Newcomers celebrate Family Day in true Canadian style: snowshoeing
Event organized by Costi Immigrant Services to help recent immigrants forget about difficulty of starting over
Family Day took on a special meaning Monday for dozens of recent immigrants and refugees, as they celebrated the holiday for the first time with other newcomers in true Canadian style: by snowshoeing.
Most have only been in the country for a few weeks, and some remain separated from their families overseas.
"I love it so far!" said Ahmad Alsaadi. The 22-year-old came to Canada two months ago and he's warming up to Canadian winters.
"I grew up in Saudi Arabia and it's like a desert and so hot so it's totally different for me here."
Alsaadi arrived in Toronto on his own, but speaks with his family almost daily, which helps keep him from feeling homesick. Alsaadi is completing high school and hopes to go on to post secondary to study engineering and information technology.
He's one of 52 refugees and newcomers from countries including Iran, Syria, Iraq and Ethiopia who celebrated Family Day together by experiencing snowshoeing for the first time.
Raheeq Al Janabi, 23, left her home in Turkey two weeks ago. She has enjoyed snow in Turkey, but nothing like Toronto. She was eager to strap on her snowshoes.
"It is very cold, but it is not freezing," she said. "It is very nice."
For organizer Mirna El Sabbagh, manager with Costi Immigrant Services, this event helps refugees feel connected to their new home.
"Because they are really keen to start integrating in their new communities, they want to try things that are new and snowshoeing is new," she said. "It helps them forget about all of the stress and breathe the fresh air."
El Sabbagh said these outings help new immigrants forget about the paperwork and decisions that go along with starting life over in a new place.
El Sabbagh understands what new immigrants are feeling. She's been organizing trips like this for the past two years, since she arrived in Canada as a newcomer from Lebanon.