Syrian Refugee Pilot Project:
A description of the Visit
A description of the Visit
Research from academic organizations such as George Brown College and the University of Toronto has found that once refugees arrive in a new country, if they are provided with opportunities to experience the arts and culture of the new country, they frequently find settlement into their new homes happens more quickly and with greater ease.
It was with this research in mind, that Harbourfront Centre (HFC) hosted a group of Syrian refugees on Saturday, July 15, 2017. With the assistance of the Harbourfront Volunteers and the Rexdale Women’s Centre (RWC), the guests were introduced to the arts and cultural activities available. The original inspiration for an event such as this came from a Volunteers Connect meeting. Harbourfront Centre agreed to host the pilot project and two of our volunteers, Larry Lewis and Karen Sinotte, began planning the event with major support from HFC’s management.
The guests arrived at 1:45 pm by bus. HFC arranged with security in advance as to where a suitable drop off and pick-up point should be. The excitement in the faces of the people as they got out of their bus was heartwarming.
The guests gathered in The Loft for brief welcoming remarks from:
Genevieve Peng - Volunteer Co-ordinator for HFC
Phyllis Couzin - on behalf of Volunteers Connect
Laura McLeod - Director/Cultural Engagement, HFC
Fatima Filippi - Executive Director, RWC
Smiles were everywhere and many translators were on hand to help out as needed. Following the remarks, everyone was invited to have some light refreshments. Children from the refugee group presented Genevieve with a tray of cookies as a symbol of their thanks for hosting the event. This is a Syrian tradition. Everyone enjoyed the cool drinks, cheese, crackers, fruit, humus and olives! It was wonderful to see all the families and organization representatives mingle and chat over snacks.
At 2:30 pm the guests were divided into 5 groups. Each group had a friendly HFC volunteer guide to take them to their activities. Translators were provided as needed.
The adults strolled the Boardwalk, watched their children enjoying the activities, and listened to some musical groups performing on the stages. Some parents enjoyed sitting in the Muskoka chairs and talking with other refugee families, the translators and the Harbourfront Centre volunteer guides. They soaked in the beautiful sunshine and lovely grounds.
The children enjoyed several activities:
*arts and crafts activities - making postcards, lobsters and designs
*oversized games - chess, checkers, Connect 4
*mini ping pong tables for games in the orchard
*singalong in the Boulevard tent along with a demonstration of oyster shucking
*playing on the pond in paddleboats and canoes
At 5:30 pm everyone regathered in the Loft. More refreshments were provided and thank you were extended. Harbourfront Centre was presented with a commemorative plaque to mark this very happy and worthwhile occasion.
As a participant in the day I can tell you that everyone had a wonderful time and enjoyed the activities. It was a treat for the volunteers to see and enjoy HFC from the fresh eyes of the refugees. It was comfortable for the refugee group to experience a new culture in a relaxed and happy context. Everyone left feeling very good about the whole day.
Fatima Philippe from RWC said that many of the refugees have come from very difficult experiences. It was so nice to provide them with a very happy day so that they could get to know Toronto in a new and pleasant way. It helps them to feel that the people of Toronto really care about them and wish to include them.
A very effective planning template has been created at Harbourfront Centre by Larry Lewis and Karen Sinotte. Fatima Filippe from Rexdale Women’s Centre did a great job of organizing the attendees and preparing them for what to expect. Hopefully other groups will follow this most successful lead.
Lynn Allen is a retired teacher/librarian and has volunteered at Harbourfront Centre for many years..."I spent this wonderful day interviewing the various groups involved in preparing the event and then following the groups around as they enjoyed the site."
Click here to return to top of page