Earlier this month, Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools (RDCRS), along with the City of Red Deer, announced the launch of a new initiative aimed at helping Syrian refugees settle into their new lives in Canada.
RDCRS issued a statement urging residents to get involved in the project, which is called Operation Welcome to Canada, either through cash donations or by donating a shoe box full of items that the refugee families and children will need to make their transition as smooth as possible.
“I feel that it’s important to help out the refugees because, at the end of the day, they’re people just like all of us are and we just really need to take into account how would we want to be treated if the roles were reversed and would we want others to help us out?” said Kaitlyn Borchers, a Grade 9 student at St. Francis of Assisi Middle School, who created the project.
Borchers decided she needed to take action on the issue after a conversation with her mother, who works at the school district.
“We were just talking about how it’s a very different environment for these children coming into Canada and then not really knowing what to expect. I felt that I wanted to help out in some way, shape or form and make their experience a little bit smoother and help them feel more welcome,” she said.
So she got together with Kathleen Finnigan, the associate superintendent of Inclusive Learning at RDCRS to get the ball rolling on the new project, which would be aimed at preparing schools in the division to receive these new students.
“I presented, along with many other teachers and people from the division, to over 90 administrators and councillors and principals from each school in the Red Deer Catholic School Division. That meeting consisted of what to expect when these children come to your school,” she said, adding that presenting in front of that many educators and administrators was a nerve-wracking experience.
“I was quite scared but I knew if I got this out there that, at the end of the day, I’d be helping out these children. I had so much nerves going into that presentation but I just knew that it was for these little kids.”
According to Borchers, students within the schools are getting involved as well.
“Most of them, actually, are putting full shoe boxes together with their schools and they’re just kind of experiencing different ways to help out children,” she said, adding that part of the idea for the shoe boxes came from Operation Christmas Child, which Borchers contributed to last year.
“I know when I contributed with Operation Christmas Child, which is very close to Operation Welcome to Canada, I felt so amazing helping out little kids and I know that these kids are going to feel the same way about the Syrian refugees.”
Anyone wishing to contribute to Operation Welcome to Canada can do so by donating money, items or full shoe boxes by dropping them off at a Red Deer Catholic Regional School. More information and a full list of needed items can be found on the RDCRS web site at http://rdcrs.ca/parents/whats-new/post/operation-welcome-to-canada.