Syrian refugees boost enrolment at Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth camp

A Calgary summer camp for kids new to Canada is in high demand this year, largely due to an influx of refugees from Syria.

Number of kids surges 31% this year

Rodney Noel is a camp co-ordinator with the Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth. (Allison Dempster/CBC)

A Calgary summer camp for kids new to Canada is in high demand this year, largely due to an influx of refugees from Syria.

The Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth said it's been inundated with calls and has had to turn some children away.

Last year, 445 children were enrolled in the day camp. Of the 585 kids enrolled this year, 128 are Syrian refugees.

The Bridge Foundation helps subsidize camp costs for low-income families.

"The Syrian refugee children that have been here just about a year will not pay at all," said Umashanie Reddy, the foundation's executive director.

Camp co-ordinator Rodney Noel says simple things, like a soccer game on a sunny day, take on more meaning for kids at the camp.

"Being able to just go and play and be kids will make a huge difference on these kids' lives because of where they came from," Noel said.

Building skills, learning community

The camp also aims to help kids build social skills and learn about their community.

"We did a scavenger hunt with the junior high group downtown during Stampede, so they can get to know the city and learn how to use Calgary Transit," he said.

"They [the camp kids from Syria] will be teaching kids Arabic and the kids will be teaching them English and they just work hand in hand, together, in order to learn and find out different ways to understand each other."

"Sometimes you don't need the language to show someone they're welcome into Canada," Noel added.

Fifteen-year-old Alan Dan-Adokiene has been attending the summer camps ever since he came to Calgary from Nigeria about five years ago.

"I think I've learned to respect myself and respect others," said Dan-Adokiene.

Alan Dan-Adokiene, 15, has been attending Calgary Bridge Foundation for Youth summer camps since he came to Alberta from Nigeria about five years ago. (Allison Dempster/CBC)