Spring break: Newcomers instructing newcomers

Mission’s Sonia Sirere formerly of Kenya and Sara Salah Derradji,formerly of Algeria, enjoy instructing newcomer children from Syria, The Congo and Germany.

A trio of  instructors from Algeria, Kenya and Japan helped build confidence in more than a dozen students from Syria, The Congo and Germany  during Mission Community Services Society’s New to Canada young learners six-day spring break program.

“I get a sense of fulfillment when I give back,” said Mission’s Sonia Sirere, 24 from Nairobi, Kenya who arrived in Canada in July.

“The children have shown so much improvement since we started the program.  I see improvement in integration, language skills, and just being more confident in their environment.”

The six, three-hour sessions for children aged six to 14 featured gardening with flowers, leadership training, local Mission history at Mission Museum, Japanese cooking, mixed media art at Windebank elementary and physical fitness at Centennial Park.

Sonia Sirere enjoys mixed media art session with newcomer children at Windebank elementary during spring break session for young learners. Event was hosted by Donna Duvall’s Creative Haven.

Sara Salah Derradji, 16, who speaks French, Arabic and English, is from a family who immigrated to Canada from Algeria 12 years ago.  She attends Mission Secondary School and was employed by MCSS during spring break.

By doing this “I feel connected because a lot of the kids are just like me, coming to the country only speaking Arabic.  It is so good to see the kids improve.  They are not sticking to their own siblings at these sessions, they are also talking to other newcomer kids.”

Moeko Okabe, a Grade 11 MSS international student from Japan was also an instructor.

Mission Secondary international student Moeko Okabe from Japan teaches newcomer children how to create fruit sushi during Japanese cooking session at Mission Community Service Society.

Among the memorable moments during the program, said Sara and Sonia, was the Japanese cooking where the kids created fruit sushi.

“Some of the kids have never experienced some of the fruits we offered.  The rice paper was also something new, and the kids kept asking if they should eat it . . . they thought it was plastic,” said Sara.

Sonia, who speaks Kikuyu, Swahili  and English, said the kids created kabobs with the fruit, and when they were introduced to a dipping sauce of chocolate, “they were just crazy about it.”

Between 12 and 15 newcomer children attended each session.