Project location: Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario
Organizing team members: Huda Al-Obaidi, Katia Myers, Aria Jalili, Elias Zabayo
Supported by: The Mennonite Coalition for Refugee Support and Crossing Borders (The Waterloo Collegiate Institute)
Art is an excellent way to start dialogues that otherwise wouldn't happen. Crossing Borders, the NYCE in Kitchener-Waterloo, seeks to gather newcomer youth from Eastwood Collegiate Institute high school to discuss issues close to their heart (Islamaphobia, home sickness, loneliness, etc.) and how to address them artistically through a wide variety of mediums including dance, spoken word, music, video, drama, and powerpoint presentations.
The Path to Communication
The session began with introductory games played in the hallway of Eastwood that helped participants learn one another's name. They then gathered in a classroom, where Katia and Huda presented the CCR's NYCE project and explained what Crossing Borders at WCI aims to do. Noura and Assem (from WCI) then shared their story of coming to Canada from Syria to demonstrate Crossing Borders' presentations, projects, and messages. Following that, there was a general discussion about the atmosphere young refugees have observed at Eastwood school. This resulted in the creation of smaller focus groups that delineated the specific issues faced newcomer students face.
Together, they identified two main challenges:
1. Linguistic barriers
2. Difficulty to socialize with new friends
The less you speak , the harder it is to meet new friends and the less you practice that new language, which can become a never ending cycle as experienced by the youth.
The second meeting took place on February 28th. The youth were divided in each group had a teacher (stakeholder) present who helped generate ideas and shared their perspectives on the issues. Then the groups shared their ideas and everyone voted on the projects they liked the most. Three projects were picked and the youth broke into three smaller groups, based on the project, to think about what it would practically look like (what would be the structure, when and where would it happen, how often would it happen, how will we get people to come, etc...). The three ideas that were elaborated on were a Speak English Cafe (have Canadians and ESL students eat lunch together and practice conversational English), an ESL Buddy system (pair newcomers with Canadians and have them do activities together) and a video to educate teachers about struggles ESL students face in the classroom.
As the youth continue to work on implementing their plans for the English Speak Cafe, ESL Buddy system and video, the team of youth leaders will continue to meet. Already changes are emerging in their schools as they are creating the space for Canadians and newcomers to interact and let friendships develop.