FIRST CHRISTMAS - Grade 4 student Chris Galan Hernandez crafts at St. Patrick’s Community School last Wednesday. Hernandez came to Canada from El Salvador. For students like him who are new to the country

Newcomer children celebrate Christmas at St. Pat’s

  • Dec. 21, 2016 5:52 p.m.

For many students at St. Patrick’s Community School, this Christmas will be their first in Canada.

Last Wednesday the school held a get-together during the lunch hour to introduce a few holiday customs to students who are new to the country.

Students sat around tables to make Christmas crafts, took photographs with Santa Claus and received some treats.

Cheryl Nichols is an educational assistant and works with the middle school ESL students. She said this has been an ongoing tradition at St. Patrick’s. The goal has been to make the children feel welcome, at home, while having some fun.

“I think it went great. The kids had fun. There was a lot of creativity with the crafts. The little ones were excited to see Santa,” Nichols said.

The best part about holding the annual gathering has been connecting with students, she said, that getting to know them outside the classroom makes for more personal relationships.

St. Patrick’s has a high-proportion of ESL students — at least 60% of the school, Nichols said.

Many have come from the Philippines, the Ukraine, Spain and Africa, she added.

The Central Alberta Refugee Effort (CARE) was also on hand to assist with the festivities.

Herb Barrios is a settlement practitioner with the organization, which helps integrate immigrants and refugees into Canadian life.

Barrios said this event was to teach students a little bit about how people celebrate Christmas in their new home and including them in it.

One of CARE’s services is Settlement Support in Schools, to help students adjust to their new environments.

Barrios has done his fair share of adjusting. He was 11 years old when he immigrated to Canada from Guatemala, landing in Edmonton in 1988.

He recalled not speaking a word of English. The food was different. The weather: lousy. He said he understands the homesickness that some of the kids go through and presents himself as somebody who can relate.

“Having been through all of that, I know what they’re going through,” Barrios said. “Yep, I’ve been there, done that. Many of my colleagues have done the same thing.”

What helped were community-minded teachers who paid attention to students like him, who took an interest in getting to know him, he said.

He has now called Red Deer home for 20 years, working for CARE to help other newcomers.

joseph.ho@reddeerexpress.com

Just Posted

RDC to host 2019 CCAA Men’s Volleyball Championships

The building of the Gary W. Harris Canada Games Centre was key to RDC’s bid to the CCAA.

Mustard Seed gets support again from PCN Women’s Fun Run

Run raised just over $20,000 last year for The Mustard Seed

Red Deer RCMP make several arrests this month

Recent arrests include the seizure of various drugs and weapons

Sentencing postponed in Castor triple homicide

Jason Klaus and Josh Frank will appear in court again Feb. 14th

Creep Catcher member sentenced in Red Deer court Monday

Carl Young to be fined and placed on probation for 12 months, among other conditions

WATCH: Setters Place officially opens in advance of the 2019 Canada Games

Red Deer is one step closer to the 2019 Canada Winter Games the opening of Setters Place

Babcock, Goyette and Smyth honoured at Order of Hockey in Canada

Mike Babcock, from Saskatoon, guided the Detroit Red Wings to a Stanley Cup in 2008

Bell Canada alerts customers who may be affected by latest data breach

Federal Office of the Privacy Commissioner said it had been notified

Man faces 48 charges in string of random Toronto shootings

The string of unprovoked shootings began Jan.9, say police

‘Shape of Water’ producer, Christopher Plummer among Canadian Oscar nominees

Guillermo del Toro film about merman romance earns 13 nominations

Canada, TPP agrees to revised deal without the United States

Canada and the remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership have agreed to a revised trade agreement

Tsunami warnings 101: Canada

Here are some things to know about tsunami alerts in Canada and how they work

Rogers Media cuts ties with Vice Canada

Rogers Media and Vice Canada are ending their three-year-old partnership, pulling Viceland TV channel off the air

Back to work: U.S. government shutdown ends after Democrats relent

Short-term spending measure means both sides could see another shutdown stalemate in three weeks

Most Read