It’s been nearly three decades of supporting newcomers to Canada for a Langley woman and she’s not planning on stopping anytime soon.
Yvonne Hopp, 65, said she first got the idea to start a program to better support people in the workforce when she was working for the government handling unemployment insurance claims.
“I met so many people that were really unhappy with their work and I decided I wanted to do something to help them,” she said. “I just came up with the idea of New Directions which would help people find ways to be better equipped for the work they wanted.”
New Directions Vocational Testing and Counselling Services Ltd. is part of the federal government’s Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program and works with the community in Langley to support new permanent residents and refugees by helping them learn English.
“We are trying to work with employers to find ways that meet their needs as well,” said Hopp.
When Hopp first started the program she used all her savings and had to take out a line of credit.
“In those early years I believe it was $5,000 of savings and I was able to get a $10,000 line of credit,” she said.
She started the program in 1990 in her backyard, with just two employees.
“I was so motivated I just wanted to do it, but through the years you do have many setbacks and you have to be resilient to move ahead and adapt,” said Hopp.
In 2018 the school served just over 700 students.
Last August, Hopp and her team submitted a research proposal to the government for a new learning model called the Open Learning Centre to improve how the program serves students.
“We’re finding it meets a lot of peoples needs that just can’t stay with a scheduled class… this allows them to write their own schedule around their work,” said Hopp.
The research project was approved for three years of funding and just wrapped up its first year. Hopp said this new model better supports individual students.
“It also is more efficient for someone that needs to really concentrate on a skill that’s low rather than studying all four of the skills that they may not actually need,” she said.
Although Hopp is now eligible to collect a pension, she doesn’t have plans to retire.
“I have worked with newcomers for about 30 years and I love doing it because I get to meet people from all over the world… it allows me to work with women and giving them the opportunity to learn English certainly empowers them.”
One of those women is her former student Thao Nguyen Vuu. Vuu immigrated to Canada from Vietnam in 2017 and has completed several LINC programs since then.
“The program is really really good, and the teachers are very nice,” said Vuu. “They also helped me learn about Canada (and) about the law.”
Vuu said the program was a great place to make friends and said it helped improve her confidence.
“(The program) is really meaningful to me because I couldn’t speak English when I immigrated here,” she said.
Vuu is currently enrolled at Vancouver Career College and is studying to become an education assistant.
New Directions accepts new students throughout the year and Hopp said they are always looking for volunteers.