December 16, 2018

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Volunteers unite to help refugee kids

Young arrivals from Africa increasing

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/10/2010 (2987 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it's going to take many folks joining forces to raise a generation of refugee kids arriving in Winnipeg.

Volunteers from different African countries already helping kids in their own communities with after-school and summer programs are uniting to try and do more for the growing number of new young arrivals.

"We share the same experience," said Paul Kambaja, a high school teacher who is Congolese and working with other volunteers from Sierra Leone, Eritrea and Nigeria to help kids from African countries get a good start.

They've formed the Newcomers Youth Educational Support Services Coalition. There needs to be more educational and settlement support outside of school and social agency hours, Kambaja said. And newcomer kids need to see more role modelling from adults with whom they can identify, he said. Someone who's come to Canada and "made it" encourages young refugees, he said.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/10/2010 (2987 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

After-school programs help youngsters. From left, Simret Hanson, Mehari Negussie (tutor), Niat Mahary and Amina Omer.

After-school programs help youngsters. From left, Simret Hanson, Mehari Negussie (tutor), Niat Mahary and Amina Omer.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it's going to take many folks joining forces to raise a generation of refugee kids arriving in Winnipeg.

Volunteers from different African countries already helping kids in their own communities with after-school and summer programs are uniting to try and do more for the growing number of new young arrivals.

"We share the same experience," said Paul Kambaja, a high school teacher who is Congolese and working with other volunteers from Sierra Leone, Eritrea and Nigeria to help kids from African countries get a good start.

They've formed the Newcomers Youth Educational Support Services Coalition. There needs to be more educational and settlement support outside of school and social agency hours, Kambaja said. And newcomer kids need to see more role modelling from adults with whom they can identify, he said. Someone who's come to Canada and "made it" encourages young refugees, he said.

Imagine living in a refugee camp and never going to school or learning English then getting plopped down in a Grade 9 class in Winnipeg with 14 year olds who were born and raised here.

"School is very hard for them," said the Grant Park High School teacher.

They feel they don't belong. Then, people who look like them and speak their language, ask them to join them, he said. "They want to succeed but end up in gangs. They feel it's the only place they can go."

Kambaja decided to find somewhere else for them to go.

For the past two summers, he's given up his holidays to run a day program out of a school in St. Boniface in space donated by the francophone school division. Eighty per cent of the bilingual summer school was conducted in French, and most of the Congolese kids could speak French but some could not.

He started it in 2009 because an African refugee family arrived in Winnipeg two weeks before school ended. Kambaja was so concerned about the kids floundering over the holidays he started the summer school.

"I want them to be good people and to succeed," he said. In 2009 there were 60 kids in the program. This summer there were 107.

"It was huge." With seven volunteers and four Green Team members, they drove the kids to and from the school, taught them math, science, French, music and cooked their meals.

Now he and a group of volunteers from different African communities already helping kids are uniting to do more to help newcomer kids catch up in school and find positive activities and role models after school.

"Most problems happen after 4:30 (p.m.)," said Peter Koroma, a teacher, member of the Sierra Leone Refugee Settlement Inc. and part of the coalition. Most schools sit empty at the most vulnerable time for refugee kids, he said.

"Schools are grossly under-utilized but we can't use them," Koroma said. "You can't do evening courses or after-school programs."

The Eritrean community has been running an after-school program two days a week in its tiny second-floor community centre downtown.

Families take turn preparing meals for the kids, and tutors and volunteers work with the children on their studies. The community is looking for help to expand the after-school program to four days a week.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Reporter

Carol Sanders’ reporting on newcomers to Canada has made international headlines, earned national recognition but most importantly it’s shared the local stories of the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home.

Read full biography

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