If you wanted to see the international language of soccer in action, the covered Oval —also known as “the Fubble” — was the place to be on Feb. 24. In a milestone game, UCC boys had no trouble communicating with Syrian refugee kids, as they took to the field for an afternoon of fun.
Credit for dreaming up the memorable initiative, which welcomed 35 newly arrived refugee boys and girls and their parents to UCC for a day of sports and art, goes to Foundation Year student Adil Natal. He originally approached Craig Parkinson, head of the Creativity Action Service Program, in December. Parkinson also heads UCC’s Refugee Sponsorship Group, a small taskforce of parents, faculty, staff and students, dedicated to raising funds to bring a Syrian family to Canada. Both teamed with UCC’s Horizons program director Jyoti Sehgal to get the logistics in motion for the visit.
The initiative offers the refugee kids a welcome break from their waiting time at the Radisson Hotel in northeast Toronto, where they’re spending two weeks before resettlement through COSTI Immigrant Services.
“It was a great idea to facilitate their resettlement,” says Parkinson, “because there’s no language barrier to physical activity.” After a warm welcome from resident translator and history teacher, Reem Aweida-Parsons, the kids enjoyed very Canadian Timbits along with the afternoon activities. The art portion of the afternoon was co-ordinated by Prep teacher Kathryn O’Brien and art teacher Monika Kastelic. Parent volunteers from UCC also helped out alongside Bishop Strachan School students.
The program ran so well the kids want to come back. And they will, on March 9 and April 6. “They want to try skating,” says Parkinson.
If you’re interested in joining our community’s sponsorship efforts, you can donate by March 31, online at ucc.on.ca/refugeefund. Cheques may be payable to “UCC Refugee Sponsorship Group” and left at the main offices.