Kensington seniors get worldly with immigrant project

A seniors group in Kensington invited immigrants from five different countries for a lunch and learn.

Group researched countries and met with immigrants to P.E.I. over the past 2 months

The Kensington Senior Surfers with Farahnaz Rezaei (far right) from Kuwait who is a Settlement officer with ImmigrationPEI and Lisa Dollar with PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada. (Submitted by Lisa Dollar)

There is a lot of chatter and laughter coming from the clubhouse where the Kensington Senior Surfers are meeting.

Along one wall are what look like science or heritage fair projects that display pictures of foreign flags and food. It's a show and tell of the group's project all about different cultures.

"Well I was looking at the Grade 6 curriculum," said former teacher Ruby Cousins. "There was a page that listed the top nationalities on P.E.I. from the 2006 census. All these people live on P.E.I.! How are we going to know them?"

With funding from the New Horizons for Seniors Program, the group researched and met with immigrants to P.E.I. over the past two months.

Cousins tracked down Lisa Dollar with the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers. "She was really excited about the project and introduced us to such lovely people," Cousins said.

Louise Weeks, Lois Brown and Ruby Cousins are members of the Kensington Senior Surfers. They spent the winter learning about and meeting people from other cultures. (Karen Mair )

Lois Brown, president of the Senior Surfers, worked with two others on a story board about Palestine.

"We learned about their customs and food and we met two Palestinians who live in Charlottetown, it was really interesting," Brown said.

The group also researched and met with immigrants from China, Iran, India, Kuwait and Nepal.

"I had never met someone from China before," Louise Weeks said. "Women in general don't have the same privileges as we do and aren't looked upon the same way."

Business analyst Amit Jena spoke to the Kensington Senior Surfers about his home country India. (Submitted by Lisa Dollar.)

She added their Chinese guest was beautiful, very well-spoken and well-educated. And the food?

"It's not what we have at the Chinese restaurant," she laughed, "but the dumplings were quite tasty."

Weeks co-ordinated the New Horizons project, which also paid for some renovations to the building. 

"I think the thing that came out for me is the freedom that they enjoy," Cousins said of the people they met who've come to Canada.

'Our country is changing'

"Our country is changing with all these new people coming in," Weeks said, "it's wrong not to accept them, one time we were the new people too."

Brown adds that they've seen waves of newcomers before, such as "in 1946 and '47 there were boatloads of people coming to Canada, including a lot of war brides."

Shirley Li from China shared food and information with the seniors. She's a community care worker and volunteer. (Submitted by Lisa Dollar. )

Weeks said getting to know newcomers is easier if you live in a city so the event was a good experience for the group.

"We're from the country, it's different for people living in Charlottetown," Weeks said. "When I went to Prince of Wales College [the former UPEI] that's the first time I saw Lebanese people. Now UPEI wouldn't exist without foreign students."

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About the Author

Karen Mair is an award-winning journalist and an 'Islander by choice.' Since 1986 she's worked as a host, producer, reporter and social media presenter. These days, you'll find Karen reporting for digital and radio.