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The Beautiful Ladies Class – English Learning After 55

TORONTO, ON — At 55, Linda knows how to speak her mind – in Mandarin and English. This summer Newcomer Women’s Services Toronto (NEW) launched a English Learning class (previously LINC) for seniors. It is the first women only senior-specific English class in Toronto and builds on NEW’s seniors programs in St. James Town and Teesdale.

“I want to become a role model for my family because I want them to know that one can learn throughout one’s life,” Linda says proudly.

Each of the eight women attend the program for a different reason, but they all enjoy the conversation and sense of community that they’ve found in class. The class fulfills an urgent need for the rapidly growing population of immigrant seniors in the east end of Toronto. Funded by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, ELP classes provide recently arrived seniors with a comfortable environment where they can share their experiences, talk to women at a similar stage in life, and improve their language skills.

Though all of the women are over 55, they say they are “twenty-five at heart, like the sun that is always rising”. Sitting down with the self-proclaimed ‘Beautiful Ladies Class’, it’s very easy to see why.

Linda explains, “Beautiful is not just the face, but knowledge and belief in yourself”. They are a fun-loving group and they had plenty of jokes for us while we were there. Teacher Olga Khellebust notes, “If you hear laughter, it’s probably my class!”

After only three months together they are a tight knit family. Some of the women cried as they shared the hardships they faced as newcomers and their stories of isolation in Canada. Chang, an immigrant from China, credits their teacher for her support. Daily lessons include heated discussions about elder abuse, healthcare resources, and information about Canadian culture. However, Ms. Khellebust insists that she learns a lot about life, international cuisine, and other cultures from her students.

Gladys, a Colombian mother of two, said that when she arrived in Canada, she couldn’t speak English, but now she can communicate with her children’s teacher and her doctor. Gladys said, “I feel like I can make progress HERE.” “I asked the doctor, do you understand me?” He said, “Yeah, I understand”.

NEW runs women-only English Language Program daily from 9:30 am – 2:30 pm at Pape & Danforth. For more information please contact Cynthia Ding at 416-469-0196 or

By Aisha Wilks, NEW summer staff


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