Syrian refugees clean Ottawa park to say thank you to community that welcomed them

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Syrian refugees clean Ottawa park to say thank you to community that welcomed them

A group of Syrian refugee children in Ottawa helped clean a park near their home this weekend as a way to say thanks to the community that welcomed them a year ago.

About 30 people gathered Sunday morning at Ogilvie North Park with gloves and garbage bags to pick up litter left around the grounds. The green space is located near two highrises at 1240 and 1244 Donald St. where approximately 400 Syrian refugees live.

"They're very excited," said Mohd Jamal Alsharif, who helped organize the event. "They want to clean the park where they play everyday and they want to help the community."

As a refugee from Palestine, Alsharif said he knows firsthand the role volunteerism can play in helping newcomers integrate.  

"I know how important it is to be a part of this community," he said.

Originally from Damascus, 13-year-old Hamza Mohammed Ali said joining fellow members of his community to help tidy up the park reminded him of being back home.

"We're close to each other ... it's like [the] same in Syria" said the Henry Munro Middle School student.

Beacon Hill–Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney said this particular "Clean Up the Capital" event was quite different from others he's participated in.

"These kids [were] all excited to clean," he said. "I think there's a lot to be said about the community here within the Donald Street area."

The arrival of Syrian refugees has helped further transform his ward for the better, Tierney added.

"I'm very impressed with this community," he said. "It's changed dramatically over the six years I've been a councillor for the area, and I'm very proud of it."