Amal Altrjman and her daughter Maya Alsabeq, of Syria, Diana Fox of Peru, and Manuel Batista of Cuba, right, dig in during an international feast at the Adult Learning Centre shared with Grade 7-8 students from Queen Elizabeth II school. Glenn Ogilvie
Canadian Cheetos poured fresh from the bag.
It’s a diverse menu for a diverse group.
Twenty-five new immigrants studying English at the YMCA Learning and Career Centre were warmly welcomed to Sarnia recently by students from Queen Elizabeth II School. The Grade 7-8 kids brought small gifts and goodies, and then everyone tucked into an international feast spread across a classroom table.
Over taro root and fry bread, they shared small talk in gestures and halting English.
“(The students) are lucky they are living here,” said newcomer Mojtaba Golshan, a computer programmer who left a successful business in Iran for greater freedom here.
“It’s good. They need to know that many people in the world desire to come to Canada.”
Queen Elizabeth teacher Carissa Houle said the cultural exchange happened because her students said they didn’t believe Sarnia had many immigrants.
“They were surprised to come in here and see so many people from so many places,” she said. “They are making a real world connection.”
Adults from the Linc class – Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada –found their way to Sarnia from nations as dissimilar as China, Congo, Mexico, Cuba and Iraq.
How many set down roots and stay remains to be seen, however. Despite a sustained community effort to retain immigrants, many eventually drift away to larger centres.
Golshan said he and his wife are enjoying Sarnia and have been warmly received, but finding a job in computer programming has been difficult.
“We would like to stay,” he said with a shrug.