On March 5, 58 Chinese newcomer students and parents from the SWIS Byng Project 3B celebrated a joyful Lunar New Year of the Sheep with Lord Kitchener Elementary students and teachers. The celebrations were organized by SWIS worker Janet Chung in collaboration with Catherine Feniak, principal of Lord Kitchener.
"It's my second year to work with Catherine on this project," says Chung. "I'm so grateful for her school's continuous support."
This year the celebrations included a Lion Dance, Kindergarten Kung Fu Master Show, Strings Performance, SWIS Parent Singing Ensemble and Dancing Group.
"Newcomer parents and students were so excited about this event," says Chung. "They were engaged in our school community by supporting essential elements for this festival, such as making paper-cutting pictures and writing Chinese New Year wishing words to decorate the stage. They also helped by giving away Red Envelopes which they prepared on their own."
The planning and implementation of the event helped connect newcomer parents and their children to the community.
Feniak says the event is a very good way to welcome new families into a school community. It not only let newcomer children proudly see their parents leading the songs and dances in front of 450 students, but also allowed Lord Kitchener students to experience an important Chinese festival. It also sparked their interest in learning about different cultures.
"Our students come from different backgrounds," says Feniak. "Kung Fu is new to most of them, and the strings group hasn't played Chinese songs with violins before and we never got the chance to do Chinese dancing before. Our Lunar New Year celebration has encouraged them to embrace new cultures."
Chung says the success of this event was contingent both on the parents and their children's enthusiastic involvement and generous help from teacher volunteers.
Maria Tsagaris, a resource teacher, Emily Akita, a strings teacher and Grace Proon, a professional musician came together three days a week since January to teach strings to their students, while Robert Li, a multicultural liaison worker, taught Kung Fu.
"I also want to thank Dunbar Heights Baptist Church and É"�cole Jules Quesnel for giving our parents the multipurpose rooms to practice singing and dancing," says Chung. "They have been continuously supporting our SWIS 3B programs."
The Lunar New Year celebration event is part of the SWIS Project 3B, which aims to engage newcomer parents and students with school communities, enabling them to fully participate in a culturally diverse society.
"We were so glad that we could bring happiness to the kids and the community," says Ma Lan, one of the newcomer parents. "Thanks to this event, we were able to realize our talents and expertise and get involved in our community by volunteering."
Click on the image below to check out our Flickr album for more photos.