Summer programming gives immigrant families extra support

For many Edmonton families, summer months can be an opportunity or an obstacle, depending on the supports and programming available for school-age children. With the support of the Out of School Time (OST) Collaborative, a Somali community group is ensuring that many immigrant children have the chance to get ahead in school during the long summer days.

The OST Collaborative aims to improve the resiliency and wellbeing of children and youth across Edmonton with a focus on immigrant and refugee, newcomer and Aboriginal groups through quality and widely accessible out-of-school-time programs, services and policies.

“We focus on the fundamentals of English and Math for the grade they’re going into,” said Abukar Nur, Program Coordinator for the Somali Canadian Cultural Society of Edmonton, which is running a program out of Killarney School.

“If kids aren’t succeeding in school, they probably will have behaviour problems with their parents and at school,” said Nur. “If they have a strong base, they will stay in school.”

Many of the children attending the camp are new to the country and have never been to school, spending formative years in refugee camps. Because of this, they often have weak language skills in the language of their parents as well as weak English skills.

“These kids, their feelings are burning up because they even have difficulty speaking to their parents,” said Nur.

Because of the language barriers that exist, both at home and at school, the program offers the children training in both English and Somali, strengthening both family relationships and chances of success in school.

“We need to make sure they do not lose momentum from the school year,” he said. “And we train the kids when they grow up to be volunteers, many former participants are here, helping out on their summer break.”

With the help of the summer programming, children have more support in adapting to the Canadian school curriculum and building positive relationships at home.

"This program is instrumental in helping Aboriginal, immigrant, refugee, and vulnerable communities deliver out-of-school-time programs," said Lindsay Daniller, Director of Community Initiatives and Development at REACH Edmonton. "These programs build the confidence, capacity and academic ability of children and youth from some of Edmonton's most vulnerable communities. In giving these youth the tools they need to succeed in school and their community, we're helping to promote resilience and encourage big dreams for the future."

The OST Collaborative has been meet¬ing since 2008 and includes partner organizations from government, local school boards and social serving agencies.