Syrian refugees on P.E.I. to be treated to international welcome

Some special guests have been invited to P.E.I.'s first International Tea House of 2016 this Saturday: Syrian refugees.

'Just be inspired, learn, and grow at the same time as they are growing in our community on P.E.I.'

Parshu Giri & Anju Subba performing at a P.E.I. international tea gouse in a 2013 YouTube video. (YouTube)

With so many newcomers from Syria in the province, the International Tea House on Saturday couldn't come at a better time for Islanders interested in understanding new cultures.

Syrian refugees have been invited to the first tea house of 2016 at the Jack Blanchard Family Centre on Pond Street in Charlottetown from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. The event is free and wheelchair accessible. 

Isabelle Dasylva-Gill with the International Friendship Society wants to show Syrian refugees 'they have a place.' (

"It's a great opportunity to show them that we are a diverse community … that they have a place, and also that we want to discover their own culture," said Isabelle Dasylva-Gill, a board member with the International Friendship Association, which hosts the tea houses.

A special lineup has been planned to introduce the Syrians to P.E.I. culture, said Ratna Rajapaksa, the tea house co–ordinator. The evening will begin with Mi'kmaq prayers, followed by Celtic step dancing, line dancing, Korean singing and East Indian food, as well as door prizes and crafts.

CBC Radio Mainstreet host Karen Mair is also a special guest speaker. 

The tea houses have featured food, entertainment and information about different cultures on the Island for more than 20 years — two decades during which P.E.I. has become much more diverse, thanks to immigration from countries including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bhutan, China and now Syria. 

"Just think of it as a huge potluck," said Dasylva-Gill.

"It's not only food — it's potluck of the outfits, the culture, the dancing, the music."

The showcase of rich cultures that now call P.E.I. home can be an eye-opener for those who haven't experienced one of their tea houses, Dasylva-Gill said.

"It's a cultural mosaic that actually helps people to get together and discover about other cultures and just about other people that are actually our neighbours," she said. 

"Just be inspired, learn, and grow at the same time as they are growing in our community on P.E.I."

The friendship association will hold four tea houses this winter

Listen to Mainstreet on CBC Radio from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays. 

With files from Karen Mair


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