|WESTMOUNT PARK STUDENTS PRESENT WELCOME CARDS TO SYRIAN REFUGEES|
MONTREAL, MAY 5, 2016- What started out as an assembly that promoted peace and prosperity at Westmount Park Elementary School earlier this year, evolved into a project that produced hand-made greeting cards that helped welcome a group of newly-arrived young refugees to Montreal from Syria in a spirit of friendship, hope, acceptance and inclusion.
The brief ceremony took place on April 30 at Vanier College in St. Laurent, during the weekly Saturday morning French tutoring program that the group of child refugees regularly participate in at Vanier.
“When the students learned at the assembly about how children get uprooted during conflict situations, it helped to motivate and inspire them,” said Westmount Park Spiritual and Community Animator Gladys Batten, who initiated the greeting card project. “They wanted to share messages of welcome with these young Syrian refugees, so that they can be happy and safe, and that they can find a good life.”
The 70 greeting cards of various sizes – which were produced by a number of groups that were made up of the school’s entire student population -- were presented to the child refugees by two Westmount Park student representatives, Grade 6 students Victoria Lee and Colin Pasian-Rozahegy. Colin told the group of young refuges about what Canadian school life is all about, and how the student population comes from diverse multi-cultural backgrounds, while Victoria related her story of how she arrived in Canada from her native South Korea at the age of 8 not knowing how to speak English or French, and assured them that Canada is a safe and happy place to live.
Also present at the ceremony was Narod Odabasiyan, Director of Hay Doun, a local organization that is currently supporting 1,500 newly-arrived Syrian refugees by helping them integrate into Canadian society, find them jobs, and aid them with the many challenges that are associated with the process of settling in their new homes. Hay Doun welcomed Westmount Park’s greeting card project when it was suggested to them by Ms. Batten.
“A gesture like this tells these child refugees that they are not alone and that there are other people like them,” said Ms. Odabasiyan. “I hope that this will develop into something further and when these Syrian children will read these cards, they will in turn make their own cards and write their own messages as a way of thanking what the Westmount Park students have done for them.”
Michael J. Cohen