In 1996, 26 year-old Burmese native Naing Soe sought asylum in Vancouver when he left a refugee camp in Thailand. With a limited English proficiency and faced with the challenge of adjusting to a new culture, Soe had a tough road ahead of him. With the help from multiple immigrant programs, he was encouraged to enroll in Adult Ed at South Hill Education Centre.
Once enrolled, Soe's journey didn't get any easier. He says the learning curve was steep. One of the courses he struggled with the most was his communications class. But the self-pace model helped keep him from becoming overwhelmed and gradually he was able to make significant progress in his studies.
"Communication was difficult," says Soe. "I spent countless hours in the learning centre where instructors were always available for help. In fact, they encouraged me to ask for help."
When his English skills improved thanks to his teachers' continuous support, he featured one of his English essays in South Hill's Signature magazine. Seeing his own words in print was particularly special, he says.
Another opportunity that came Soe's way during his time at South Hill was the chance to work as an assistant in the centre's registration desk. The volunteer position was helpful because it helped Soe gain important social, organizational and leadership skills.
On August 1998, Soe's efforts paid off big time. He graduated successfully from his courses and pursued IT post-secondary education. Today, he is Project Leader of IT Application Systems at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
He says the skills and values he was taught at Adult Ed continue to enrich his personal and professional life.
Last year, Soe and his close friend Rod Germain, cycled 5,800 kilometres across Canada and raised $250,000 for health care for Burmese people on the Thai-Burma border. Soe is also an active member of Just Aid, an overseas organization that advocates for democracy and human rights in Burma.
"Adult Ed staff and instructors were able to reinforce within me the values of respect, love, commitment and motivation," says Soe. "We also never forgot to laugh and have fun throughout my learning journey."
To learn more the centres offering Adult Ed or to register, click here.