Urgent funding needed to keep Vancouver-based summer camp for child refugees open

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Imagine leaving a war-stricken country for a new life in Canada, but you don’t speak English?

The BC Newcomer Camp which helps young refugees–mainly from Syria–is at risk of closing this summer.

Co-founder Dakota Koch says financial support from people wanting to help refugees has dropped since programs started running out of the Mt. Pleasant neighbourhood House on West Broadway four years ago.

“It’s difficult to go past where we went the first year in terms of promoting ourselves within the community. Just because, in those first years in the height of the crisis, so many people were so willing to help out.”

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He says they’ve grown so fast, they had to change the name from East Vancouver Newcomer Camp to BC Newcomer Camp.

“There is sizable needs across all the communities in BC –Surrey especially, which receives a huge percentage of the newcomers to BC.”

Omar Abubakr is a 15-year-old Syrian refugee who’s now a counsellor helping other kids adapt.

“I love helping kids and I would really love to make other kids part of this and I think we can improve and expand this community. They also have fun, interact with other people instead of just staying on their phones. The majority’s Arabic-speaking, so when you go to a different country that speaks a different language, their first language is going to be worse because they’re not going to talk as much as often. Most of the time they just speak their first language with their parents, but now they can speak with other friends to improve their English as well.”

Abubakr tells NEWS 1130 he started volunteering three years ago.

“Feels good when you help the children learn English. They felt like they were part of the community here. I’m just like a couple years older than them, so it won’t feel like as if I’m a teacher and they’re like a student. It’s more like a friend to a friend.”

While some federal money is still available, up to $10,000 is needed to keep operating this summer.

Koch says fundraising was easier the first couple of years.

“It’s harder to see that same support within the community. Things have changed a lot. We’ve expanded and we are operating a lot differently than we were in our first year.”

As many as 30 kids, mainly speaking Arabic or Kurdish, are currently enrolled in programs which include various immersive sports and games.

Donations to the BC Newcomer Camp can be made here.

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