Ukrainian children and families join in Canadian winter fun during winter holiday break

'It is our hope that events like this will fill their hearts with hope, love and kindness'

Today, 25 Ukrainian youths displaced by the Russia-Ukraine war participated in some fun Canadian winter activities at the Tiffin Centre for Conservation.

They started off the day by singing the Ukrainian national anthem, and some favourite folk songs.

One favourite activity was the Christmas Bird Count for Kids – a citizen science project. Birding experts from Nature Barrie guided the youth on a hike to count birds through the forests at Tiffin. The data collected will be submitted to Bird Studies Canada and included in the national Christmas Bird Count for Kids database.

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“Connecting with nature and enjoying its beauty can bring peace and joy all around the world, said Naomi Saunders, Manager of Education at the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority (NVCA). “By providing this opportunity to play, create and learn about nature here in Canada, we are also providing enrichment for future connections that can be made when participants are able to go back home.”

While hiking in the forest, the children also became nature detectives and investigated wildlife in the winter. They learned how to track wildlife, how animals prepare for winter, their adaptations, and their habitats.

“The Rotary Club of Barrie is delighted to fund and volunteer at the Ukrainian Children’s event at the NVCA,” said Chuck Boldt, President, Rotary Club of Barrie. “This worthy cause is one of the highlights of our Rotary Year. We enjoyed seeing everyone there and to help spread the joy of the season.”

The children also enjoyed disc golf at Tiffin’s Goldilocks Disc Golf Course, which is a very accessible game that is also played in Ukraine. Children also made some nature-themed Indigenous crafts, taught by an Indigenous educator. They learned about the importance of the dream catcher and medicine pouch and also made some to bring home. Everyone enjoyed roasting their own hotdogs and marshmallows on firepits.

“We appreciate the support and collaboration of our partners in creating opportunities that enhance experiences for the Ukrainian students and their families as they become immersed in the community,” said John Playford, Superintendent of Education at the SCDSB.

Tatiana Khrystynko, Coordinator, International Student Program added “Christmas is a very special time of year for Ukrainians filled with family visits, caroling, gifts, and happiness. Given the current situation in Ukraine, many students and their families may be feeling sad and lonely, while being far away from their home. It is our hope that events like this will fill their hearts with hope, love and kindness.”

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Group shot of the youth

This event was hosted by the Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority and Simcoe County District School Board with funding from the Rotary Club of Barrie. Nature Barrie, Joe’s No Frills, Modern Music School and Discy Chicks Disc Golf also contributed their time and resources to make this event successful.

Images via Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority

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