Volunteer group launches summer camp aimed at refugee children

An Ottawa volunteer group is launching a summer camp for recently arrived refugee children so their parents can continue to take language classes.

Most of the 60 spots have been filled by Syrian refugees, organizers say

The Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre is home to a summer camp for Syrian refugee children. (Steve Fischer/CBC)

An Ottawa volunteer group is launching a summer camp for recently arrived refugee children so their parents can continue to take language classes.

The camp, which starts next week, will be run by Proactive Education for All Children's Enrichment, or PEACE. It starts next week, and will provide free programming from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., five days a week. 

The Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre agreed to provide space for the summer camp.

It will take any low-income children from the area, but most of the 60 spots are filled by Syrian children.

Brigitte La Rose, who runs children's programs at the centre, said she thinks the camp is a good way for the Syrian children and other children who are enrolled to interact with and learn from each other.

Brigitte La Rose runs children's programming at the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre. (Steve Fischer/CBC)

"What better way to do it than in a summer camp," La Rose said. 

The program, which will have a staff of six, will take the kids to neighbouring parks, as well as on longer trips with the goal of showing the children all the free activities available in Ottawa.  

Excursions are also being planned to Gatineau Park, Rays Reptiles and local beaches.

Jennifer Graham, a member of an Ottawa South group that recently sponsored a family of Syrian refugees, said PEACE is still looking for sponsors to cover some of its transportation costs, estimated at $7,000.

"We will be taking [the camp's participants] to many of the parks and splash pads and library programming that is all free to anyone. They will get to know what is out there and participate in that," she said.

Graham said the parents of the family her group sponsored have been enrolled in English classes since January. Were it not for the summer camp, one of them would have had to stop the classes to care for their four children during the summer break, she said.

Graham, who is also involved in PEACE, said she didn't want that to happen just when the parents are starting to make progress.

"With language skills, it's definitely one of those use-it-or-lose-it situations," Graham said. "If you are not constantly practicing, they revert back to their native language and they lose it all."
Jennifer Graham stands outside the Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre ,which will soon serve as a summer camp for Syrian refugee children. (Steve Fischer/CBC)

Other groups like the Catholic Centre for Immigrants and Boys and Girls Club are also running summer camps with free spots for Syrian refugee children.  

Refugee 613, the local umbrella group coordinating the integration of Syrian refugees in Ottawa, has put a link on its website showing all of the summer camp programs available.

Most of the camps start next week and run until the end of August.