S TRANDBERG , D. (A UGUST 20, 2009) “S UMMER CAMP NEW EXPERIENCE FOR NEW C ANADIANS ” T HE T RI -C ITY N EWS .
C OQUITLAM , BC.
S UMMER CAMP NEW EXPERIENCE FOR NEW C ANADIANS
A summer camp at Miller Park community school in Coquitlam is providing a group of young
immigrants with their fi rst experience of life in Canada.
So far, so good.
The Tri-City News met up with Prakesh Kattel, 14, and his sister Menuka,11, two recent arrivals from
a refugee camp in eastern Nepal. The two moved to Coquitlam with their family a few weeks ago to
start a new life.
On Friday, Prakesh and Menuka got a lesson in civic government when they visited Coquitlam
city hall with 20 other young people who are participating in a summer camp run by the Immigrant
Services Society of BC. in partnership with School District 43.
The camp runs all summer and gives students who are new to Canada a chance to improve their
English and math skills, play sports, do art and try out Canadian pastimes such as swimming and
skating. The youngsters also got to visit the Vancouver Aquarium, which was a big hit.
Prakesh and Menuka said they enjoyed skating, too, even though they both fell a couple of times.
Both speak some English and aren’t too shy talk to the media. Their ability to converse should make
it easier to go to school next month. Menuka said she has learned more English in the last few weeks
at the Miller Park camp than all the years studying at school in Nepal. She’s entering Grade 6 at
Como Lake middle school while Prakesh will be a student at Centennial secondary.
They’ve found it easy to adjust, thanks to the summer camp. “In summer camp, I have made a lot of
friends,” said Prakesh, with Menuka echoing the sentiment and naming several of her new friends.
The summer camp is for new Canadians, many of them refugees, who are between the ages of
10 and 17. As many as fi ve different languages are spoken by children in the class and the kids
come from all over the world, including Afghanistan, Columbia, Ecuador, Mexico, Korea, Russia, the
Ukraine and the Philippines.
The Tri-Cities are home to increasing numbers of government assistant refugees (GAR) who are
being settled here in low-cost housing. But the Kattels are pioneers of a sort, the fi rst of about 900
Bhutanese refugees who are expected to settle in Coquitlam over the next three years.
Approximately 150 Bhutanese refugees are expected to move into the community by Christmas. The
Nepalese-speaking Bhutanese have been living in refugee camps since the mid 1990s because of a
policy of de-nationalization in southern Bhutan.
The Kattels — besides Prakesh and Menuka, there are brother, Ganesh, their parents and
grandmother — are the third Bhutanese family to arrive in B.C. Many of their friends went to other
cities, mostly in the U.S. They will be supported by the Canadian government for one year.
Prakesh said the family decided to accept an invitation from the Canadian government to move
to Coquitlam so he and his siblings could get a good education. He wants to be an engineer in
computer science and Menuka wants to be a nurse.
They like Coquitlam because it has less pollution then Birtmod, the city nearest the camp where their
family has lived for the last 20 years, and because there are more traffi c lights and rules for drivers.
“I was afraid to cross the street,” Menuka said of Nepal.
Except for the cold, the two say they like their new country, especially the summer camp, which is
providing them with a lot of new experiences.
********
Only a few of the estimated 150 Bhutanese refugees who were expected to arrive in the Tri-Cities 64 MBC: ‘Operation Swaagatem’
this year have shown up, according to the director of the agency that will help them settle.
Immigrant Services Society director Chris Friesen said in an email he doesn’t know the reason for the
delay but the agency is prepared to fi nd homes for those who arrive and help them get settled.
An interpreter who speaks Nepalese has been hired to work with the newcomers and three
Bhutanese refugee children are attending a summer camp to improve their English and upgrade their
math.
School District 43 assistant superintendent Sylvia Russell said
she’s not concerned about the delay and the district will be
able to cope with the Bhutanese students when they arrive,
even if they all arrive in a bunch. Russell said refugees tend to
arrive throughout the year and the province has been providing
funding for those who enrol mid-year.
The district is also looking at ways to streamline the process
of registering students in school and is looking at models used
in other districts. “We’re not rushing into this, it needs to be
thoughtfully done,” Russell said.
The district’s international education department also helps
receive students who are new to the country and will be training
school secretaries this month so they can better assist the
families.
********
A summer camp for students new to Canada is helping ease the
back-to-school jitters for 21 children.
Naomi Staddon, project co-ordinator for a summer camp run
by the Immigrant Services Society of BC for School District
43, said the 10- to 17-year old students who come to the daily
program at Miller Park community school are improving their English, honing their math skills and,
most importantly, making friends.
On the day The Tri-City News visited, several students arrived half an hour early for the program,
their backpacks slung over their shoulders, and one boy was singing as he walked through the
parking lot.
“We registered students on a Monday and Tuesday; by Wednesday morning, we saw friendships
and, by Thursday, the group had formed,” Staddon said. “The kids just climbed over the language
differences.”
Students attending the camp come from all over the world — South and Central America, Russia, the
Ukraine, the Philippines and Nepal — and many are refugees. All have arrived in Canada within the
last two months.
In addition to working on their academic skills, the students do art, play sports, work on the computer
and go on fi eld trips, visiting Coquitlam city hall, the Vancouver Aquarium, the Coquitlam’s City
Centre Aquatic Complex and the skating rink.
“We have the academic goal to try to help them a bit with English vocabulary and math because we
know a lot of the refugee kids, if they’ve been held back in school, they may be several thousand
words in vocabulary [behind], even though they are in in grade school.”
But at the same time, the youth are making valuable connections with other kids, which will help them
make the transition to school when it starts in less than three weeks. They’re also working on a mural
about their experiences moving to Canada, which will be presented as a gift to Coquitlam school
district.
The program ends when school starts but participants will get together once more at the end of

Children from Bhutan. Colleen
Flanagan/The Tri-City NewsSeptember so ISS can see if the program helped the transition to school — and so the leave-taking
isn’t so sad, said Staddon, noting, “We’ve gotten very fond of them.”
If the program is successful, it may run again next year.
The Tri-Cities is increasingly home to refugee families. According to ISS statistics, 20% of
government-assisted refugees are now coming to the region because of the availability of low-cost
housing. As of April, 45 refugees had arrived. The top fi ve source countries are Iran, Myanmar, Iraq,
Somalia and Afghanistan.
dstrandberg@tricitynews.com

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