27 Aug Reflecting on the Summer at New Hope by Summer Hockin
As I reflect upon my summer at New Hope to try and isolate some of my favourite memories, I keep coming back to the hours spent giggling with kids at the picnic tables in the backyard when we should have been studying English. I started the summer hoping to see significant improvements in the language ability of each of the kids I tutored. What I believe was far more impactful for all of us were the hours we spent laughing and playing together in between vocab flashcards and alphabet games. It is in these moments of mutuality through friendship that the uniqueness of New Hope shines through. New Hope isn’t impactful for the refugee families simply because the staff helps them, New Hope is impactful because the Canadian staff members love their refugee neighbours as peers and friends.
One of the most impactful experiences I had during the summer was sitting down with one resident and hearing their story. Prior to working at New Hope, I thought I had a good idea of what would cause someone to flee their home country. After hearing this resident’s story, and hearing bits and pieces of the other residents’ stories, I have come to realize that the circumstances that bring people from around the world to Canada seeking safety and hope are diverse, often tragic, and beautiful stories of resilience. As I look to the future, I hope to engage with the refugees I meet in such a way that honours their unique journey to Canada. I want to listen to their stories of resilience through the lens of friendship.
My experience at New Hope this summer was much different than I expected because of COVID-19. When I first started at New Hope I heard over and over again how “normally the hub room is full of kids” or “normally we are always exchanging food with each other,” and I was told these exchanges make the community at New Hope. At first, I was disappointed and I felt like I was missing out on the best part of New Hope. Then I saw the intentionality of the staff in trying to maintain community through online gatherings or physically distanced walks to the park. I realized that though the times prevented the normal expressions of the community at New Hope, I could experience the community if I intentionally sought out ways to build relationships with the residents. My advice to future volunteers is to be intentional, not transactional when you come to New Hope. If you are a tutor, think beyond language instruction to forming a friendship; if you come to New Hope for a few hours to garden, don’t be too focused on the task to interact with the kids or parents out in the backyard. In doing so, you will experience and participate in the community life of New Hope that makes this place so special.
Summer Hockin served as New Hope’s summer intern from June-August 2020. Her responsibilities included tutoring children, weekly Kids Club, getting suites ready for new families, settlement support for residents, and more!