On a weekend this past February, staff from Alberta Environment and Parks teamed up with 8 members of the University of Alberta Outdoors Club to support Catholic Social Services at their annual winter overnight event for immigrants and refugees at the Long Lake Centre near Athabasca.
Attending that weekend, were people from Myanmar, Columbia, Mexico, Syria, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, Congo, and Rwanda. Most had no previous experience camping, let alone participating in winter activities.
This was the fourth consecutive year that Catholic Social Services and Alberta Environment and Parks have partnered together to offer an event that’s tailored to introduce winter recreation to newcomers to Canada.
All of the participating families were new immigrants who have been in Canada for less than a year. There were a mix of families and single adults from various age groups. Many have experienced some degree of trauma as refugees.
The annual event is tailored to offer immigrant and refugee families a safe, warm, and memorable winter experience at a time when they are perhaps feeling the most challenged by the realities of settling in a new country.
Against the backdrop of the boreal forest, families were introduced to ice fishing, cross country skiing, and snowshoeing. The University of Alberta Outdoors Club and Alberta Environment and Parks team also shared safety tips and helped the families settle in for a two night stay in a rustic fire-heated cabin.
We would like to thank the Catholic Social Services for making this great event happen each year as well as the University of Alberta Outdoors Club for their tremendous support. Alberta Environment and Parks is happy to host such a fun event that brings more people outside to connect with nature.