Students of St. Martin de Porres School are about to embark on a journey of greater understanding towards refugees, with a specific focus on Syrian refugee families.
The students were privy to a presentation by Development and Peace Caritas Canada, where a representative came to discuss what it meant to be a refugee. Kathleen Ladouceur of the organization spoke about the definition of a refugee, with particular regard to Syrian refugees and the war in Syria as examples.
This presentation kicked off a two week activity campaign where students will work through stations designed to give them a better idea of the life of a refugee.
“Through each station, the kids will learn the things that happen to a refugee or displaced person. They will learn to understand that these people had everything that was their world and now they have nothing that is important to them,” explained school Principal Cathy Cameron.
“In that, it helps to build the concept and build context as to what people who are refugees are feeling. It helps the students to understand build that understanding based on their own world.”
Cameron said this understanding for the kids is to help them develop empathy and build understanding of other people’s situations in life.
“If we can help the students to understand, they can perhaps make small changes that affect other people in the world,” she said.
“It’s part of who we are in Catholic education because this is about building the concept of, ‘there are things larger than us’ and what we can do to help bring peace to others in the world who aren’t as fortunate.”
Many students sat engaged throughout the presentation, and later reflected on what they had learned.
“I know what they’re going through more now. Some of them are here and they’re safe, but they want to go back, even though it’s not safe,” said Hailee Cyrenne, 11.
“They grew up (in Syria) – that’s where their memories are and some of the refugees have probably been split up from their friends or their families and aunties and uncles. I think that’s probably really hard for them so it’s important for us to make them feel welcome while they’re here.
“We live in Canada and won’t ever be able to compare our lives to how scared the refugees are to where we are now and how we feel. We’re probably never going to experience that because of where we live and how lucky we are. I think we have to try as best as we can to fit in their shoes.”
Cyrenne’s classmate Max Proteau, 11, agreed with her, adding, “It is a big deal to pay refugees with a lot of respect. As Hailee said, they want to go home so we should make them feel like they have another home while they’re here.”
The students of St. Martin de Porres will work through various stations over the next two weeks to gain a better understanding of what it means to be a refugee and some of the struggles associated with the status and life change.