On keeping 12 kids entertained during the winter

The Alibrahim family has been in Port Elgin for nearly two months now. It’s hard to believe how quickly the time has flown, and yet it also seems like they’ve been here forever.

The kids are doing great in school and the parents are thriving in English classes in Owen Sound. Saad goes five days a week, while Ghaydaa goes three times, due to childcare limitations. The three littlest ones accompany their parents to Owen Sound, with the baby staying in class while the 3-year-old and 4-year-old attend the YMCA daycare.

The parents are always eager to practice new vocabulary words and phrases. Ghaydaa, in particular, is excited to run through her English grocery words, which she adorably pulls out of nowhere in the middle of conversations. “Chicken! Beef! Fridge! Chair! Lamb! Cheese!” Saad and 18-year-old daughter, Aisha, are now able to carry on conversations and facilitate translation, which is amazing, since that was not possible when they first arrived.

Our core group, together with many generous volunteers, has been working hard to teach the family how to enjoy the Canadian winter. The kids love skating and have become very good at it in a short period of time. Now their favourite thing to do is attend the sponsored skates at the Plex, where they whiz around the ice for an hour and a half.

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17-year-old Ibrahim pushes his 5-year-old brother Hassan around the rink

Two weeks ago, just before the snow melted, we squeezed in a glorious afternoon of sledding at Eastwood Park. It was a real highlight, as shrieks of joy and disbelief at the speed they were able to reach on a sled filled the air for several hours. The entire family was welcomed back to a nearby home for hot chocolate, cookies, and games afterward.

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Katherine, Mariam, and Aisha head down the slope on a toboggan, while Saad looks on skeptically!

It’s been interesting trying to keep 12 kids occupied during March Break, especially with such poor weather. (I used to think keeping three busy was a challenge, but now I realize it’s nothing compared to a dozen!) We’ve done lots of skating, and the older boys have attended the sponsored swims at the nearby pool.

On Friday we went to MacGregor Point Provincial Park for a campfire cookout with beef hotdogs and marshmallows. We adults hovered around the fire, trying to warm up in the chilly air, while the kids raced around the forest, visited the beach, played football and badminton. The family enjoyed it greatly, although they were cold after an hour and a half and told me they’d love to try it again in the summer when it’s warm. We keep promising it will warm up, but I’m not sure they believe us…

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A warm campfire on a chilly March day was a great ending to March Break.

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The kids are supposed to receive a shipment of bicycles from the Tiverton Lions Club this weekend, which will give them even more freedom to explore the town.

At the end of February, Penny Inkster and members of the United Church in Port Elgin organized a potluck dinner to introduce the Alibrahims to all the volunteers who are involved in their resettlement. It was so much fun that we’ve decided to have community dinners on a regular basis; the next one will be on March 31 – although it is by invitation only.

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Potluck dinner at the United Church. It was an impressive array of food!

Every week Canadian life gets easier for them, as they understand more of how it works – and especially now that they get a weekly delivery of 35 bags of pita bread right to their front door! Ghaydaa recently told me and Mariam that she feels more at home here than she ever did in Lebanon. Her words made us feel happy, since that sense of belonging is precisely what we hope for her (and the rest of the family) to feel while living in this community.

Thank you for the ongoing support from all. It is much appreciated.