Moving to a new country with a different language and culture can be as difficult for children as it is for adults.
It’s one of the reasons why the Cumberland Public Libraries and YREACH program at the Cumberland YMCA have come together to create a multicultural club that will hold its first meeting on Jan. 16 at the Four Fathers Memorial Library.
“I remember a number of years ago participating in a Canada World Youth Exchange that sent me to Bangladesh,” youth services library assistant Julie Allison-Savage said. “I remember thinking how lost I was at first, not knowing the language or understanding the culture. I can only imagine what it can be like for someone moving to Canada from another country.”
Allison-Savage approached Heeyeon Son of the YREACH program at the Cumberland YMCA about creating the club that’s aimed at children from Grades Primary to 12. Besides participating in the Canada World Youth Program, she also hosts students from the international student program at Amherst Regional High School.
“I’ve always had an interest in different cultures and different ways of doing things,” she said. “When I became the youth services librarian I called HeeYeon and asked her if she would be interested and she said she loved it.”
The first meeting will see the participants come up with a name for the club and along with young people she is hoping to pull in the families. The initial meeting will be from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. and will include Son doing a presentation on South Korean culture.
The Jan. 30 meeting will celebrate the Lunar New Year.
Allison-Savage is hoping future meetings will include discussions on other cultures present in Cumberland County and she stressed the club is for everyone, not just newcomers to Canada or people from other cultures and traditions.
“This is not just for kids. While we put Primary to Grade 12 on the poster, we’re hoping to get families from different cultures and countries to come out and do demonstrations and teach them some of things they do in their everyday life,” Allison-Savage said.
To her, it’s about fostering greater knowledge and understanding and bringing down barriers that exist between Canadians and newer Canadians.
That’s something that’s dear to Son, who moved to Canada from South Korea several years ago with her husband, Matthew Jones. When she first arrived she only knew her husband’s family and struggled with local traditions and customs.
It’s something their oldest daughter experienced as well while their second child was born in Amherst.
Besides serving as part of the immigrant settlement staff at the Cumberland YMCA/YREACH Program, she has also been very active with the Cumberland County Multicultural Association.
“I’ve been doing a grown-up version of this for a while, including the cooking class,” Son said. “I can see how beneficial a club such as this could be for youth. I’ve been going to Spring Street Academy and doing some programs there, but I’m hoping this will be more permanent.”
Son said when it comes to exposing people to new cultures, the younger the better because as people age it becomes harder to pick up new language or understand different traditions and cultures.
“Young people have a more open mind to learning things,” she said. “If young people are exposed to new cultures they will be more open to accepting them. Also, in some cases when people move to a different place they feel isolated. By being able to celebrate and share their culture they will feel more welcomed and have a better sense of belonging.”