After months of searching, the Arab community in Fredericton has a place to take Arabic classes in comfort.
Ray Hubble, the regional director of the Fredericton campus of New Brunswick Community College, read a CBC article about a community in Fredericton trying to find classroom space to teach Arabic and thought he could help.
After a two months of meeting with Arab community representatives, they reached a deal. Students can use empty classrooms on the weekends and they will split the costs.
"[It's] not just attracting students to study with us, but also to welcome newcomers into our space," he said. "So first and foremost hoping that they are feeling welcome and part of our community here in Fredericton, that was the primary motivator.
"I was really looking for a win-win."
The Arab community in Fredericton had outgrown the small mosque on Lincoln road where children used to take Arabic classes and study the Qu'ran. So they started a non-profit organization called the Arabic Culture Centre and began collecting donations to fund a space.
Abdel Fahim, the organization's president, said he was surprised to get Hubble's call in July.
"I need to [applaud] this generous support from Mr. Ray Hubble and all the management, actually," he said. "I appreciate it and give all kinds of thanks."
Since the classes began at NBCC in September, Fahim said they've gone from four classes to six.
"So it's been going very well," he said. "The average enrolment now is 120. We made a special class for Arabic non-speakers ... so this includes Canadian and South African and all of the other nationalities who are interested in learning the Arabic language."
Hubble said he can't say how much NBCC is covering, but he said the Arab community is in charge of paying for insurance.
Fahim said all the teachers are volunteers, so the cost to the students is about $10 a month. The classes are mainly aimed at school-age children who want to learn basic Arabic grammar and how to speak the formal language.
"We just charge the expenses that might be needed towards the books and something like this," he said.
Fahim said it's important for newcomers and people who have lived in New Brunswick for many years to be able to maintain their language and culture, while still speaking English in school and among their friends.
"It's really very comfortable to all the students," he said. "Even the students are very happy to come attend the classes in a nice building like this."
Hubble said the agreement is for one year. Before it expires they will revisit the conditions with the goal of continuing for many years.
"They've shared lots of pictures with us and kids seem quite happy and adult leaders seem quite engaged," he said. "There's lots of room for the kids, they've had minimal impact on the facility, they're extremely respectful and leave the classroom clean and tidy."