A number of kids enjoyed various Christmas activities at St. Patrick’s Community School during an annual event hosted for students who are spending their first Christmas in Canada.
Teaming up with Central Alberta Refugee Effort (C.A.R.E.), students at St. Pat’s got to take part in photos with Santa, do Christmas crafts and enjoy some holiday treats. This year there are 49 students at the school who are experiencing their first Christmas in Canada.
One such student is Hans Augustin, 14, who moved from the Philippines to Red Deer this past June.
“Last Christmas, I wasn’t with my mom and this year I am. It’s our first Christmas here with me, my sister and my mom together. My mom came from the Philippines first, and she sponsored us this year to come,” he explained.
“The traditions aren’t too different, we celebrate a lot of it the same. What’s new is the weather – it’s kind of weird for me, the coldness. It’s new,” he said with a smile. He said he has so far enjoyed the season – even if it’s quite a bit colder than he’s used to.
Members of C.A.R.E. work closely with the staff at St. Patrick’s school on a regular basis. Rachel Pinno of C.A.R.E. operates a weekly youth program at the school and was excited to be a part of the first Christmas event.
“This event helps the kids to feel more at home here. They’re able to experience and understand things that their friends are talking about, it brings excitement to the season and it’s just something new for them,” Pinno said.
“Christmas is a tough time, because people are missing friends and family back home – particularly if they just moved here. It’s cold and snowy but this gives the kids some fun and helps them enjoy the season more.”
Pinno said that C.A.R.E. has a staff member who works with the students in the school on a near daily basis. She said the two groups work together to help students new to the country feel more at ease and welcome.
During the event, Pinno talked with kids about possible winter activities they can enjoy and promoted a Learn-to-Skate partnership with the City of Red Deer.
“Over the Christmas holidays, we’re running a learn-to-skate program, and we’re promoting that a bit to the kids today. December 29th, 30th, and 31st we are partnering with the City of Red Deer to teach them how to skate. We will be in the Collicutt Centre the first day, Bower Ponds the second and at the West Park outdoor rink on the third,” she said.
Connie Coe, a staff member at St. Patrick’s Community School, said the event has been going on for five years now and has always been successful for the students.
“This is an annual tradition that we’ve had for about five years. We invite all of the students from Kindergarten to Grade 9 who are experiencing their first Christmas in Canada to come down for activities,” she said.
“We rotate through different stations, bringing awareness of C.A.R.E., an agency we work closely with. We bring in Santa and have a couple of Christmas crafts and we provide the kids with some of the things Canadians are used to – a Christmas orange, candy canes, hot chocolate and a little goodie bag.
“We see how much they enjoy it. They go home and talk about it, and most of them take their crafts and goodie bags home to show their parents. They get to keep a little photo with Santa in the photo frame they create as a craft.”