Nfld. & Labrador

Association for New Canadians sending out food hampers to welcome newcomers in tough year

In the cafeteria of the Association for New Canadian's ESL training centre in St. John's sit 100 food hampers, filled with dry goods, a gift card for a grocery store and a drawing by a young artist with a message of hope.

'Welcome to the Neighbourhood' project aims to make things easier for newcomers in what has been a hard year

In the cafeteria of the Association for New Canadian's ESL training centre in St. John's sit 100 food hampers, filled with dry goods, a gift card for a grocery store and a drawing by a young artist with a message of hope.

It's part of a new project called "Welcome to the Neighbourhood," in honour of World Refugee Day, marked by the United Nations annually on June 20 to bring attention to the global plight of refugees and efforts to protect their human rights. 

"It's been a pretty hard year for families that came to St. John's this year with Snowmageddon and COVID-19 — a lot of isolation," said ANC executive director Megan Morris on Friday.

"So we decided that this was a great opportunity on World Refugee Day to send out a welcome basket to people's homes."

Dry goods wait to be packed into hampers as part of the 'Welcome to the Neighbourhood' project in honour of World Refugee Day. (Adam Walsh/CBC)

The hampers — assembled and distributed by volunteers on Friday — are being sent to both government-assisted and privately sponsored refugees who are new to the community. They include culturally appropriate foods that are not always readily available for families. 

Morris said one of the ANC's jobs is to help families with some of the barriers they face. 

"There are language barriers, there's social isolation. There are so many barriers that make it difficult to integrate into your new community."

Megan Morris, executive director of the Association for New Canadians, says with Snowmageddon and the COVID-19 pandemic, it's been a hard time for newcomers. (Adam Walsh/CBC)

Stapled to each of the hampers is a picture drawn by local artist and Grade 9 student Estera Niyera, who arrived in St. John's with her family from Tanzania five years ago.

Her drawing shows a mother and child in two different settings — one a refugee camp and the other a park with big buildings behind it. 

Estera Niyera holds her drawing, commissioned by the ANC for World Refugee Day. Estera starts Grade 10 in the fall and hopes to study art one day. (Adam Walsh/CBC)

On the back of the drawing is a message, in five different languages, which reads, in part: "While you may have arrived to St. John's as a refugee in the past year, you are now our friends, neighbours and colleagues. Please accept this gift from the ANC and the Community Food Centres of Canada as a welcome to the neighborhood!"

Niyera, a former refugee herself, had a message for people on World Refugee Day. 

"Being a refugee is not, like, their choice," she said. "And when they come here they shouldn't be treated differently."

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