Sounds of laughter and excitement filled the air at Canada Olympic Park WinSport Friday afternoon while some of the new residents of Calgary have discovered how to have fun in the snow.
WinSport hosted a hundred participants of the Center for Newcomers for a day of winter activities, opening the recreation center to dozens of families recently arrived in Calgary.
For many it was their first experience of what it’s like ice skating or sliding down a hill covered with snow.
Nangalai Sadat was sitting with his wife and five children on a park bench in the park Tube Servus. They went right for snow tube first time, and felt the blast of wind and snow before them as they rushed down the hill.
Sadat said they were delighted to spend the day together.
“Every day, my kids wake up at 11 am, but today they all woke up at 7 in the morning. They were very excited,” Sadat said with a smile.
The Sadat family was forced to leave Afghanistan when the Taliban returned to power after a long insurgency last decades August The Taliban knew Sadat worked as a bodyguard to the Canadian Embassy in Kabul for 15 years, who put his family at greater risk, he said.
“I’ve never felt free in Afghanistan. I could never relax and enjoy my life, “said Sadat. “This is the first time in 45 years that I feel alive. I have a life. I can move forward.”
Maryam Baiza associated cultural and community outreach at the Center for Newcomers, said the day WinSport gives newcomers a chance to get acquainted with the activities and experiences available in Canada.
Since November, the organization of Calgary worked with 450 people who have fled Afghanistan. Many of them have worked as interpreters for the Canadian Armed Forces, she said.
“Since they arrived in Canada, they can sleep at night without fear of being attacked. That’s why this country is very valuable to them, “she said.
The son of Sadat Haseebullah, queued for lunch before going ice skating. He said he had already played hockey in school, but only with shoes. Freeba nine years, said she was thrilled to try snow tubing for the first time.
“It’s funny. I loved it. And I slipped! She said.
Newcomers program began in 2017 to introduce new Canadians to sports and recreational opportunities available in Calgary. Over 425 people participated since it began.
Dale Oviatt, senior director of communications at WinSport, said the program gives newcomers to Canada a chance to relax, have fun and feel part of the community.
“You can not measure the number of smiles you see on these people when they are here,” said Oviatt.
Give them the opportunity to don a pair of skates for the first time or see how the Olympic Park can help them feel comfortable and excited to return, he said.
“It’s just a way to make them feel a little more like they are Canadians, and feel like they are part of the community. This makes us all proud to see these people coming here.