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"My name is Irene Gibbins. I am an experienced Canadian who was born in the Kitchener area. My family has been in Canada for many generations, having immigrated from Switzerland and Germany, via Pennsylvania, USA. I have visited other countries, but have always lived in Canada. I moved to the Niagara area 37 years ago when I began my teaching career. My husband was born in England and moved to Canada when he was 7 years old, so “Gibbins” is actually an English surname. I studied French and Spanish in high school, but am not able to carry on a conversation today.

I began volunteering at the Niagara Folk Arts Centre in November 2016, as a facilitator for English Conversation Circles in Welland. Having recently retired and actively involved with the Syrian family that our church had sponsored, I felt this would be a great opportunity to use my skills and help more newcomers to Canada. I have enjoyed the opportunities to interact with many folks from a variety of different countries and have learned much from them.

I love volunteering for the Centre because I believe in their mission of helping newcomers settle in Canada and adjust to life here. Although I have never been a newcomer, I can imagine the challenges they face. Volunteering provides me a small opportunity to share of the great resources we have in Canada and help them with their English skills, which are so necessary to survive in Canada.

I am grateful for time at home to catch up on a few projects like sewing (see photo), knitting/crocheting, gardening and for social media to keep connected with family and friends and the world around us. I am learning to take one day at a time and appreciate all that we have been blessed with."

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