Written by Catherine Ross, Canadian Camping Association
Recently I had the pleasure of visiting a Syrian family of seven that arrived in Toronto in March 2017 after time spent in Iraq. In two short years, the father has secured full time work in his field as a cook. The mother attends English classes five days a week where her youngest daughter also attends daycare. She has learned to drive and has recently passed her license. The other four children attend school. As well as learning English (which at present they are speaking very well), they are also studying French, thereby adding two new languages to their current fluency in Arabic and Kurdish. I was impressed!
The four older children, ranging in age from five to fourteen, are anxious for winter to end. They are looking ahead excitedly to returning to day camp for a week at the end of August. They are not fond of the cold weather; Nihad told me that he liked camp because “every day there was sun.”
For the past two years the children have experienced camp thanks to the generosity of Seneca: King Day Camp one of the eighty day and overnight Ontario Accredited Camps that are making the experience available to newcomers to Canada at no cost.
The children eagerly talked about their summer experience. For Shahid, canoeing was the best thing. She also described the excitement of rock climbing. “Going up was fun; I made it almost to the top, but I didn’t like going down.” Shahid is excited about the possibility of going to an overnight camp for a week with her school class next year.
Appreciative that the counsellor was responsible for putting the worm on the hook, the three older children went fishing. While the others were unsuccessful, Mohamednour mentioned that he caught three fish. However, he was not particularly excited because he doesn’t like to eat fish! Not a problem ̶ they were all released and thrown back into the lake.
Without a doubt, the best thing about camp for Nihad was soccer. He is an ardent Real Madrid fan. When I told him that my grandson’s favourite team was Arsenal, he grinned and replied, “They are a weak team.”
The first summer, their camp was on a college campus with mostly indoor activities. Last summer they were in an outdoor setting with a lake and woods, which they liked much better. They loved being outdoors swimming in the lake almost every day. Camp has become an important part of a new life in Canada for these children contributing to their feeling of welcome and safety as well as introducing them to exciting new activities.