This is our friend Dalia. She is 8 years old. We got together with Dalia on a Sunday morning to do some painting and ask her about where she lived before moving to Ottawa. This is what we learned ….

She was born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). She has two older sisters and an older brother. She moved to Ottawa when she was six years old. She was excited to move to Ottawa.

The UAE is pretty far from Ottawa, but not as far as Japan or New Zealand. It took Dalia 12 hours to fly from Dubai, UAE to Toronto, Canada.

In the UAE, Dalia lived in an apartment. This was the view from their window in Dubai.

Apartment Window 1 Apartment Window 2

They used to feed the birds right outside their window in their apartment building. One day Dalia was watching a mommy bird feeding its baby bird right on her windowsill.

Dalia had a pet fish in the UAE. She also had a pet fish here in Ottawa that lived until it was two years old. But she doesn’t have any pets right now.

When Dalia lived in the UAE, she used to spend her summers in Jordan visiting her cousins. Jordan is closer to the UAE than Canada is, but she still took a plane there. It would take her 3 hours to fly from the UAE to Jordan.

Dalia’s favourite sports in the UAE were swimming and badminton. She used to have a swimming pool in her building and would swim every day. She also did some ice skating – they have ice skating indoors in the UAE. They also have skiing indoors. Winter sports have to be indoors because it is very hot in the UAE. It never snows there.

We asked Dalia what the national sport in the UAE is, and we learned that it is camel racing. Taking care of race camels is more expensive than taking care of race horses. Sometimes people would bring their camels to a park for a day off and any kids at the park would get the chance to ride the camels. Dalia has ridden a camel before.

This is a great link to an article on camel racing with photos in case you wanted to learn more about this sport: www.yourabudhabiguide.com/camel-racing-uae.html

Dalia’s favourite sport here in Ottawa is still badminton, but she also likes skating.

Her favourite food to eat, both in the UAE and in Canada, is cake. One of the foods she ate a lot of in the UAE was hummus. All of the friends hanging out with Dalia in Ottawa on this Sunday morning liked hummus too. One of the foods that she really likes in Canada, and that she couldn’t get in the UAE, is Beavertails.

Dalia went to school in the UAE – she did three years of school there, before moving to Canada and starting here in Grade One. She had to wear a uniform to school, and they had a different uniform to change into for gym class. Her school was pink on the outside and there were lots of palm trees around.


In school, they spoke Arabic and English, and Dalia was also learning French in the UAE. In Kindergarten, the teachers would write on the blackboard in cursive writing and the kids were expected to know how to read it.

In the UAE, even for four to six year olds, the kids have two hours of homework a night. But school ends in May there because it gets too hot in the summer months to go to school. At recess, Dalia would play with her friends or play on the play structure. We asked if there were any monkey bars at her school in the UAE, she said that there were not, there was only a slide to play on. And recess was shorter than it is here in Ottawa. But they got to eat their lunch outside in the UAE every day. Dalia’s mom packed her lunch in the UAE, but the school had a cafeteria where the students could buy juice or some other items to add to their lunches.

Dalia told us about a few field trips she went on when she was at school in the UAE. One was to a zoo. Her favourite animal at the zoo was the tiger. She also liked the flamingos. Dalia went to dolphin show for another field trip. She also went to a really cool indoor play place called Kidszania on a field trip. There she got to go into a plane, dressed like the pilot, and pretend to fly it. They also had a McDonald’s in this play place where you could get lunch. Here is a photo from Dalia’s field trip to Kidszania.

Dalia as Pilot

Dalia also remembers going to a movie with her class. The movie was a bit sad. It was about a little girl and her dad and grandpa. The little girl somehow gets lost from her dad and grandpa, but she finds a horse. She learns how to ride the horse. She wants to join a horse race, but everyone makes fun of her because her horse is the smallest horse there. But she does enter the race and she wins it.

We asked Dalia about wild animals in the UAE. She said that there were no bears or beavers, there weren’t even any squirrels.

