celebrated their new offices with the help of the premier and local politicians. The two entities relocated to spaces adjacent to the Provincial Court Offices a few months ago.
Premier Greg Selinger, Steinbach MLA Kelvin Goertzen and Mayor Chris Goertzen were all on hand to officially cut the ribbon for the new offices at 284 Reimer Ave.
By consolidating all of its services in one easily accessible central location, the Steinbach office will be able to offer new immigrants to the Eastman region a single doorway to the services they need upon arrival in Manitoba, said the premier.
“We have the highest number of newcomers in the country this year and it is because of the way we actually help people settle in our province that is the key to the program’s success,” stated Selinger. “Eighty percent of the people that come in through the program are staying in the area they’ve settled. They are staying in communities like this because they are accepting them, they are getting jobs and the help that they need.”
Settlement services are provided by Eastman Immigrant Services to newcomers living in Steinbach, Beausejour and Oakbank. Services include orientation, employment counseling, job and language referrals, special events and activities.
Cenda Narvaez and her family is one of Eastman Immigrant Service’s success stories. She and her family immigrated from the Phillippines four years ago and used the program.
“We moved to Steinbach because we had friends here and we could get jobs. When we got here in 2006 we went to the immigration settlement office in Steinbach and they were able to help us,” she explained. One of her biggest challenges, besides the weather, was that it was difficult to come to Canada and try to practice her trade as a pharmacist but the settlement office has help her with getting recertified locally.
“Thanks to the settlement office, I am now trying to reach my goal of being a pharmacist here in Steinbach which is our second home.” She added that she is also extremely grateful because as of this past June her eldest son was finally able to join his family in the area. “Our family is now complete.”
Last year, Eastman Immigrant Services assisted over 200 new families settle in the region, while the number of clients accessing settlement services grew to over 900. Many of the immigrants were from Germany, Paraguay and the Philippines.
Through the Chamber of Commerce newcomers have access to job-specific language classes at four local workplaces including Biovail, Granny’s Poultry, Hytek and Barkman Concrete. A new English Skills for Work program is also planned to begin in the fall of 2010. Funding for these programs is being provided by the Province with over $700,000 coming into several different programs.
Immigration to Steinbach has more than doubled from 138 newcomers in 2002 to 409 in 2009. Overall, Manitoba received 13,520 immigrants in 2009, an increase of 20.5 per cent from 2008 (11,218), and 263 per cent over 1999 (3,725).
Cenda Narvaez is grateful to the help her family received from the Eastman Immigrant Services when her family settled into the area about four years ago.