Syrian refugee children learn to be kids again — in Canada

December 20, 2016

By CBC News |

More than 20,000 of the Syrian refugees who have been settled in Canada are under the age of 18.

Integrating these young people is a challenge that schools across the country are facing.

University of Winnipeg professor Jan Stewart has been researching how to best support refugee youth in Canada, particularly the Syrian refugees. She tells The Current’s Anna Maria Tremonti how past trauma affects student life.

“They just really want to be courageous and strong, and they are saying you know there’s nothing wrong … with me and I’m fine, this just happened in the past.”

Stewart says students share stories of hearing bombs and having nothing and pointing to it as a matter a fact — the way it is in Syria.

Settlement worker Haval Ahmad who works with kids at Burnaby South Secondary School says one of the challenges he faces is teaching kids to be kids.

“You’re only 15, you need to go out and act like a child. You’re not an adult,” he says of a student.

Ahmad says the first few months arriving as a refugee is “like a honeymoon period for many of the kids.”

“But after that, the reality of what they have been through… and what they’ve left behind starts to sink in… especially for the older boys.”

He says students feel a sense of guilt being in Canada knowing they are safe but have family back in Syria.

“They hear about all these family members who are being killed or shot or barrel bombs being dropped on them on a daily basis.”

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