Science outreach event for refugee families a success

A team of student, faculty and staff volunteers from York University organized and hosted a science outreach event for new refugee families at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) on July 23. It was the latest event planned by Science Enrichment and Educational Development for Syrians & Refugees (SEEDS), an initiative founded by scientists in the Faculty of Science at York.

Members of SEEDS during their trip to the ROM (Image: Dawn Bazely, Department of Biology, York University)

Members of SEEDS during their trip to the ROM (Image: Dawn Bazely, Department of Biology, York University)

Forty-five refugee children and their mothers who just arrived to Canada from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Eretria were picked up from their temporary residence by the volunteers and brought to the ROM for a day of fun-filled activities.

Upon arrival, the children participated in a scavenger hunt created by high school volunteer Mya Sharma and translated to Arabic by biology graduate student Mohamed Salem. The kids explored the museum, enjoying activities such as digging for dinosaur fossils, exploring the Bat Cave, and learning about the plants and animals in Canada. The families were then treated to a picnic lunch and games in a nearby park.

“This event would not have been possible without the leadership of Samantha Stefanoff, an MSc student in the Department of Biology and a member of the SEEDS steering committee,” said Sapna Sharma, professor in the Faculty of Science and a founding member of SEEDS.

Stefanoff enlisted the help of volunteers from across York University including graduate students in the Department of Psychology who organized a sensitivity training workshop for volunteers prior to the event, and translators from the Department of Biology, Schulich School of Business, and Glendon’s Master of Conference Interpreting program.

Members of SEEDS during their trip to the ROM (Image: Dawn Bazely, Department of Biology, York University)

Members of SEEDS during their trip to the ROM (Image: Dawn Bazely, Department of Biology, York University)

“I have been so inspired by the families, who have endured such hardships yet are extremely enthusiastic to learn science, as well as by the graduate students at York, who have been very eager to help in any way they can to improve the lives of people in our community,” said Stefanoff.

SEEDS will continue to plan science outreach activities as Canada welcomes more government-sponsored refugees. They hope to enlist even more English, Arabic, Farsi, Burmese and Tigrinyan speaking volunteers for their next events.

“We are extremely grateful to the students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of York University who continue to generously support our science outreach program,” said Sharma.

To learn more about SEEDS, visit http://seedsatyorku.info.yorku.ca/.

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