Newcomers integrating traditions

Journal Pioneer staff
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P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada hosts traditional, Island Christmas dinner

SUMMERSIDE – Christmas came early to the Wilmot Community Centre Saturday.

The P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada greeted more than one hundred of its clients at a Christmas dinner and community-building event at the centre.

“This is the fourth year for the Christmas event, and it is getting bigger every year,” noted Belinda Woods, settlement worker and internationally educated health professional with the Association.

There are over 400 first-generation immigrant newcomers in the Summerside area, Woods revealed. This year’s event welcomed 52 children among the clients, who represented 35 different countries and cultures.

The event featured a traditional Island Christmas meal, prepared by chef Norman Zeledon who was originally from Nicaragua, as well as a variety of seasonal activities that surround the celebration. The Association also provided younger children with a present of a toy, and distributed seasonal goodie bags to the rest of the participants as attendance has begun to exceed gift-giving capacity.

Some of the guests have already long histories with their Canadian experience, while others have only just arrived in the country.

Woods described the most experienced members as being veterans of more than a decade, but many are just taking their first, tentative steps within the community.

Several families, for example, recently came from the Philippines after the men of the families were recruited as welders.

Several medical professionals have come to P.E.I. in recent years as well, including anesthesia specialist Vandana Vaishnav. Originally from Rajasthan in northwest India, she gained experience in the Middle East and Ireland before coming to Canada with her husband, who was pursuing his education.

“I like that they celebrate Christmas as well as their own (traditions). They are embracing and integrating cultures.” Belinda Woods, Association for Newcomers to Canada

Often too busy to join ANC events, she attended last year and enjoyed it so much she made a point to return. Most of her social interactions are with work colleagues, and she appreciates the opportunity to widen her contacts.

“A program like this is much better because you meet family members and kids,” she explained.

Her experiences are encouraging her to become more involved with the Association, paying forward the help she was provided when she first arrived.

Clifford Yue, an electrical engineer, completed his education in Toronto at the urging of a friend and then worked there for five years. He wanted a change and moved with his family to P.E.I.

“It seemed a good place to raise a family,” he assessed.

He worked for several years here, but is currently looking for new opportunities. His wife, also an engineer, has local employment, which encourages him to try to stay in the province.

It was his first time at the Christmas event, as he had been here long enough that he felt he might not be considered a newcomer, but he decided he will definitely attend more events.

“I like the family aspect. It’s cozy and welcoming,” he declared, noting that the community can serve as the relatives that he left behind in his native China.

Woods appreciates the attendance at the Christmas party, recognizing that family events tend to bring out more newcomers but also that it demonstrates an effort to adjust.

“I like that they celebrate Christmas as well as their own (traditions). They are embracing and integrating cultures.”

Organizations: P.E.I. Association for Newcomers

Geographic location: Canada, Summerside, P.E.I. Nicaragua Philippines Rajasthan India Middle East Ireland Toronto China

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