Talent show is big finish at kid's camp for new Canadians

About 40 kids from all over the world took to the stage at a St. John's elementary school Friday for a very special talent show to cap off a very special summer camp.

They were the youngest kids in the Association of New Canadians' summer camp, ranging in ages from 6 to 13. Most have been in Canada for less than a year.

"You feel that you aren't only the different person ... You feel there are [other] people that are like you," Merih Berrhe,13, said when asked what he took away from the camp.

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The kids danced, sang, posed in a fashion show and even showed off their soccer skills for a crowd of their family and friends at the Bishop Abraham School gymnasium.

The ANC's Settlement Workers in the Schools (SWIS) program, which helps newcomers to the country adjust to the school system and the new culture, runs the annual summer camp.

It gives the kids an opportunity to keep practicing English during the summer holidays, and it gives their parents a chance to keep up with their own English courses, said Jean Graham, a spokesperson for the ANC.

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It also gives newcomer families that arrive in the summer a way to get used ot their community, said Tilak Chawan, a coordinator with the ANC's SWIS team.

"If they come at this time, they don't have any chance to get integrated," Chawan said. "They will be stuck in their home because of school being closed for two months."

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He said the change he sees in the kids from their first day of camp, when many can barely pronounce his name or say hello, to the end of the season, as they stand on stage to perform in English and show off their skills, is amazing to see.

"Kids, they're like a sponge," he said. "But most of all, I've seen the community being so welcoming. And that matters the most."

'If you practice, you got this'

14-year-old Shaymaa Elmheimed volunteered at the camp this summer, helping the Arabic-speaking children with their English. She came to Canada from Syria nearly four years ago.

"When I came first to Canada, I was like them. I came to the summer camp and I had people who helped. So I was here to help them," Elmheimed said.

"I didn't even know anything about English. But after I finished [at the camp], I learned and now I'm good."

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She said volunteering at the camp has taught her to be patient, and to love little kids.

"It's hard to learn a new language. But if you practice, you got this."

Ranazani Richad, from Congo, has been in Canada for two months.

He said that in addition to being an excellent soccer play, he's made a lot of friends at the ANC's summer camp.

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He's looking forward to doing the same when he starts school in September.

"I'm happy," he said.

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