NMC-CESI is a student-led educational and humanitarian initiative created by students and faculty at the Department of Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto. Since April 2016, this initiative has served as a springboard for Syrian newcomer youth who need help with language acquisition, are interested in continuing their studies, and are looking for support in their settlement process.

NMC-CESI weekly workshops are unique in their “exchange” principle: UofT students learn Arabic from Syrian newcomers, who learn English from UofT students through worksheets on topics related to Canadian society. Our group of volunteers—over 200 members!—also assist with a range of activities and needs across Toronto, helping sponsors and newcomers to communicate and perform necessary tasks for adjustment to life in Canada.


NMC-CESI’s educational mission is to create a positive learning space and provide educational experiences for newcomer youth and students to grow as individuals, find assistance with language acquisition & writing skills, and exchange knowledge of the culture & history of their lands.

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We aim to provide newcomer youth with not only educational workshops, but also scholarships and support networks that will help them continue their studies and adjust positively to their new lives in Toronto.

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By bringing different communities together to exchange their cultures & experiences, our group endeavors to actively counter Islamophobia, homophobia, and all forms of racism—replacing this negativity with true connection, open exchange, and cultural understanding & belonging.


NMC-CESI is supported by our team of enthusiastic volunteers that share their time and knowledge weekly during the language exchange supported by our executive team. We thank them all for their efforts every week!

Rasha Elendari
PhD Candidate – NMC  – UofT
President / Co-founder 

Robert Martin
PhD – NMC – UofT
Managing director / Public relations / Co-founder.

Zubie Abdul Hakim Taupan
B.A. – Art History + M.A. -NMC – UofT
Vice president

Diala Lteif
PhD Candidate – Geography and Planning – UofT

Matthew Tran
B.A. – UofT

Mosab Al Nomeiry
B.A. – UofT

Ted Killin
MA in Immigration & Settlement Studies – Ryerson
CESI Coordinator for English Language Strategy & Development

Yusef Al-Molieh
B.S. – UofT
Workshop Coordinator for Winter/Spring Term 2020/21