Nfld. & Labrador

Syrian families have night of fun at Mount Pearl climbing club

A Mount Pearl company opened its doors to welcome a group of new Syrians to the province.
These twins were part of a group who enjoyed a free evening at Axtion Climb in Mount Pearl on Friday night. (Photo submitted by Susan Flanagan)

A Mount Pearl company opened its doors over the weekend to welcome a group of new Syrians to the province.

On Friday night, 30 extended Syrian families enjoyed a free evening of fun and fitness at Axtion Climb. The group included 61 adults and 82 children, five of whom are babies. 

Axtion owner Ross Squires thought it would be a nice gesture to welcome the new families by providing a safe place for children to have a night of recreation.

Squires said it would also be an opportunity for adults to get together and share stories of their experiences since arriving in the province. 

Thirty extended Syrian families enjoyed a night of fun and fitness on Friday night. (Photo courtesy of Susan Flanagan)

Jose Rivera, the executive director of the Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council (RIAC), says these types of activities are life-changing.

"As a refugee myself, I do recognize the value of a night of warmth and sincere welcome," said Rivera.

"It stays forever. The challenges feel less heavy, the uncertainty does not look so dark, the loneliness is easier to confront knowing that there [are] people that really care, selflessly and honestly. It means the world to us." 

The event was organized by Elena Yehia, a volunteer with Support the Syrian Families in St. John's. Yehia has been providing Arabic translation services for Syrian newcomers.

Axtion Climb owner Ross Squires opened the doors of his business to welcome the new Syrian families. (Photo courtesy of Susan Flanagan)

Kim Shipp, a volunteer with Support the Syrian Families, said so far, the families have settled in nicely.

"The overwhelming response by volunteers has been wonderful," Shipp said.

"The generosity of people reaching out to get apartments outfitted with pots and pans and appropriate furniture, taking people shopping, sightseeing and taking children on play dates — the families are so thankful for all the support they've been shown."

The families are so thankful for all the support they've been shown.- Kim Shipp, volunteer

On Friday night, the Syrian families were shuttled to and from Axtion by volunteers with RIAC, which has been assisting the new Canadians settle into their new lives in St. John's.

In addition to the complimentary evening at Axtion, Natasha Blackwood, youth and community coordinator with RIAC, said the Active Start Gym at the NL Sports Centre has also been a supporter. 

"Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, rugby coach Simon opens the doors to children to encourage active play," she said. About nine families took part in their recent visit to the gym.

Some of Friday's volunteers said the evening could only be described as "pure magic" for the families.