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.

Just Posted

Innisfail RCMP arrests two

Suspects attempted to flee but their vehicle got stuck in the snow

West coast actor brings compelling pioneer tale to the City next month

Cougar Annie Tales runs April 25th in the Snell Auditorium,

UPDATE: Shane McPhee sentenced to six years in prison

A Red Deer man was sentenced in the killing of William Blaine Baker

Help City council determine policing priorities

A phone survey runs from March 19th to April 6th

Red Deer RCMP arrest man after collisions with building, cars and police vehicle

Jesse James Leckner was remanded to appear in court March 19th

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

Alberta budget plans for Trans Mountain expansion

Finance Minister Joe Ceci says expected revenues will be factored into budget forecasts

Proposed gun bill attacked by gun owners and shooting victims

The federal government tabled the bill today in order to tighten the sale and tracking of firearms

Sea lion with rope wrapped around neck saved by Vancouver Aquarium

Steller sea lions are a species of special concern and some populations are endangered in parts of Alaska

50-million-year-old fossil found in B.C. town makes history

Paleontologist Dr. Bruce Archibald says Princeton, B.C. is becoming famous for giving up rare fossils

Not even Ellen DeGeneres can get Virtue, Moir to say they’re more than friends

Tessa Virtue, Scott Moir appeared on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” Tuesday

New Liberal bill would tighten controls on sale, licensing of firearms in Canada

Measures are intended to assist police in investigating gun trafficking and other crimes

Wetaskiwin-area burglars gain entry through patio doors, steal large clock

Wetaskiwin RCMP respond to break/enter and theft in County of Wetaskiwin

Ex-French president Sarkozy in custody on Gadhafi claims

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy was placed in custody as part of an investigation that he received millions of euros in illegal financing

Most Read