Newcomer and Canadian-born kids gather for day of sports
More than 500 kids take part in Newcomer Youth Education Support Services Coalition's sports day
Hundreds of kids from the city's refugee and immigrant community joined Canadian-born kids for a day of sports in downtown Winnipeg Friday.
The gathering at the University of Winnipeg's Axworthy Health and RecPlex is part of the Newcomer Youth Education Support Services Coalition summer camp programs, and saw more than 500 kids from around the world taking part.
The kids come from four separate six-week camps the coalition puts on, which see newcomers and refugees join kids born in Canada to keep up with their studies while on summer break.
That's especially important for kids who are just learning English, says Gbassay Koroma, a peer mentor at one of the camps.
"The summer period is where you start to fall off and you get behind so it was just a way to get them caught up to the other students and just to keep them speaking English because most of them at home, they won't speak English," explained Koroma.
"If you go two months without English, and then you go back to school you will be a bit behind, so we just keep them speaking English and keep them ahead."
Learning through the summer
While most days of the camp are spent learning academics — math, science, English and social studies — they also do dance, sports and take field trips.
Friday was the coalition's sports day which saw all four camps meet up for a day of fun.
"The kids love to be here because of social connections, they see their friends, they are playing, they are learning, we serve food, and they stay away from the TV," said Paul Kambaja, who works with kids at another of the coalition's camps.
"We also want to promote integration, between the refugee communities, the immigrant communities and the Canadian kids."
Another goal of the camps, says Kambaja, is to work to transition the kids from being participants to volunteers and eventually to staff members.
It's a process Koroma knows well.
The 18-year-old first got involved with the camps in 2004 as a participant after having moved here from Sierra Leone.
Koroma was going in Grade 1 at the time and says he spoke French but very little English.
He credits the camps with helping him adjust to life in Canada and make lifelong friendships.
"Some of the newcomers they struggle a little making friends because where they are from," he said.
"Then they come, kids invite them into their friend groups and they make new friends and you just see a community start to grow, and it's always amazing to see."
Friendships were being made Friday too.
Irene Henein, 10, moved to Canada from Egypt when she was seven and has been involved in the camp for the last two years.
She spent the day Friday with her friend Jannah Bardina, 11, who moved to Canada from the United Arab Emirates in 2015 and Khalila Hamoud, 9, who was born in Canada.
All three have become friends through the camps.
"Making new friends from other countries is like seeing different people around the world," said Hamoud, who is starting Grade 5 this fall.
Henein, who will be going into Grade 6 this year, agrees.
"It's actually fun to get known to other people," she said.
"We all have different cultures and we all look from different sides."
The non-profit camps are completely free for kids and operate with help from provincial and federal funding as well as grants and donations.
With files from Jillian Taylor