Summer camp for Syrian refugee children brings mothers together

August 3, 2016

By Sandra Abma, CBC News |

It is everything you’d expect at a summer camp for kids, but the experience might be even more essential for moms.

Syrian children play, sing songs and make crafts at First Avenue Public School in Ottawa’s Glebe neighbourhood — enjoying the care-free experience of a Canadian summer — while their mothers learn a new language and a new way of life.

The strategy aims to involve more Syrian mothers in English-as-a-second-language (ESL) classes and the wider Ottawa community.

Organizers with the Glebe Neighbourhood Activities Group came up with the solution to offer a day camp for children as the women take language training down the hall.

“We were approached by the Ottawa Centre Refugee Action, a group that helps sponsor refugees to Canada, about offering ESL programs particularly for women,” said Mary Tsai of the Glebe group.

“Moms were staying home to take care of their kids … so we came up with an idea, why not just fill the void completely and offer a camp for the entire family, that the family can be together.”

While the children are in the auditorium, their mothers and some fathers are in a classroom, learning to communicate in English.

The parents also meet other refugees who are sharing the same challenges and stresses of fleeing their war-torn country and settling in to a new home.

“It’s a little bit of a kick-start into Canadian culture,” said Tsai, “building relationships, and seeing how wonderful our country is in being so supportive, so welcoming, making them more comfortable in Canada.”

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