FREDRICTON – During a sunny week in late July, 20 children – 18 of them from Ukraine – gathered at St. John’s church in Saint John for English language camp.
“This came about as a result of the Ukrainian newcomers,” says the Rev. Terence Chandra, organizer. “We wanted to give the kids some exposure to English before school started.”
Mr. Chandra and his wife, Jasmine, are priests-in-charge of St. John’s, also called the Stone Church, and lead an uptown ministry called Pennies and Sparrows.
“We know their lives have been extremely difficult,” he says. “They’ve left family behind. We hoped to provide space for them to just be kids. We want them to speak English as much as possible, but even if they’re having fun, that’s a win for me.”
Mr. Chandra used his contacts from the adult English classes he teaches to organize the five-day camp and recruit the children, aged eight to 13. It turned out there was a high demand and he had to cap enrollment at 20.
With the help of three volunteers, he organized games, crafts and activities that encouraged communication. Their proficiency in English varied dramatically, with some who were surprisingly adept.
Corey Fairbrother was one of the volunteers. “These kids never knew each other (in Ukraine),” he says. “They were from all different towns, and now they’re forging their own community here.”
Anne Dykeman and Clare Andrews rounded out the volunteer list, and both had a fun week with the kids. But it wasn’t just the kids who were benefitting. “The parents come early to socialize with each other,” says Ms. Dykeman.
While Mr. Chandra admitted to being exhausted when the camp ended each day, he plans on doing it again next year. “It’s probably the most rewarding thing I’ve done this summer,” he says. “Jesus said ‘welcome the stranger.’ That’s what we’re doing with this camp.”
New Brunswick Anglican