Edmonton summer camp helps Syrian students transition to school in Canada

When you’ve never set foot in a classroom, it can be intimidating to start school. But for nearly 60 Syrian refugee kids, an Edmonton summer camp is hoping to make that first big step a little easier.

“We’re trying to help them transition into the school system in September,” instructor Sumia Abdul Hafidh said.

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    The camp is being held at Glengarry School and is one of nine being held in the City of Edmonton throughout July and August.

    The children learn math, English, science, and life skills.

    “It’s one step up to help me know the basics, like how to reply back to a teacher or how to go to the washroom,” said Mutaz Al Salamat, through a translator.

    “These are the things that the kids naturally do here in Canada,” Abdul Hafidh explained.

    They are also being taught how to play like Canadian kids, through Tug of War, water balloon fights and Dodgeball.

    Transitioning to life in a new country is hard to say the least, but many of these kids’ parents spend their summer trying to learn English themselves or they look for a job. Those with REACH Edmonton, which put on the summer camp, say it’s important for kids to be active in their communities when they aren’t in school, so they aren’t sitting at home.

    “Anything to do with out-of-school time programming in the summer months is crucial,” Lindsay Daniller, director Of Community Initiatives and Strategic Development for REACH Edmonton, said.

    REACH and nine other Edmonton organizations were given $245,000 in funding from Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada. The funding is given out to programs that help Syrian refugees integrate into Canadian communities.

    The programs are intentionally held in neighbourhoods with high numbers of Syrian families, so families don’t have to struggle to find transportation.

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    Most of the instructors speak Arabic to help the students communicate.

    Abdul Hafidh’s parents are from Iraq, and although she said the kids like playing games, many are more interested in learning English.

    “They’re very, very excited to learn the new language,” Abdul Hafidh said.

    One young student, named Rayan Alqadri, told Global News although he enjoys playing, getting an education is more important.

    The four-week program wraps up on August 5.