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MOSAIC’s new location in Metrotown now serving more than 300 newcomers

After months of renovations, the new space offers daily English classes for adult permanent and temporary residents plus childcare services

A month after its official opening, BC non-profit MOSAIC’s new language centre inside Metropolis at Metrotown Mall has become a busy hub serving more than 300 clients and even their small children. The official opening ceremony was on Mar. 1, 2024, and Burnaby Mayor Mike Hurley and several city councillors attended the event

The entrance of the new MOSAIC language centre in Metropolis at Metrotown mall. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

“This language centre in the heart of Burnaby is a vital new resource, continuing MOSAIC’s amazing work. They help to ease the transition for newcomers so they can connect, contribute, and thrive as a part of our shared community,” Hurley said. 

According to Matthew Levan, senior manager for language programs at MOSAIC, the Burnaby branch had to move out of its North Burnaby location in mid-2023. 

“We used to be in North Burnaby, so we were right across from the Brentwood mall, I think, since 2011,” he said. “We were one of the last low-rise buildings in that area. They were looking to develop that area, so we had to find a new home.” 

MOSAIC moved out of the North Burnaby location in August 2023, and all activities went online from September 2023 to January 2024. 

Instructors’ meeting room and a wall with photos of clients and staff. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

“We’ve got an amazing online learning platform that we can use with our students. The Burnaby centre went online for about four or five months,” Levan said. 

Levan told the Beacon that when MOSAIC took over the new location, which comprised several rooms all along the office galleria on the mall’s top floor, one housed a dental office, and the rest were unused office spaces. 

“It was a long renovation process,” he said. “We finished all of the licensing for electrical and plumbing around January.” He added that in February, they completed the child-minding licensing. 

During renovations, instructors tried maintaining some in-person activities by renting out community rooms in the library and mall. They even conducted some classes outdoors in the park. 

Levan said the new location has been a great hit with both staff and students. 

“Clients have been really appreciating the ability to multitask while they are coming to our sites. Our clients live such busy lives, and being able to do your grocery shopping and then come to class, or do all the shopping for your children right after your class.” He called it a “real game-changer” for a lot of clients, some of whom have just arrived in Canada and are still finding their way around. 

Other advantages include the location’s proximity to the Metrotown SkyTrain station and bus hub, making it convenient for transit users, and the 3,000 parking spaces under the mall for clients who drive to the location. 

Alison Heath, manager of MOSAIC Burnaby Language Centre, said staff also love the new location. The mall offers unique opportunities to connect with the community, such as during the Lunar New Year celebrations. 

Alison Heath, manager of the MOSAIC Burnaby language centre. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

In addition to the convenient location offering clients the opportunity to shop and access services such as ICBC, the post office, dentists, doctors, and even recreational facilities nearby, MOSAIC offers free child-minding services with trained early childhood educators from Burnaby Family Life. Parents enrolled in the Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) program for permanent residents can access the childcare services free of charge. Heath said that 12-14 children are in the space every day. 

“All of the classes are equipped with accessible entrances. We also designed the rooms so that there’s space and freedom for people to move freely and comfortably if they’re using a mobility device in the classroom,” Heath said. “In addition to that, we also have staff on the MOSAIC team who also work with clients and families to really understand what the accessibility issues are for each particular client.” 

Heath said MOSAIC is dedicated to supporting learners’ needs, whether related to physical mobility, hearing or sight, or any other support the clients need. The organization tries to accommodate each client’s needs as much as possible.  

One of the adult classrooms at MOSAIC Burnaby in Metrotown. Photo: Lubna El Elaimy

“It’s a learning journey for us as an organization and we work with each individual that comes through the doors. Each person who comes here has a unique experience in the world regarding either the combination of neurodiversity along with other accessibility challenges that they’re facing. So it requires a very tailored and nuanced approach to each individual,” she said. “These are real human beings with real human complexity that we need to honour and learn with them what’s needed to support them in their learning.” 

Classes are designed to provide learners with the language skills to navigate daily life in Burnaby. Instructors often take students on field trips to the library and recreational centre, and they host nurses and other speakers to give presentations during class. One key element of language Heath mentioned is teaching the language of mental health and self-expression. Instructors equip learners with the language to express their feelings and struggles, helping them access the necessary health services. 

“For those of us who have worked in the settlement field for a long time, we’re very well aware that mental health is something that everyone experiences and if you’re a newcomer, you may experience more challenges related to your mental health because of the disruption you experience in moving away and not having belonging and connection in the new place,” Heath said. “We want to make sure that our learners are treated with respect and dignity, and that they have the language to support their mental health and wellbeing.”

This piece was made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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