Vancouver Hawks field hockey club welcomes refugees and immigrants for 125th anniversary
'When i decided to join the club I felt really welcome,' says Canada newcomer
The Vancouver Hawks field hockey club is celebrating its 125th anniversary this week. As part of the celebrations, the club, in collaboration with the YMCA, is hosting an event Monday night to introduce immigrants and refugees to the sport.
The club first partnered with the YMCA Newcomer Program in 2018, according to Hawks club manager Alex Bale. The program offers support to those who are new to Canada, whether it be with language courses or fitness or social programs.
"They have a fantastic program for newcomers ... trying to introduce them to various parts of Canadian society. And we feel field hockey is totally a part of that," Bale told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's The Early Edition.
The Vancouver Hawks have 45 participants through the YMCA newcomer program, some of whom are from South America, Central America and Iran.
Mayra Alvarez moved to Vancouver from Guatemala in 2014. When she heard of the YMCA's programs for immigrants, she joined up. Alvarez participated in a Vancouver Hawks field hockey newcomer event last year. She had never played the game before.
"It was hard for me starting my life in Canada, because I didn't speak English, I didn't have friends and no job," said Alvarez.
"So when i decided to join the club, I felt really welcome because all the members are really friendly, nice and really good people. They made me feel proud of myself and I felt part of the community."
Popular, but unknown sport
Bale says that while many Vancouverites may not be familiar with field hockey, there's still a huge community in Surrey, Vancouver and West Vancouver who play regularly. The public just might not see it all the time.
"It's not a widely known sport here, but it is in a lot of countries," said Bale. "So, the YMCA immigrant program is a natural fit just to reach out to [the community]."
The Vancouver Hawks have more than 1,000 members. There are teams for juniors, men, women and seniors. There are three Olympians in the club, all of which went to the Rio de Janeiro games in 2016 for field hockey.
The event for newcomers is Monday night from 5 to 8 p.m. It's open to the public and takes place at Eric Hamber Field in Vancouver.
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With files from The Early Edition.