-> The collective donations throughout the first year were able to impact four organizations chosen (Hospice Peterborough, Youth Unlimited, Warming Room Community Ministries and New Canadians Centre) significantly, with close to $50,000 donated.
Faith Dickinson believes gratitude can transcend language and cultural barriers.
She would know.
At just 15 years of age, the Lakefield, Ont., teen has been heralded throughout the world for providing warmth and care to cancer patients with her hand-made “Cuddles for Cancer” blankets.
Just a few months ago, the Grade 10 Thomas A. Stewart student was presented the inaugural Diana Award at St. James Palace in London by both Princes Harry and William. Faith was among 20 youth to receive the prestigious award founded on the late Princess Diana’s belief that young people have the power to change the world.
Having sewn more than 3,500 fleece blankets that have been sent all across Canada, the United States, France, England and Australia, Faith has also created a signature blanket for soldiers overseas and those suffering from injuries or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many of these blankets have been sent to Afghanistan and Kuwait.
Faith—who is Youth Ambassador (a newly-created role) for the 76th Annual United Way of Peterborough Campaign—recently presented four of her cuddle blankets to clients of the New Canadians Centre (NCC).
“I’m a bit nervous meeting these women,” Faith explains, unfolding the blankets—two of which were made of plaid fleece. “My mom and I thought it would be fun to highlight the campaign theme which is anything and everything plaid.”
Initiated by Campaign Chair Neil Morton (co-founder of PTBOCanada.com), the plaid thread is running throughout the United Way of Peterborough campaign, including the launch on Tuesday, September 19th where most of the capacity crowd dressed in the fabric at the Evinrude Centre.
A partner agency that receives funding from the United Way, the NCC is a federally-designated welcome centre for Syrian refugees. To date, close to 350 Syrians have arrived in Peterborough, more than half of this number being children.
“I don’t speak Arabic,” Faith explains quietly, smiling at the four women who have gathered in the main space at the NCC. In addition to having fled their war-torn homeland, these four women—Hend Altech, Malaka Tonbakj, Abir Al Hattab and Sabah Alhamwi—face their own personal struggles with cancer, scleroderma, disability as well as the loneliness and feelings of despair associated with starting over in a new country where you don’t know anyone, or speak the language.
“I want these women to feel comfort and support and welcomed by myself and our community," says Faith. "I want them to know we understand what a struggle it’s been to get here to build a life for themselves and their families. I hope by presenting them with the blankets, it will convey what I want to say.”
And it did. Despite language barriers, Faith’s welcoming message of love and support was received—loud and clear. “When I handed them their blankets, they put their hands over their hearts as if to say thank you,” she says. A powerful expression of gratitude transcending language and cultural barriers, the warmth and comfort extended to these women was felt by everyone present.
“It was very moving both for myself and my Mom and Dad,” adds Faith. “One of the women, Hend, wanted to have her picture taken with me to send to her family who are still living in Syria. She kept nodding and smiling at me. And then she called me habibti (an Arabic term of affection) and we all started laughing and calling one another habibti. It was a lot of fun. I won’t forget it.”
—guest post by Carol Lawless
The Peterborough Curling Club generously donated its ice on Saturday (March 11th) for a Curling Day so newcomers could try their hand at this Canadian winter sport. About 40 newcomers participated in the event, which was a collaboration between the New Canadians Centre and Peterborough Curling Club.
About 10 volunteers from Peterborough Curling Club provided curling instructions and equipment for the new curling learners.
“The objective is to welcome newcomers to the community and introduce them to a very popular Canadian winter sport,” says Ken Featherstone of Peterborough Curling Club. “Newcomers can meet and socialize with other newcomers while learning a part of Canadian sports culture.”
“Some newcomers, especially if they do not speak English, can feel isolated,” says Anne Elliott, Community Coordinator at the New Canadians Centre. “The New Canadians Centre offers different opportunities and services to connect newcomers to the community and feel welcomed and at home. The curling day is ideal because it is Canadian, active and fun.”
Hundreds of hand-written messages from students, teachers and other community members have been installed on the New Canadians Centre’s Wall of Hope to welcome refugees.
For people who feel powerless in the face of what is happening in the world today, a few words of kindness can mean a great deal.
One child who came here 7 years ago as a New Canadian wrote this powerful message...
Here are some of the other messages written to newcomers (and yes, it will get warm here eventually)...
Wondering how to respond to the Syrian crisis? The New Canadians Centre is hosting a special Refugee Sponsorship Workshop this Thursday, September 10th.
The New Canadians Centre has received many inquiries from members of the Peterborough community expressing concern at the ongoing crisis in Syria and wondering how they can help. Many of these inquiries focused on how to sponsor a refugee family to come to Canada.
In response to these inquires, the New Canadians Centre will be hosting this refugee sponsorship workshop on Thursday, September 10th at 7 pm at the New Canadians Centre in Peterborough (221 Romaine St.). Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP the Centre by calling 705.743.0882 or emailing email@example.com.
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Free books were donated by Frontier College for all ages to encourage reading and literacy.
[Words and Picture by PtboCanada's Evan Holt]