McGill students give future Syrian newcomers English lessons online
Many people are offering help to Syrian refugees after they arrive in Quebec, but students are reaching out to refugees while they remain overseas.
Tony Mistak has been using Skype to talk to 20-year-old Mohammed Sarhan, a Syrian refugee living with his family in Turkey.
Sarhan hopes to arrive in Montreal soon and attend Concordia University as a sponsored student on a scholarship.
"I want to study computer engineering," he said.
Before he arrives Mistak, a first-year McGill student, is giving Sarhan weekly English lessons.
They were matched through McGill's living-learning community, a program that involves students at a McGill student residence.
The McGill students are preparing eight Syrian students to take a university English entrance exam.
The initiative began after a volunteer English teacher from the Al Salam school in Turkey left.
"We're filling that void," said Anita Nowak.
The Mentor-in-Residence at McGill said the image of Alan Kurdi, the young Syrian boy who drowned trying to make it to Turkey, motivated them to reach out overseas.
"I think the students felt privileged to do this work and it really brought them a lot of joy and meaning," she said.
Since learning of the program other students have expressed an interest in helping Syrian refugees once they arrive.
"To learn about the city, provide support if they have to fill out documents, said Nowak.
"I think it's one of those exceptional opportunities to learn outside the classroom."
Mistak is using the tutoring not only to prepare Sarhan for his exam, but also as a chance to explore strange turns of phrase.
"Phrases like hit the hay and it takes two to tango," he said.
Sarhan, yet to begin his program, already has plans for when he finishes.
"My goal is to go help rebuild my hometown after the war ends."