In a classroom at Surrey’s IQRA Islamic School (IIS), colourful boxes decorated with messages of welcome written in English and Arabic are filled with items to help incoming Syrian refugee children feel at ease.
“I was driving home and heard about how shoeboxes full of goods were being sent to Guatemala,” says Grade 4 teacher Ana Candido. “Then I thought of Welcome Boxes, because many of the families will be coming with very little, or nothing at all, so it’s nice for each child to have their own personal box.”
The school began collecting items for the Welcome Boxes at the end of November and have since put together 346 boxes that will be distributed to refugee children by the Muslim Food Bank throughout January.
“The boxes are age- and gender-specific, so all the students made boxes for children their own age and gender,” says Candido, who also spearheaded the campaign.
The boxes are larger than a shoebox and include a variety of items, such as puzzles, gloves, toques, treats and student-made Arabic-to-English translation books.
“It’s been great community building, everyone’s been so excited about helping out, and some families even made more than one box just because they wanted too,” says Candido, noting that every single student from Kindergarten to Grade 8 was involved in some way with the campaign.
“We just wanted to help make their transition a little easier,” Candido says. “We’re just trying to make them feel at home.”