The kids trickle in to the space at the Regina Open Door Society and immediately go for the drums, and start working on a beat.
RODS is a hub for all kinds of integration services for refugees and immigrants in Regina. But it's clear the large conference room doesn't normally feature a dozen drums and a table full of instruments from all over the world, and the set of hoops meant for telling stories through Indigenous dance.
The instruments and the kids are there for a program called Building Bridges, meant to bring together Indigenous and newcomer youth to learn basic theatre skills, and to learn about one another.
Creating a community
Kristy Apodaca is one of the two facilitators encouraging the teens and tweens in beating the drums.
"We're trying to create a community and connect youth from our new Canadian side to our First Nations part of what makes up Regina and Saskatchewan," she said, adding that the kids are using music, dance and theatre to learn about one another. "We're getting more tuned into connecting with one another; and connecting is what it's all about."
"I treat people fair because if we peel our skin and we check our insides, we'd all be the same" - Fazon, 9
All month they've been sharing stories, taking part in workshops, and last week they headed to the Newo Yotina Friendship Centre to learn about the hoop dance from champion Cree dancer Terrance Littletent.
On Saturday afternoon, they'll take to the stage and share a performance at Campbell Collegiate.
"Those five significant teachings [behind the hoop dance] are to watch, to listen, to learn, to respect and to love," said co-facilitator Chancz Perry. "And we ask them how we can build bridges between new immigrants and refugees, First Nations and other people who are living in this community."
Scripts and lessons from the performers
Both instructors say the kids answered with plans about how to show their new multicultural skills and teachings to a theatre audience.
Mohammed, 13, and his brother Fazon, 9, say they've learned a lot about other cultures while they worked on their performance skills.
"I'm also learning how to treat people nice, and what to do if someone else is treating someone bad," Fazon said. "So I think it's pretty cool and it helps a lot of people... I treat people fair because if we peel our skin and we check our insides, we'd all be the same."
'It doesn't matter who you play with'
Hailey, 11, said her group is working on a scene about racism.
"We come in and they're playing hide-and-seek, and we ask them if we can play hide and seek but they say no because we're not the same race as them," she said. "Basically, it doesn't matter who you play with. It shouldn't matter on what colour they are."
Mohammed says sometimes it can be harder for adults to learn the same lessons they're sharing in their performance.
"They've been thinking that bullying, stereotypes, racism is all part of growing up, so they accept it. Without society allowing it, it wouldn't happen."
The students will share their performance Saturday, Feb. 25, at Campbell Collegiate in Regina at 4 p.m. CST.