Syrian students settling well in Abbotsford

Resettlement program has worked quickly to integrate new students

Abbotsford School District put together a special program to accommodate new Syrian refugee students when they arrived last February.

Abbotsford School District put together a special program to accommodate new Syrian refugee students when they arrived last February.

Dozens of refugee students are now enrolled in regular classes, as the Abbotsford School District continues to integrate those who arrived last spring.

When Abbotsford’s population suddenly swelled by 166 last February with the arrival of Syrian refugee families, the majority – 94 kids in total – were school-age children.

The school district didn’t have the space or budget readily available to accommodate them, but jumped into action with a plan to integrate the new students and make them feel at home.

Kanta Naik, the director of the district’s resettlement program, was tasked with finding a way to integrate the girls and boys.

The new students were jet-lagged, culture-shocked and dealing with the trauma of fleeing a war-torn country.

Naik’s first priority was to give the kids some semblance of normalcy.

They learned some basics about the school routines and rules in a three-day orientation and then began studying in “sheltered immersion” classes in five local schools.

Naik and her colleagues didn’t know if the extra funding was going to come through for the new program, but they went ahead with it nonetheless.

“The senior management was really very supportive and said: ‘We need to do what’s right for these students, even if it costs us money that we generally didn’t have budgeted.'”

The classes provided a balance to the students by giving them the separate intensive English-language instruction they needed, while also allowing them to mingle with other students during lunch and recess breaks.

The Syrian children spent the remainder of the school year in June in the immersion classes.

The district also initiated special training for teachers, administrators and counselors to help them understand the complex issues at hand in families with traumatic experiences.

The district even partnered with Abbotsford Community Services to help the families find housing and furniture as they moved from a local hotel to homes in the community.

This September, when classes started, the Syrian kids were rolled into regular classes in the schools throughout the district, with new opportunities to make friends and integrate further.

The district is now considering hiring an Arabic-English interpreter to improve its communication with families.

But the relationship between Abbotsford’s two dozen new families and the community at large goes both ways, said Naik.

“We need to celebrate what they are bringing to us,” she said. “They bring a rich culture and language; They bring incredible resiliency; They are very hospitable and are always offering you [things], inviting you [places].”

Just Posted

The Vancouver Canucks have polled season ticket holders on team name options for the new Abbotsford AHL team.
Vancouver Canucks poll season tickets holders on Abbotsford AHL team name

List asks fans to rank three out of 10 options, also if Abbotsford or Fraser Valley should be used

The Aquilini Investment Group and the city of Abbotsford have agreed to terms on related to management of the Abbotsford Centre.
Aquilini Investment Group awarded Abbotsford Centre contract

Canucks ownership group, city of Abbotsford come to agreement on terms

Vancouver courthouse. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Man loses bid to appeal conviction for 1999 rape at Abbotsford music festival

James Redden, 53, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty in 2019 following six-day trial

Rick Hansen Secondary School teacher Jasvir Gill is the project coordinator for the Equity for Humanity project.
Equity for Humanity project aims to build culture conversation in Abbotsford

Rick Hansen Secondary School’s Jasvir Gill believes cultural understanding will benefit everyone

Fraser Health monitors long-term care vaccination rates amid local COVID-19 outbreak

COVID-19 transmission has largely been on the decline in Agassiz-Harrison

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

A 34-year-old man was arrested Monday after Transit Police found him riding a SkyTrain with a shotgun in the front of his sweatpants. (Transit Police)
SkyTrain passenger arrested, charged for concealing shotgun in his sweatpants

Codty-James Gray, 34, was found with ammunition, brass knuckles and knives

Ivy was thrown out of a moving vehicle in Kelowna. Her tail was severely injured and will be amputated. (BC SPCA)
Kitten thrown from moving vehicle, needs help: Kelowna SPCA

The seven-month-old kitten had severe tail and femur injuries

A health-care worker holds up a sign signalling she needs more COVID-19 vaccines at the ‘hockey hub’ mass vaccination facility at the CAA Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brampton, Ont., on Friday, June 4, 2021. This NHL-sized hockey rink is one of CanadaÕs largest vaccination centres. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
‘Vaxxed to the max’: Feds launch Ask an Expert campaign to encourage COVID shots

Survey shows that confidence in vaccines has risen this spring

Port Alberni court house (Alberni Valley News)
Inquest set into 2016 death of B.C. teen after a day spent in police custody

18-year-old Jocelyn George died of heart failure in hospital after spending time in jail cell

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Singer-songwriter Jann Arden is pictured with a draft horse. (Canadian Horse Defence Coalition)
Jann Arden backs petition to stop ‘appalling’ live horse export, slaughter

June 14 is the International Day to End Live Export of Animals

A letter from a senior RCMP officer in Langley said Mounties who attended a mayor’s gala in January of 2020 used their own money. Controversy over the event has dogged mayor Val van den Broek (R) and resulted in the reassignment of Langley RCMP Supt. Murray Power (L). (file)
Langley RCMP officers used ‘own money’ to attend mayor’s gala, senior officer says

‘I would not want there to be a belief that the police officers had done something untoward’

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Most Read