Last Thursday, I put out a call on our World-Changing Kids Facebook page asking for donations of gently used stuffies because there are two fantastic sisters in our community, Clara and Maya, who have been collecting stuffies to deliver to Syrian children who are just arriving in Ottawa.
The girls collected over 570 stuffed animals between November and January. Clara and Maya were actively involved in hauling, collecting, washing, repairing and distributing the stuffies. And they wanted me to mention that they are grateful to have a supportive community and family that helped them achieve this goal.
Here is the link to their story: www.ottawacommunitynews.com/news-story/6193570-sisters-bring-in-hundreds-of-stuffed-toys-for-youngest-refugees/
In answering my call for donated stuffed animals, our amazing World-Changing Kids in the Alta Vista community collected about 60 stuffed animals in just two days! There are about 35 stuffed animals in the photo above, then I picked up another full bag from a friend’s house after I took this picture that had at least 25 more stuffed animals!
I was then planning on delivering these stuffies to Clara and Maya at noon on Saturday, as they were going to a Mosque Saturday afternoon to deliver the stuffies to children. However, instead of just dropping the stuffies off, I ended up going with the girls to the Mosque to help hand out the stuffies and to run a craft table for the Syrian children.
We made tissue paper flowers with the children, and we set out paper, markers and stickers for them. We had about 40 children come to our table to make some art! Here are beautiful drawings that Clara and Maya made to give to two Syrian families.
You will see on the drawing on the left that there are some Arabic letters in the top right hand corner. One of the women who was also helping out at the event wrote “Welcome” in Arabic on Clara’s drawing.
This event was both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time. It was beautiful to see the children come together around the craft table, and see their joy as they were making the flowers, putting stickers on their papers and using the markers to draw.
And it was amazing to see how resilient most of the children were. How once they got settled, some of the little ones were running around the Mosque, chasing each other and laughing. As if they were any other four year old in Ottawa. As if they had not just experienced the trauma of having to leave their homes, taking a journey that could have included weeks of walking or a terrifying trip by boat, and then potentially spending months or years in a refugee camp. And then arriving in Ottawa to snow and freezing cold winter, which must have been extremely confusing, and maybe a bit scary. It was amazing to me that most of the kids seemed to be happy and joyful.
But some of them weren’t. Some of them seemed frightened, almost broken. There was one little girl who stood across from me at the craft table for a long time. She was just holding her marker above her paper, but not drawing anything. I wanted to draw something on her paper for her, but I wanted her permission first. So we found another woman who could translate for me into Arabic. I asked the little girl if she would like me to draw a heart or a flower. The little girl just mouthed her answer, as if she had no voice. The woman interpreting for us had to lean in really close and read her lips to know that she wanted me to draw a heart. So I drew her the best heart I could! Then I drew a flower, and a rainbow and I wrote my name and her name on the paper. I saw her still carrying around this paper later in the afternoon. I hope that she could feel the kindness and love that I put into it. I hope this made her feel a little bit safer.
Then we got to the fun part of handing out the stuffies. The kids all lined up and waited their turn. We handed a stuffed animal to each child. Some weren’t happy with their choice and asked for some more options to choose from – which I thought was great! I hope that they each got one that they can really love. I hope that the Syrian children know that there are kids in Ottawa who went through their stuffed animals and selected some to donate because they care about them and want them to feel welcome in our communities.
I am so grateful that I got to be part of this amazing activity. And I hope to be involved in future activities with this group.
Thanks Clara and Maya for undertaking this great initiative and for letting me join you!