Cassie’s new clothes
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.