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Association for New Canadians celebrates togetherness in St. John's during Refugee Week

From left, English as a second language students Mauwa Ichard, Vanessa Aisha and Antoinette Kahindo wear traditional dress from their native Congo on Wednesday during Refugee Week activities at the Association for New Canadians (ANC) on Elizabeth Avenue.
From left, English as a second language students Mauwa Ichard, Vanessa Aisha and Antoinette Kahindo wear traditional dress from their native Congo on Wednesday during Refugee Week activities at the Association for New Canadians (ANC) on Elizabeth Avenue. - Joe Gibbons
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

The smell of falafel and kibbeh trailed the room, creating an atmosphere of a place other than St. John’s, Newfoundland.

All the while mothers, daughters and sisters created a whirlwind of reds, purples and yellows as they swayed to one another’s music from different parts of the world.

With a belly full of delicacies, new and not-so-new Canadians gathered in the cafeteria of the English as a Second Language Training Centre (ESL Training Centre) on Thursday to celebrate each other.

As part of celebrating Refugee Week, members of the Association for New Canadians (ANC) have learned that the combination of food and music helps to bring together people from different cultures.

Shining a light

“Clap for our mothers,” the group Shine Light Music said to the crowd, which was captivated by the women of different cultures dancing in front of them.

The group consists of Julius and James Paare, or Zuba-4000kg and Paare, respectively.

Shine Light Music, consisting of two brothers from South Sudan, is breaking into the music scene in St. John’s, with two shows already under their belt.
Shine Light Music, consisting of two brothers from South Sudan, is breaking into the music scene in St. John’s, with two shows already under their belt.

Their group’s name was inspired from their plans for themselves.

“The talent that we have, we want it to be brighter all over the world,” Julius said. “Everyone wants to be in the light.”

The brothers from South Sudan just arrived in Canada from Nairobi in January and they weren’t long locking down a manager, Christopher Power, here in Newfoundland.

Power is a teacher at the ESL Training Centre and his management already has the group performing in the music scene in St. John’s. They have performed at The Black Sheep Pub and at The Ship Pub.

They had a following in their homeland and hope they can create one with Newfoundlanders, since that’s what they call themselves now.

“I want to promote who I am and where I live and I want the songs that we release to represent Newfoundland,” Julius said.

“We have music, but there is no supporters and money is a problem,” James said. “Anybody can be a part of us. We are looking for support from everyone.”

“We want to just bring love around the world, that’s our goal.”

World on Wheels

The food truck program is an idea by the ANC in partnership with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada to educate and involve newcomers to the country in jobs.

Gerard Neil, food truck co-ordinator, has been working on bringing the truck, Global Eats, to the main streets of St. John’s.

Brinch Paluku travelled from Uganda to Canada. He is one of the faces you will see in the new food truck, Global Eats. His wrist bracelet is the image of his native Congo’s flag.
Brinch Paluku travelled from Uganda to Canada. He is one of the faces you will see in the new food truck, Global Eats. His wrist bracelet is the image of his native Congo’s flag.

“The goal is to train these new Canadians to speak English at a good pace and work in the restaurant business,” Neil said. “We took them through a 14-week training course, then put them in the food trailer for a couple more weeks of new training. Then we will slowly open to the public when we are ready.”

Neil said there are seven countries represented by the students at ESL Training Centre, so the cultural foods from those countries will be available from the truck.

“We have seven Syrians, a person from the Congo, an Ethiopian lady and a lady from Iraq, and we have a lady from Afghanistan,” Neil said.

Brinch Paluku is one of the new Canadians who will bring his traditional foods to the street. Paluku arrived in Canada six months ago from Uganda, where he spent his last seven years.

“I like Canada and the town of St. John’s because it is a nice place for me and my family. When I came here, they welcomed me well,” Paluku said. “I have found my place here. This is my new home.”

He has noticed some differences in the way Newfoundlanders cook and the way people cook where he is from.

“In my country, Congo, when we want to make sauce we use a lot of oil,” Paluku said. “The difference here is people are not using as much oil or sauce.”

He’s been experiencing a lot of new foods during his training that aren’t common in Congo, and loving it — especially the “salty” cod.

“All of the foods we make are my favourite foods,” Paluku said.

The truck doesn’t have a set date to begin dishing out food yet, but they do know what might be on those plates.

“We are going to have lamb kofta, chicken shawarma and tons of different samples of side dishes and salads,” Neil said. “It promises to be a good summer.”

Twitter: @JasmineBurtNL


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