A centre that could be the site of many success stories was unveiled Tuesday.
The Rabbittown Learners program announced it was going to receive funding for a revamped computer centre last June, and it’s already ahead of the goal it set.
In fact, the man who cut the ribbon to open the centre has already completed the computer program and is now working towards an adult basic education certificate so he can move on to further education at Academy Canada.
Ibraham Alsalloum was proud to open the centre and celebrate his achievement.
He moved to St. John’s from Syria three years ago and has worked hard to be a success for his wife and children since.
He said life is different in St. John’s — particularly the cold and snow, which his family didn’t experience in Syria.
“I was working as a plumber there, and a few other odd jobs,’’ he said.
“To work here, you need a certificate,” he added, noting the computer centre benefits everyone in the program.
Alsalloum works at Dollarama and said the things he has learned about computers has helped him at work; understanding how they operate makes his life a lot simpler.
“When I got to the program, I found it difficult. But I got some great help and worked hard and now I can do a lot of things on the computer,’’ he said. “If you have the basics, the rest is easy.”
The Rabbittown Learners Program is a basic literacy program that offers upgrading for people wishing to advance to the Grade 6 level of education in order to improve their chances for employment or move on to higher education.
While there is no minimum level of education required to enter the program, new Canadians must pass the Level 5 Canadian language benchmark.
“I was so happy when I got here. I didn’t know anything at that time,’’ Alsalloum said.
“Being here at the centre helped me to study, and I can help my children. Technology is great and it is important for everyone to learn it."
The support of the Sisters of Mercy and Presentation Sisters, along with the emergence of a new benefactor through the United Way of Newfoundland and Labrador, was pivotal in Rabbittown being able to upgrade its computer system.
Both organizations pledged $10,000 each.
Now the centre has are seven new computers with the latest software, including a reading component in case a student gets stuck on a word. All they do is highlight the word and the computer gives them the pronunciation.
“All the students have a chance to get on the computers here and work their way up to new computer skills,’’ said Doris Barrington, chair of the Rabbittown Learners Program.
“To have both organizations come on board with us to get this up and running will only help further advance the participants in this program in their futures,’’ she added.
The adult basic education program has been offered by Rabbittown Learners for the past 30 years with a great amount of community assistance, volunteers and staff who have helped forge futures for the hundreds of people who have gone through the program.
Skills taught include communication, math, science, social studies, government law, workplace, computers and consumer education.
History of the program
The Rabbittown Learners Program was established in 1988 in response to a neighbourhood in great need, and financial support was received from the federal Department of Employment and Immigration. The mandate was to provide social and development support to people living in Rabbittown.
The co-founders of the program were Shirley Hickey and Francis Ennis. It had its beginnings on 26 Graves St., in a unit provided by Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation.
The purpose of the program was to provide basic academic skills, but more importantly, to provide life skills related to budgeting, meal planning, health and hygiene, employment preparation and social skills.
In the mid and late 1990s the Rabbittown program focus shifted to a more intense academic training program and moved to a larger operating site at Peet Street.
In 1999 the provincial Department of Education certified the program and its teaching staff for an adult basic education program and the program moved to its current location at 21 Merrymeeting Rd.