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Dragon boat racing helping newcomers adjust to life in Saskatchewan

WATCH ABOVE: Dragon boat racing is helping immigrant and refugee women adjust to life in Saskatchewan.

The waters of Wascana Lake will come to life with tradition this week as the 2019 Regina Dragon Boat Festival gets underway July 18.

More than 200 groups from across Canada will be competing in the annual celebration, but for one team the activity is helping them adjust to a newfound life in Saskatchewan.

More than 20 members from the Regina Immigrant Women Centre have formed a community racing team.

“Everybody wants to take part in an activity,” said Ritu Kalra of the Regina Immigrant Women Centre (RIWC). “Whether it’s a sport or an activity, it’s someplace to socialize and to connect.”

READ MORE: Dragon Boat Festival on Wascana to host championships

RIWC is a non-profit organization that provides programming for immigrant and refugee women and their families in the Queen City.

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Kalra says immigrating to a new country is never easy especially when there is a language barrier.

“An activity like dragon boating is really good for their productivity,” Kalra said.

Viktorija Lejniece moved to Canada from Latvia in 2013.

Lejniece says being part of the dragon boat team has helped to forge new friendships and connections within the community.

“When I’m on the water I just feel calm,” Lejniece said. “I just really enjoy it and being part of a group.”

READ MORE: ‘Waskimo’ winter festival on Wascana Lake resurrected after 14-year hiatus

Aiming to be inclusive, the Dragon Boat Festival will have age categories from junior through senior, divisions for universities, breast cancer survivors, and the blind and partially sighted.

Throughout the four-day event, there will be traditional Chinese entertainment, activities and crafts, and a celebration tent downtown.

Dragon boat festivals are based on an ancient Chinese legend dating back over 2,000 years.

Dragons are mythical in Chinese culture and believed to be the rulers of rivers, lakes, and seas.

The opening ceremonies take place on Thursday at 7:00 PM in Victoria Park.

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For a full schedule of races and events, visit the Regina Dragon Boat Festival’s website.

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