Young Syrian refugees meet the Canucks

March 21, 2016

By Tiffany Crawford, Vancouver Sun |

Nine-year-old Ranim Kurdi sports a huge grin as she explains, with some help from a translator, that her favourite Canucks players are the Sedin twins.

“Because they are strong,” she says.

Ranim and her 15-year-old brother Shergo Kurdi, were part of a group of 14 young refugees from Syria, ranging in age from five to 24, who spent the day touring Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Saturday and meeting hockey players.

The kids waved signs they made in English and Arabic, many saying “Go Canucks” and met with Fin, the team’s mascot. They also met with hockey legend Kirk McLean and took part in a “hockey 101” class. On Saturday night, they planned to watch the Canucks play the St, Louis Blues at Rogers Arena. Translators were on hand to help the kids communicate, and many expressed excitement about watching the game live.

Shergo and Ranim are members of the Kurdi family, their father the uncle of Alan Kurdi, the three-year-old boy whose body was photographed washed up on the beach of Greece. The boy, his mother and brother drowned in the Mediterranean as they tried to escape war-torn Syria. The photo horrified millions around the world, and woke many to the tragedy and plight of thousands of Syrians.
Shergo said he loves hockey and would like to play here some day. “I watch (hockey) on CBC and I always watch the Canucks,” he said, through a translator. He said in school his friends always ask him to play goalie because he is very good at that position.

Both children said they thought Canada was very “nice” and said that they were very happy to take part in the tour. In English, Ranim said “I like hockey” adding that she would also like to play the game.

“It’s a wonderful country,” said Shergo Kurdi, when asked what he thought of Canada. “It’s very understanding and helping people. And they are always smiling.”

Harout Abkian, 24, who has been living with his family in North Burnaby for three months, said he had never seen hockey before but wanted to experience the game. “It’s very, very nice. I want to play hockey. Maybe I will next year. At home I play soccer.”

His sister, 19-year-old Zila Abkian, said, in English, that so far she has felt very welcomed to Canada, and that everyone she has met has been very friendly.

Saturday’s event was hosted by S.U.C.C.E.S.S., an organization that helps immigrants and refugees settle and integrate with the local culture, and the Canucks.

Queenie Choo, CEO of S.U.C.C.E.S.S., said ice hockey is considered a national sport, and they hope introducing the kids to the game will help them integrate with Canadian culture.

“They are thrilled and excited to watch the game,” she said.

Choo said more than 60 per cent of the Syrian refugees who settled in B.C. are children. She said it was “amazing” to hear how quickly the young children were picking up English.

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