Calgary school aims to engage students in the global community

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Educating children on problems around the world is a top priority at the Calgary French & International School.

On World Refugee Day (June 20) the school held an event to help enlighten students to the difficulties of living a refugee life.

Chantelle Bourque — the event organizer — believes it is in the children's best interest to learn about such things.

"I think it is important for students have these kind of days to give them a global perspective and to make these crisis in other parts of the world not as abstract to them," she said.

The school has held many events to help the students become more involved, not only in a local community but a global community.

Omar Malik — who has a doctorate in engineering — came to speak about life as a refugee to students ranging from Grades 5 to 12. Malik had to move to India during the creation of Pakistan in the late-1940s for religious and safety reasons.MalikChantelle Bourque (right) and Omar Malik answer questions from students about life as a refugee after their June 20 presentation. Malik is a refugee that had to move to India during the creation of Pakistan for safety and religious reasons.

Photo by Victoria Pizarro

"There were people travelling in groups, with their belongings in a bag. This too was dangerous — to travel in a large group," said Malik. "I remember towns on the way, there were fires everywhere."

Malik believes his family was lucky as he already had relatives living in Delhi at the time. The presentation not only focused on Malik's life experiences, but it also educated students on the facts of refugees living in the world today.

Malik stated it was important for the younger generation to understand what was happening in the world today.

The current situations in Syria, Iraq, Eritrea were brought up by Malik in his speech to illustrate the horrors of living a refugee's life in a war-torn country.

The presentation also included a student from the school who has family in Syria. Bana Helou is a Grade 12 student who moved to Canada at age five.

"It is funny that now people ask me about Syria now that I can't remember what it looks like," Helou said. "When I would say I was from Syria people would say, 'Oh Syria, where is that?' Now it's, 'Oh, that's sad.'"

Helou went on to say that it was her wish to make it so people would not say it is sad to be from Syria and that people who could do something actually took the initiative. Helou has started a petition to help those in Syria and asked her fellow students to help her make a change.

This is exactly the attitude that Bourque wants from her students and from the rest of the younger generation, stating that this is why their school hold events like presentations by people like Malik.

"When they are informed they can become compelled to act and become involved and engaged," said the Calgary French & International School representative. "So it's about becoming active, engaged, informed global citizens."

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