Edmonton program helps young Syrian refugees: ‘I didn’t know any English so I had no friends’
A little over a year ago, a large wave of Syrian refugees began arriving in Canada after a brutal civil war forced them to flee their homes. Coming to Canada has meant not only trying to come to terms with the nightmare of violence they left behind, but also trying to adjust in an entirely foreign culture.
A unique Edmonton program is aiming to help the younger refugees improve their English and build their confidence.
“It’s supposed to be a fun and safe environment where they can come and work on enhancing their English literacy in a non-traditional school setting,” Hana Kadri says of the Snack N’ Study program she coordinates at the Al Rashid Mosque in north Edmonton.
“I understand from a teacher’s perspective, it can be difficult to give every single student attention when they need it,” she added. “So I thought this would be a fun idea and all the attention is on them.”
Kadri’s second-language initiative was launched in November and allows refugee children to work one-on-one with volunteers to improve their English. Three days a week, students learn while having fun by playing word association games or conducting science experiments.
“I’m learning English, how to speak English and how to write English,” 10-year-old Luna El-Sawwad proudly says.
The program helps all kinds of newcomers but according to Kadri, most of them are Arabic-speaking refugees from Syria and Jordan. She says improving their English provides the program’s participants with confidence which leads to other quality-of-life improvements.
“If you come, it would be better for your English. You will learn more and understand more and be good at your school,” 14-year-old Maya Masha says.
“When I first came here, I didn’t know any English so I had no friends but now I have a lot of friends.”
The program is open to all ESL children ages five to 18 and is looking for more students from all parts of Edmonton. Snack N’ Study is sponsored by Al Rashid, so it’s free for families.
For more information on the Snack N’ Study program, contact the Al Rashid Mosque.
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