London

London agency helps newcomers cope with Air Show

London's Cross Cultural Learner Centre is reaching out to its clients in an effort to prevent fear and trauma during this weekend's air show. The agency supports newcomers to the city, often from war torn countries.

Loud jets and fighter planes can be traumatic to people who have fled war

(Cpl. Marc-André Gaudreault/DND/Canadian Press)

London's Cross Cultural Learner Centre (CCLC) is reaching out to its clients in an effort to prevent fear and trauma during this weekend's airshow. The agency supports newcomers to the city, often from war torn countries. 

"It can bring back a lot of traumatic events that happened in the lives of our clients in their previous countries," said Rifat Hussain, the settlement manager at CCLC. "A lot of times, just the noise of the planes, especially if they're fighter planes, would send them into this panic mode and send them into survivor mode and they go into the closest place where they can hide themselves and their families."

The weekend airshow features a wide range of aircraft, including fighter jets. One of them is the supersonic CF-188 Hornet, popularly known as the CF-18. Its twin engines generate enough thrust to lift 24 full-size pick-up trucks off the ground, according to the website for the London Airshow. 

A number of years ago, staff at CCLC realized just how scary the aircraft can be for newcomers. 

"We were trying to get ahold of a client for a couple of days," said Hussain. "It wasn't until we had to go in and see them that we found them in a very frightened situation."

That was the beginning of staff educating themselves about the airshow and the effects of fighter jets soaring through London skies had on newcomers. 

"We take these things for granted," said Hussain about a show that she has always known as a family friendly event. Instead, clients told CCLC staff that they thought they were being attacked because it was what they heard back home. 

Now, the agency calls its clients to inform them about the airshow and reassure them that it's safe. Clients also have the contact information for workers on-call in the event that the airshow triggers a problem or crisis. 

Organizers of the event acknowledge it's dubbed the 'loudest show in town' with its array of military aircraft.

But, the chair of the board, Jim Graham, would like people to recognize the airshow highlights what Canada has to offer the world when there is war.

"What we are doing is showcasing the capabilities of the folks we're putting on the front line to go over and help out in those conflicts," said Graham. "The folks are going to be able to see the teams, the crews that will be going to the next zone of conflict to bring peacekeeping or whatever enforcement is required to settle international relations."

Ultimately, Hussain encourages newcomers to attend the show to see it for themselves and even get to know the people who are flying the planes.

But, there's no pressure, said Hussein. 

 "What we think is normal may not be normal for somebody else until they are ready for it to be normal."