Think back to your very first camp experience. What were you most excited for? Making new friends, trying something new for the first time, or maybe even just a change of scenery for the week?
Last week, with the help of Humanity First’s Syrian Resettlement Project and generous funding support provided by Manulife, 30 new Canadian children aged four to 15, got to live out their own first Canadian camp experience at Harbourfront Centre – all at no cost to their families.
“Refugee children have faced difficult times before arriving to Canada,” said Dr. Aslam Daud, volunteer chair of Humanity First and Manulife employee. “Initiatives like March Break Camps are important for faster integration into the Canadian fabric.”
Aimed at creating positive childhood experiences for Syrian children who have faced extreme tragedy at a young age, the Camps initiative was a way for these new Canadians to kick-start their new life in Canada.
And did they ever.
Taking part in camps ranging from Dance to Mixed Media Arts, Young Builders to Musical Explorations, the young campers got right into the nitty-gritty of learning new things, gaining confidence in their new homeland and most importantly – making new friends.
“I liked how the staff mixed the Canadian children with the Syrian children. They got to work together and had lots of fun participating in activities together. It was a great way to integrate them into Canadian society,” said parent Darin Yousef.
And while the Camps initiative was about fostering new experiences for the children in Canada, it also proved to be a reunion of sorts for old friends.
“My boys loved meeting all their Syrian friends that they had been separated from. [Camp] was a great way to reunite all the Syrian children so that they can learn more about Canada together,” said parent Hoda Almisri.
But for some parents it was the simple things that mattered most.
“Seeing my children learn new skills, integrating with Canadian culture and other Canadians and learning English really was the best part [of the Camps experience],” said parent Kassim Hussein.