Cassie’s new clothes

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER nmercer@cb­n­com­

It’s not ev­ery day you get to ex­pe­ri­ence an­other cul­ture.

It’s even less likely you’ll get to ex­pe­ri­ence more than a dozen dif­fer­ent so­ci­eties and coun­tries in less than two hours.

But that’s ex­actly what students from the feeder schools - Holy Redeemer Ele­men­tary, St. Peter’s Ele­men­tary, Amal­ga­mated Academy and All Hal­lows Ele­men­tary - of the As­cen­sion Col­le­giate school sys­tem got to do late last week when the Bay Roberts high school hosted a Sharing Our Cul­tures event on May 12.

Dozens of ele­men­tary students bounced from booth to booth set up in As­cen­sion’s gym­na­sium and took part in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties.

It’s a pro­gram de­signed to ex­pose school aged chil­dren in New­found­land and Labrador to dif­fer­ent as­pects of cul­tures that aren’t their own. These young students are given a back­door pass into worlds they might only read about in a text­book.

Taught by young peo­ple new to this coun­try, there was Bol­ly­wood dance from In­dia, Dabke from the mid­dle East­ern coun­try of Jor­dan and a host of other ac­tiv­i­ties avail­able to them.

“It’s about break­ing down cul­tural bar­ri­ers,” said As­cen­sion prin­ci­pal Neil Kear­ley. “Peo­ple think some­thing dif­fer­ent from them is strange and, some­times, some­thing to be feared. It’s new Cana­di­ans for the most part that are pre­sent­ing this, so they get to feel some value in bring­ing this.

“I guess if you go to the whole idea of what Canada is about, we’re a mul­ti­cul­tural so­ci­ety.”

The new Cana­di­ans, many of them high school students in St. John’s at Holy Heart High and Water­ford Val­ley High, brought a con­sid­er­able amount of en­ergy to their tasks. Many of them were dressed in tra­di­tional dress as they en­ter­tained and ed­u­cated their au­di­ence.

In pre­vi­ous years, sim­i­lar show­cases have been put off at Bac­calieu Col­le­giate in Old Per­li­can and other schools around the prov­ince.

“Mul­ti­cul­tur­ism is what’s be­ing cel­e­brated here,” said Kear­ley. “It was pre­sented to us a year ago and I said, ‘We’d love to host it.’

“We jumped at it.”

A first in­tro­duc­tion

For many of these students, the short pe­riod of time they spent at As­cen­sion was their first ex­po­sure to a cul­ture dif­fer­ent from their own.

Their first tour guides into this new world were the students rep­re­sent­ing their coun­tries at the var­i­ous booths.

Ab­dul­rah­man Abu-Hendi, a 16-year-old from Jor­dan, is a stu­dent at Holy Heart High School in St. John’s. For each group that’d visit him, he’d teach them dif­fer­ent dance steps that make up dabke.

“It’s fun,” Abu-Hendi said of the ex­pe­ri­ence. “The best part was just sharing my cul­ture be­cause the kids learn it … and the more you know, right.

“It’s pretty cool to be a part of their first in­tro­duc­tion.”

St. Peter’s Ele­men­tary stu­dent Alex Vokey was one of those students get­ting a taste of the dif­fer­ent sides of cul­ture on dis­play.

Like the rest of his class­mates, Alex made sure to get a taste of ev­ery­thing that was be­ing of­fered. Whether it was jump­ing on stage for some Bol­ly­wood or see­ing how weav­ing is done in Nepal, he got his money’s worth.

“It was good,” said Alex. “I thought all of the dif­fer­ent danc­ing was pretty cool.”

The best part was just sharing my cul­ture be­cause the kids learn it … and the more you know, right. Ab­dul­rah­man Abu-Hendi


As­cen­sion Col­le­giate stu­dent Cassie Keats (left) gets in­tro­duced to Ere­tria tra­di­tional cloth­ing from Luwam Mehsonte from Su­dan. The Bay Roberts school hosted a Sharing Our Cul­tures event, where high school students from the St. John’s area helped kids in this area learn about di­verse cul­tures.


In­dia’s Joan Che­rian (right) leads a group of Holy Redeemer Ele­men­tary students through Bol­ly­wood dance.


Nige­ria’s Kelechi Owasi places a tra­di­tional head wrap on stu­dent Rachel Mur­phy.


Manoj Ne­u­pany showed vis­i­tors to the Sharing Cul­tures event how peo­ple from Nepal weave fab­ric.

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