Tuesdays at lunch are a special time for the group of students at Tecumseh Elementary known as "Cultural Buddies". Each month, volunteers Daljit Dhillon and Kelly Burns from South Vancouver Neighbouhood House, arrive to greet 17 English Language Learners (ELL) from China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Vietnam and The Philippines. During lunch the Cultural Buddies eat lunch, play games, make crafts, learn about festivals and celebrations and develop enduring friendships. In October, Tecumseh students learned about Thanksgiving, Halloween, and Diwali.
"The other day, students were creating a Cultural Buddies mural," says Tecumseh Vice Principal Carrie Froese. "Students wrote their own names, but also made a point of including the names of the others in the group who were absent. It was very clear that everyone in the group was making sure everyone was part of the group."
Cultural Buddies is a mentoring and engagement program created to support new Canadian youth. It runs out of various Neighbourhood Houses in Vancouver and partners with the Vancouver School Board at elementary and secondary schools. Across the district, students participate in Cultural Buddies either after school or on their lunch hour.
"Research and good sense tells us how important it is for students to have friends and feel connected at school," adds Froese. "The Cultural Buddies group is one way this is happening at Tecumseh."
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