Imagine moving to a place where you don’t speak the language. Slowly, your native language — words that previously marked every important moment in your life — would begin to fade. This process, called language attrition, is something Nova Scotia newcomers experience every day.
“Language and culture are deeply connected,” says Amy Legate, a registered nurse at Halifax’s Newcomer Health Clinic. “This is one reason language attrition may be a concern for many families. Specifically, if children lose the connection to their first language, they may also lose a connection to their family’s heritage.”
For three years, the Newcomer Health Clinic has collaborated with the speech-language pathology faculty at Dalhousie University’s School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, as well as the North End Community Health Centre, where dental hygienists offer comprehensive health assessments for preschool-aged children. Amy applied for a Comfort and Care grant because of this partnership.
As at-home reading supports the development of vocabulary, narrative and emergent literacy skills, the speech-language pathology team identified potential challenges to be faced if parents did not have books in their first language.
Donors who support QEII Foundation Comfort and Care grants are making a difference for these families, in ways they could not fully appreciate at the time of their donation. The smallest gesture — like offering a book in a child’s first language — can be profound.
“These grants create opportunities to connect with patients. These books promote reading at home,” Amy says. “Families are excited to see books in their first language and are very enthusiastic about sharing the stories with their children.”
Amy sees firsthand the joy that these books bring to patients and families — and even some of her peers.
“One of my colleagues was surprised and excited to see these books in her first language, and immediately asked where we got the book,” she says.
Created in 2014, the Newcomer Health Clinic has grown from four physicians providing care for refugees using donated resources to what it is today, a partnership of the Primary Health Care and Public Health departments of Nova Scotia Health, Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), Halifax Refugee Clinic, and local family physicians.
NHC collaborates with the mutual goal of providing integrated, comprehensive, culturally and language-appropriate primary and preventive health services for refugees and their families during their initial integration in the Halifax area. This multidisciplinary group of professionals helps new Nova Scotians feel at home and get connected to primary care providers.
While these passionate individuals do everything they can to help their patients, donations help bridge the gaps they encounter with limited hospital budgets.
Most recently, the clinic was awarded a QEII Patient Essentials Fund grant. These grants fund gift cards for everyday items, like groceries.
“So many of the families we serve face incredible financial challenges. After paying rent, there’s often very little money left for other expenses,” says Dr. Tim Holland, medical director of the clinic. “Many of our patients have to face the difficult decision of having to pay for their medications or groceries. These gift cards can provide some relief on those difficult decisions. We’re so incredibly appreciative.”