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Community Centre Alliance hosts multicultural event in St. John's

Raahyma Ahmad applies henna tattoos at the multicultural festival at the MacMorran Community Centre in St. John’s on Thursday.
Raahyma Ahmad applies henna tattoos at the multicultural festival at the MacMorran Community Centre in St. John’s on Thursday. - Juanita Mercer

The MacMorran Community Centre in St. John’s was packed on Thursday evening for the Community Centre Alliance’s (CCA) first multicultural festival, perfectly timed during the city’s Multicultural Week.

Nehal Alshikh is the settlement and integration facilitator with CCA, a new position created by the alliance of five community centres in order to do more outreach work for new Canadians in the city.

When Alshikh came on board, she wanted to help make the city’s neighbourhoods more welcoming for newcomers.

“So, I decided to have a multicultural event for everybody, engaging locals with the newcomers so that everybody can learn about the other person’s culture. For example, food is one of the best ways to share culture, and dancing, and music, and I thought this is the best thing to do, and then locals can understand about their neighbour. So, it’s introducing every culture to everybody.”

At the festival, there was no shortage of food. An international buffet highlighted an assortment of foods, and Aleppo’s Sweets, a new business started by new Canadians from Syria, supplied the event with dates maamoul and guraiba.

“Sharing the sweets is a really good opportunity for people to get to know more about our culture,” said Bana, with Aleppo’s Sweets. “This is traditional for us, to make sweets for Eid or for special events. Making the sweets reminds us about the happy moments we had.”

The festival was organized in partnership with other community centres across the city, including Virginia Park, Buckmaster Circle, Froude Avenue and Rabbittown. It included displays about traditions in many different countries, such as the Day of the Dead in Mexico. There were musical and dance performances, henna tattoos, and face-painting for children.

Alshikh said she’s interviewed many newcomers through her work with CCA. She said many of them felt as if their neighbours were rejecting them, and when she spoke with many of the local residents in the neighbourhoods, they explained they didn’t know how to approach the newcomers.

Alshikh said that was another motivation for holding the event.

“Sharing happiness is the best to build a bridge between people,” she said, adding that the event will give people something to talk about, or a chance to find common interests.

“If you don’t know anything about your neighbour, you won’t be interested to talk or share any thoughts with them, so by understanding the culture or knowing something about it, then it’s going to bring some subjects to talk about.”

Amanda Mahoney agreed that the festival is a great way for residents to get to know one another.

“I do a lot of volunteer programs in the community, and I’ve noticed a lot more new Canadians coming, and I just wanted to learn some more about their cultures, and it’s lovely.”

Mehrdad Darijani was at the event to teach people about tango dance, but he said he would have attended even if he weren’t performing.

“Canada has a good diversity of cultures, so this is necessary for the people to be close to each other,” he said. “If the people want to live with each other, they have to know each other. This event makes the people close to each other and helps them to know each other more.”

juanita.mercer@thetelegram.com

Twitter: juanitamercer_

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