CARE for Newcomers is helping new Canadians take their first strides in skates.
The central Alberta organization that helps immigrants and refugees feel welcome hosted its 10th Learn to Skate event at Bower Ponds on Thursday.
“It’s a great program that gives an opportunity for newcomer youth to learn stuff that is very Canadian – being outside and experiencing how to skate,” CARE for Newcomers’ Ola Zeinalabdin said.
The event was organized through CARE for Newcomers’ SNAP Youth Program – SNAP stands for Settlement for Newcomers through Activities and Programs. The program aims to help newcomer youths experience a healthy adjustment and integration into Canadian society.
“I have attended this event as three different people: I attended as a newcomer when I came to Canada, I attended as a volunteer to help because I loved it and now I’m attending it as a staff (member) with CARE to Newcomers,” said Zeinalabdin.
Zeinalabdin, who is originally from Syria, came to Canadas in 2015. The Learn to Skate program has “meant a lot” to her ever since she first arrived to her new home.
“It … gets me engaged with my community and outside to experience the cold. I had never done this in my whole life. Coming to Canadian and being able to be outside to skate and make new friends – it’s such an amazing program that gave me so much confidence,” she said.
A lot of the youths participating in Thursday’s Learn to Skate event were sharing that same excitement, said Zeinalabdin.
“The youth that have been here for years, they already know how to skate, so they’re helping each other. The older ones have told the (new ones about the event) – they are very excited. We have a lot of volunteers to help on the ice. I think it’s going to be great for them to experience being on the ice,” she said.
Thursday also served as the kickoff to CARE for Newcomers’ Friday Youth Skate Night, which is targeted to middle and high school-aged youths. This program will be held at the Bower Place Community Association Rink (85 Boyce St.) every Friday from 5-8 p.m. from January to March. In addition to skating, the program features indoor games, a fire and hot chocolate.
CARE for Newcomers, previously known as Central Alberta Refugee Effort, is a Red Deer-based newcomer settlement agency. It has supported newcomer settlement for more than 35 years. For more information on the agency, visit www.carefornewcomers.ca.