Speaking the language of fun
This summer, four Syrian brothers are getting into the swim of things at Mini U.
The Hamidi brothers: Salih, 15; Ibrahim, 12; Yusef, 11; and eight-year-old Yahya arrived as refugees from Syria with their parents last year and have been building a new life in Winnipeg, including participating in the Mini U program.
As refugees the family was sponsored by faculty, staff and students of the University of Manitoba’s Rady Faculty of Health Sciences, who came together to raise the $35,000 sponsorship fund and collect furniture, clothing, and household goods. A successful drive in the spring resulted in the acquisition of bikes for all four boys and funds were donated for the purchase of new helmets and bike locks. As sponsors, members of the Rady Faculty have been involved in helping to settle the family throughout their first year in Winnipeg including finding accommodations, assisting with logistics of school enrolment, health services and more.
Running from July to September, Mini U provides a wide range of education and sports activities for children four to 15. This year’s registration levels broke previous records with over 7,400 children registering for activities. With over 60 programs to choose from, children can select between sport, special interest, leadership and aquatic programming.
The aquatic component is clearly a favourite of all four brothers who didn’t know how to swim before arriving in Canada but were excited to get into the pool at the Frank Kennedy Centre.
“I also like wall climbing and we played dodge ball yesterday,” Salih said. “I learned to tie knots in ropes in wall climbing class. It’s nice here and I want to be come back next year.”
Salih and his brothers were able to attend Mini U with support from the University of Manitoba’s Rady Faculty of Health Sciences’ Community Engagement initiatives, which in the past has run Mini U sessions in Winnipeg’s inner city.
“This year we collaborated with department colleagues and used our Mini U fund to send the Syrian family’s four children,” said Karen Cook, Project Manager, Community Engagement. “We felt it was important and saw it as an opportunity to continue developing their new language while in a structured recreational environment.”
While the Hamidis are still new to English, the language barrier is not an issue for kids, according to Jay Gamey, Director of Mini U programs.
“We strive to create welcoming and inclusive environments for young people to meet new friends, experience positive physical activities and develop leadership skills,” Gamey said. “We find that play doesn’t have a language. Our leaders are trained to design activities and games that bring groups together and create safe environments for all abilities.”