It was a curious, colourful pile, made of purple, green, and yellow paper with flowers, hearts, and rainbows drawn in crayons and markers. Received by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) at its headquarters in Ottawa in January 2016, it seemed slightly out of place.
It was a stack of hand-made welcome cards written by the Grade 6 class at St. Joseph School in Acton, Ontario, addressed to Syrian refugee children arriving in Canada. Some were meant to reassure the newcomers, pointing out that Canada is ‘fun’ and a ‘safe country where there are no bombs’. Others recommended trying maple syrup or going to see the film ‘Finding Nemo’.
Girls said they play soccer or hockey – but not professionally, one pointed out. Many cards had hand-made friendship bracelets taped on the inside.
Most eleven-year olds in Acton have no experience of being displaced across international borders, or of life in crowded refugee camps. But they have an inkling of their good fortune and were eager to share it with Syrian children they heard so much about in school and on the evening news.
With their smiles, compassion, and desire to engage, they are the little amateur ambassadors that helped make Canada’s #WelcomeRefugees initiative a true success.
The cards received by IRCC were displayed in the children’s play area at the Refugee Welcome Centre in Toronto where thousands of refugees arrived between December 2015 and February 2016.
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