Summer camps for Calgary refugee kids aim to help with transition to new life

It’s been a traumatizing time for many children who have arrived in Calgary after fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Now the local community is offering their aid with summer camps that aim to help these young newcomers make friends, learn English and settle into their new surroundings.

Anastasiia Stepanchuk came to Canada from Ukraine four years ago to finish her medical studies, but her family had no plans to come here until Russia invaded Ukraine. Her mom and two teenage brothers made the difficult decision to leave their home once the war began. They arrived in Calgary in June.

However, Stepanchuk’s dad had to stay behind.

“It’s heartbreaking to see everything that’s going on over there with all of the casualties and all of the mass destruction that is happening in my homeland,” Stepanchuk said.

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“But considering that here kids can be safe, we just need to do our best to help them adapt.”

Read more: LGBTQ Ukrainian refugee couple finds acceptance with Alberta hosts

Stepanchuk is a PhD candidate in clinical neurosciences at the University of Calgary.

She worries about refugee kids being uprooted from their homes, so she set out on a mission to help set up a summer school. Stepanchuk recruited teachers from the Calgary Board of Education and Calgary Catholic School District to volunteer their time for these half-day camps which will begin in August.

“Considering that my brothers have arrived in Calgary three weeks ago and they are 12 and 15 years old, just thinking about how difficult it would be for them to adapt to the new system, to the new environment and the new language, I realized that a lot of newcomers might be facing the same problem,” Stepanchuk said. “By doing the camp I was just trying to bring kids facing similar issues together and try to solve it together.

“It would be a great opportunity for kids from all over Ukraine to connect in a new setting and make new friends with their fellow Ukrainians and kids who are sharing the same trauma.”

Read more: Ukrainians fleeing war may want to stay in Calgary permanently as conflict could ‘last for years’

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SAIT is offering summer day camps for youth who are newcomers to Calgary. Many enrolled in these camps are from Ukraine and some from Afghanistan. A bursary program has covered the cost for many of the campers.

Part of the day camp includes an English class as well as crafts, sports and technology and science activities.

“We are just looking to make sure, primarily, that they have a fun time in the counts with us,” Rozlynn Wick, project manager of strategic youth initiatives at SAIT, said. “That they feel welcomed and they feel safe and that they start to feel comfortable in their new settings and environment here in Calgary.

“Helping to hopefully provide a little bit of exposure of what they might be looking forward to once they hopefully finish high school and maybe can start looking towards some programs and potential future career paths.”

Ready to Study Summer School is taking place in Calgary in August 2022.
Ready to Study Summer School is taking place in Calgary in August 2022.

Stepanchuk said she’s thankful for the teachers who have come forward to offer their time within these camps.

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She hopes the camps will help young people adjust to the dramatic change that’s currently taking place in their lives.

“It might be hard for us, it might be hard for them, but it’s nothing compared to how hard people have it over there,” Stepanchuk said.

The Ready to Study Ukrainian summer school is looking for volunteer educators. Part of the purpose is to review the Alberta curriculum with Ukrainian kids in grades four to 12.

The school will run from Aug. 2 to Aug. 19. It will be held at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Calgary.

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