It was summer of 2008, a complaint was raised in Chinese professional immigrant community about improving the English language skills. With highly educated background and solid foundation of English, these immigrants found that ESL and LINC services couldn’t meet their needs, and there was no other social support available.
In July 2008, in response, a group of Chinese professional immigrants, themselves going through the painful settlement and integration process and witnessing the struggle for settlement and integration of others, initiated a community volunteer group called “Newbridger English Group”. Later, the name was formally changed to the English & Culture Club of Chinese Professionals (ECCCP).
Volunteers then sent out a request to Chinese community asking for a free venue for activities. THR, located in North York responded by providing us with their meeting room. On August 10, 2008, a sunshiny Saturday morning, our inaugural meeting welcomed more than 20 participants. Since then the weekly activities have continued, moving to Kennedy College in North York in 2009. To accommodate some participants from west of the Greater Toronto Area, the Mississauga activities were added in January 2010. The second location was provided free of charge by Nelly Yanwen Gong, Agent, State Farm, and later by the Peel Chinese Community Services Hub.
Every Wednesday evening, these professional immigrants burst into our venue to participate in the activities. Some of them came directly from work without having supper, some from Vaughan by bus, some came from downtown Toronto rushing in and out of the busiest rush hour in the world, and some of them drove all the way from Mississauga before we established our Mississauga location. They were so eager to learn and so desperate for help with their integration to get better life in Canada. We only had few cancellation due in those years. Even with the biggest snow storm in 2009, 9 participants showed up, one on crutches enduring a lengthy bus ride. It was touching to witness the eagerness, ambition and hope of the participants. It pushes us to work harder to help them even without one cent of funding.
As immigrants ourselves we know the root cause of the complaint, we know how professional immigrants can successfully go through the settlement process and go towards the integration, we know where to find the turning point, therefore our personal life experiences are more persuasive, recognizable, and beneficial to new immigrants. The purpose of immigration to Canada for them is getting better life by utilizing their existed assets – their education, talents, skills and experience; the purpose of admitting them into Canada is benefit from their contribution to Canada economically, socially and culturally.
The weekly meeting activities include educational seminars, workshops, English language practice, and Canadian social activities. The focus is on social/workplace culture and etiquette, Canadian politics and law, education, communication, and recreational activities. The meetings offer empowerment, emotional support, and social networking, while bridging the language gap. Daily empowering emails with inspirational quotes are sent to members. Since August 2008, we have organized over 300 seminars, workshops, and social activities, with over 200 guest speakers, have sent out more than 700 daily inspirational quotes to about 1000 registered members and approximately 3500 counts of participation from the GTA.
On November 18, 2009, the community group was federally registered as a not-for-profit organization. The registered name is M-Bridge Culture Integration Society for Professionals. “M” stands for “multi”, because we commit to be the multi-bridge to settlement and integration for all internationally-educated professional immigrants (IEP).
M-Bridge has been working on shaping a way of building a support community to bridge and engage professional immigrants and Canadians, and to guide a way of integration during settlement for professional newcomers.