The Central Alberta Refugee Effort, or CARE, is helping refugees like Sali Noori adapt to their new lives in Canada.

“I feel very proud of myself, and my children,” said Noori.

Noori is a refugee from Iraq, and has been living in Red Deer for three years. Thanks to a new pilot project in the city, she’s able take ESL classes while her children are looked after.

“It has helped me a lot, because it's made me talk with the Canadian people and learn about their culture,” she said.

Overwhelming demand at CARE for English as a Second Language classes combined with their free child care program often means there isn’t enough space for children. CARE staff said as many as many as 60 to 70 low income immigrant families are on their waiting list, because they can’t afford other options for childcare while they’re learning English.

“So for one, to two, to three years - depending on how many children they had who needed spots in childcare - they would be languishing at home without that childcare,” said CARE ESL manager Anna Morgan-Wold.

But, the program will be able to accommodate more families in need.

The pilot project is a partnership between CARE and the Red Deer Child Care society. The society is able to accommodate the children at their facility, while parents take their classes at the CARE office in downtown Red Deer.

“That language need is a really highly felt need, a really important need, a really huge barrier for people to just start participating in their new country,” Morgan-Wold said.

Morgan-Wold explained that while low income refugees get provincial subsidies, it sometimes isn’t enough. A federal grant provided to CARE is helping subsidize the remaining day care fees.

The project started at the beginning of February, and organizers are also seeing the impact it has on the young ones adapting to Canadian life. “We see a cultural exchange when the new children move in, there's a greater acceptance of culture, of different cultures.”

Noori says oftentimes her children also help with her learning, in teaching her new words and phrases. But, the program has also helped her feel more at home, “I am very thankful to be here in Canada with all the kind people.”

So far, six parents and their 10 children have been able to utilize the program, which runs until the end of June. Organizers are hoping to see more federal funding come through in September, so they can continue the program.