Newcomer girls try hockey with charity's Ottawa debut

Newcomer girls try hockey with charity's Ottawa debut

A new hockey program in Ottawa is helping newcomer girls conquer a traditional Canadian game.

Hockey 4 Youth launched Wednesday at the Jim Durrell Arena, with 53 participants aged 14 to 18 from Ridgemont High School and Gloucester High School. The charity has offered Canadian newcomers and low-income youth the opportunity to play hockey for free since 2013. Organizers said the new program is aimed at giving newcomers the chance to play a new sport while helping them improve their English literacy skills.

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"It's not only boys that can play this game or any games," said 16-year-old Manal Al Mahmoud, who came to Canada from Syria in 2016.

"You have to be equal with everything."

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Seventeen-year-old Beatrice Shirambere, originally from Congo said playing hockey makes her feel more at home in Canada.

"I want to feel like a Canadian," she said. "In Africa, we don't have [hockey]. It's amazing. I want to try it."

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Jemila Jreivine, who had lived in Mauritania, agrees.

"It's a new experience that I've never tried before," said the 16-year-old. "After this I'm going to continue on playing and skating."

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Hockey 4 Youth's programs in Toronto and Montreal have brought in participants representing over 25 countries including Syria, Afghanistan, India, Yemen and Brazil, according to the organization. The new program in Ottawa runs for 10 weeks, with funding from the city, province, OSEG Foundation and Osler.