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The Boys and Girls Club in Moncton has seen children of all ages and from all walks of life walk through their doors.
The Abuzeid brothers came to Canada from Syria and couldn’t speak a word of English.
“I was nervous, very nervous,” said Mahmoud Abuzeid.
His older brother, Ali, says it was a big adjustment.
“When I got here, I felt lonely because it was different, everything was different around me,” said Ali Abuzeid. “People, language, and everything.”
Some children who escaped war-torn countries have mixed emotions on their arrival to Canada.
“Moving to Canada, it was really exciting news, but at the same time it was really hard for me because English wasn’t my first language,” said Alphoncine Kabangu.
The club provides academic support, tutoring and a guiding hand for the future, but with the influx of refugees, they’ve also molded their program to fit newcomers’ needs, says Moncton Boys and Girls Club director Rebecca Campbell.
“That sense of safety needs to be established, that sense of trust has to be established,” she said. “There’s fear when they come here, there’s some PTSD that we’re working through.”
In 2008, only 2.4 per cent of the club’s population was newcomers to Canada. Now, 10 years later, that number has jumped up to 56 per cent.
And one of those is a teen who has been quite the success story.
Ali Abuzeid has only been in Canada for two years and, with the help of the club, he’s won a $10,000 international scholarship and is featured in a nationwide commercial.
“All the tough times that I went through just pointed me to who I am now and the success I am going through now,” said Ali Abuzeid.
The boys and girls club has also had an effect on his little brother.
“It helped me with my reading, my writing, my future,” said Mahmoud Abuzeid.
The program’s directors say it’s rewarding to see the comfort level rise with the new Canadians.
“We do know from our outcome measurement that one of the biggest things, is that 100 per cent of young people who come to the boys and girls club say that here, they feel safe,” said Campbell. “That’s major.”
And the refugees say the boys and girls club has been their security blanket through it all.
“There’s a lot of people, so if anything bad happens they might be able to help,” said Mahmoud Abuzeid.“You don’t feel lonely.”
These kids are lonely no more — with a home away from home.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kate Walker.
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