Syrian refugees: Newcomers take to the ice in Windsor, Ont.
'This is my first time being on skates. Today is very nice, but other days are cold'
Embracing the cold by lacing up a pair of skates and hitting the ice is one of Canada's proudest traditions.
At an outdoor rink in Windsor, Ont., about 40 of Canada's newest residents from Syria got to join in.
All Saints Anglican Church has been offering free skating lessons on the outdoor rink at Windsor's city hall since 2008. They take to the ice on Saturday mornings in January and February.
With help from the Syrian Canadian Council of Windsor, they were able to hook up with students, fitting them for helmets, teaching them to tie their skates up tight and most important — how to get back up after falling down.
"I'm happy, but I can't skate," 10-year-old Haman Jerab said through an interpreter. "This is my first time being on skates. Today is very nice, but the other days are cold."
"It started off as something for the kids, [but] the moms are even more excited," says Lina Chaker, who is with the Syrian Canadian Council.
She's been working with refugee families living in two downtown hotels. She thought up the idea of the skating lessons after seeing the kids getting restless.
About 20 volunteers came out to offer skating lessons and to act as interpreters for the kids.
Andalieb Abu-Zahra was one of those teachers. Her mom attends All Saints and her dad Hakam helped interpret.
"That's the hardest part of the job, picking them up," Andalieb said. "They're really eager to learn, they watch because language is a bit of a barrier. But I see the kids watching what I'm doing and what I'm saying."
The church started with six pairs of used skates 25 years ago. Its collection is now "well over 1,000 skates."