He’s never seen an ice rink before coming to Canada.
But Mexico-native Christian Rodriguez, 16, was learning to skate at Red Deer’s G.H. Dawe Arena on Wednesday — along with 61 other young newcomers from different lands.
Rodriguez concluded that while staying upright can be difficult, skating is not too scary. He was making good progress at the sixth Learn to Skate event for newcomer youth, presented by the Central Alberta Refugee Effort (C.A.R.E.), in partnership with the City of Red Deer.
Kids from South and Central America, Africa, and the Middle East, are learning to glide during three days of lessons this week, offered by C.A.R.E. staff, Red Deer City RCMP officers, and volunteers from hockey teams, and the community.
“They love to learn a new activity, and this is a pretty Canadian one,” said Rachel Pinno, youth program co-ordinator, who was impressed by the high turnout of students and volunteer instructors.
Sharing their skills and talent were Const. Christina Graham, of Red Deer City RCMP — who liked showing the kids “that we’re here for them” — and minor hockey coach Rene Rondeau and some of his Pee Wee B players.
Young hockey player Lukas King was instructing the new skaters on proper stance, including bending their legs, planting their feet shoulder-width apart, and leaning slightly forward.
Rondeau’s son, Calder, was impressed by how fast the young newcomers were learning.
Among the 10 to 19 year olds was Abdullah Alithawi, 14, who was practising stopping on ice. Although Alithawi, from Iraq, is more of a soccer, than a hockey, player, he likes skating and has participated in the Learn to Skate event for the past three years.
Sixteen-year-old Nourman Alhelwani, from Syria, was unsteady on her feet, but was having fun during her first lesson.
It’s important to find social things to do during the cold months, said Carol Smyth, language assessor at C.A.R.E., otherwise, “the winter can be so long, isolating and depressing …”
The event was started at the request of a newcomer student, who wanted to skate, but felt embarrassed to ask Canadian peers for help.Ice time is being donated by the city, and the skates and helmets borrowed from Notre Dame and Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive high schools.
Thursday’s 1-4 p.m. free session will be held at Bower Ponds, and Friday’s at the Westpark outdoor community rink, where Red Deer Pond Hockey members will lead a game of shinny.