Nova Scotia

Syrian refugees keep busy at Halifax rec centres while waiting for homes

The municipality of Halifax and the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia is organizing daily activities for government-assisted Syrian refugees while they wait for permanent homes.

Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia organizes daily activities

Twenty Syrian refugees play ball at Chocolate Lake Recreation Centre Tuesday (CBC)

The municipality of Halifax and the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia are organizing daily activities for government-assisted Syrian refugees while they wait for permanent homes. 

"We need to get them out, they need to be kids," said Gerry Mills, director of operations for the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia. 

"In the mornings, we have some more structured play for them. But in the afternoons, we are trying to get them out to different places in the community."

There are 128 refugees currently staying in a hotel in the city while they wait for permanent homes, including 67 children under the age of 12. Some families have been living in the hotel for 10 days.

Mills said all 128 should be moved into permanent homes within a week. 

Dana Malli, 18, arrived in Halifax from Jordan seven days ago. On Tuesday, she was at the Chocolate Lake Recreation Centre creating wall art with felt. But her biggest impression of Nova Scotia is the weather. 

"It's very cold!" said Malli. "Yeah it's very cold, but it's beautiful." 

Every day, ISANS has co-ordinated activities for the families, which include a variety of sports and crafts at the city's recreation centres.

The activities are aimed at introducing newcomers to what the city has to offer and give them a chance to meet community groups. 

"Most of the people that came in had really just been in town for one or two days," said recreation centre artist facilitator Heather Wilkinson. "So they were so brave to come."

Wilkinson said the best thing about art as an activity is that it doesn't require language. 

"You don't need to speak," she said. "You can be sitting next to somebody side by side, and see what they're doing, you can point, you can use your fingers to gesture, you can demonstrate without needing words."

The activities are expected to continue as another 120 immigrants will arrive this week. 

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