Dalia showed us some photos from the UAE on her iPad. She had this great photo of one of her birthday parties in the UAE – the cake had a humongous sparkler on it, it almost looked like a firework.

birthday cake

We asked her what kind of movies she watched in the UAE. She said that she watched the same TV shows that we have here – the Disney ones, Sponge Bob, Shaun the Sheep, even Barney. She could watch them in English, or sometimes they were in Arabic. Now she doesn’t watch much TV here in Ottawa, she would rather play video games – she loves Minecraft.

Dalia said that the hardest thing about moving to Ottawa was speaking only English. In the UAE she spoke more Arabic than English, so sometimes, after moving here, she would get mixed up and say some words in Arabic instead of English.

She also said that the first winter was hard. They did not have the proper outdoor clothes for the cold weather. They couldn’t buy anything that was good for Ottawa’s really cold winters when they were in the UAE. They did buy some outdoor gear in Dubai to bring over to Canada, but it turned out to not be warm enough. It took a while to figure out what kind of clothes you need to wear to stay warm enough here. But now Dalia loves winter, she loves it even more than the hot weather in the UAE.

Dalia is happy she moved here. She enjoys her school here in Ottawa very much.

We asked all the kids and parents in the room if they had any ideas for how we could help other families who have just moved to Ottawa from another country. We asked if there was anything that they could think of to especially help families who don’t speak much English or French. One suggestion was to help the parent get a job. Another person thought that helping with translation would be most useful – making sure that there was someone with the new family who spoke their language and English so that they could help explain things. And someone else said that we could donate furniture and clothes to the new family when they arrive. These are all great World-Changing Kids’ ideas!

As I mentioned at the beginning, we all did some painting together on this Sunday afternoon. Each of us painted our own beautiful painting to take home. We used electrical tape to make sections to paint. Then when we peeled off the tape, there were clean white lines where the tape had been. These turned out great!

1. Individual Paintings 2. Individual Paintings 2

We also worked on a big group painting. We did a splatter painting technique, sort of in the style of Jackson Pollock. For this, we put the canvas down on a tarp. Each child took a turn picking a paint colour and doing three splatters with this colour. Then that child went to the end of the line and the next child took their turn. We did five or six rounds of this. It was super fun.

3. Group Painting 3a. Group Paiting
3b. Group Paiting 4. Group Painting

We created this big group painting to donate to LADIES WHO SPONSOR – to put up in the living room of the family they sponsor to move from Syria to Ottawa. We thought that this would be a beautiful “Welcome Painting” to help make the family feel at home in Ottawa.

5. Final Group Painting

Our next Friends From Around the World Event

If you are a family living in Ottawa who has moved here from another country and you want to be involved in our next Friends From Around the World event, we would love to hear from you. You can email us at worldchangingkids@gmail.com. We would love to meet friends from all the countries around the world.

By creating these stories of friends from around the world, we can help children to empathize with the child telling the story. It will allow the children reading the story to be able to “walk a mile in the shoes” of the child who moved to Ottawa. Issues related to immigration and integration into a new community will be easier to approach and understand for children if they can see it through the eyes of another child in their community.

We can teach our children to understand the different sides of immigration issues, and build their ability to empathize with the families. Then when our children are the decision makers and world leaders, they will be able to come at these decisions from a more human, empathetic place.

More Information on LADIES WHO SPONSOR

LADIES WHO SPONSOR is an Ottawa-based group of entrepreneurial and community-minded women who have formed a group to sponsor at least one family of Syrian refugees. We are a sub-group of Ladies Who Lunch (Ottawa). We are fundraising to pay for flights, housing, clothes, sponsorship fees and the immediate necessities of the Syrian family/families when they arrive.

For more information on LADIES WHO SPONSOR, you can visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ladieswhosponsorpage

Thank You

A big thank you to Lauren Cauchy for facilitating the art projects. Thanks also to the fantastic St. Thomas the Apostle Anglican Church for letting us use their space. Thanks to Dalia and her mom for teaching us about the UAE. And thanks to Brady and his mom, Brody and his mom, and Emma and her mom for joining me and my children for this fun activity.