by Aysha Tosun
I’m a Teacher Candidate at the Queen’s, studying at the Faculty of Education and a volunteer with PeaceQuest. Earlier this month, I got the chance to speak with Benjamin, the 10-year old Mississauga-based social justice activist and creator of weareonecanada.ca a website which invites kids and Canadian across the country to make Syrian refugees feel more welcome in Canada by learning a few simple phrases in arabic – our interview was recorded for CFRC 101.9fm in Kingston and originally aired on Alternative Frequency on Tuesday March 29th.
You can listen to the MP3 here or download it for later listening!
Here is the transcript of our conversation:
I heard about you and your wonderful project and I wanted to share your story with our listeners. I want you to tell me: What inspired you to make a change in your community?
When I heard about all the refugees that are coming to Canada from Syria, I realized we might have some hew Syrian students in my school. I wanted to think of a way that Canadian kids could get involved with the welcoming of the new children.
I’ve learned that sometimes we have to come out of our comfort zone and reach out a little to make sure that everyone feels included and equal. I wanted to encourage Canadian kids to be brave enough to do this and to give them a way that they can make the new kids feel welcome at home here.
That’s awesome, and were you involved in any other school events to help the refugees?
My school collected donations for the refugees through the United Way. Also, our church is sponsoring some refugees and my family will be involved in helping them with shopping and transportation and stuff like that .
That’s really nice. What inspired you to create your website then?
Well last year for school, I wrote a speech about communicating with deaf people. My idea was that all students should be taught some basic sign language in school. Some basic words and phrases so that we can interact with deaf kids if we encounter them.
So when my family was thinking about ways that we can get involved with helping the Syrian refugees my idea was that maybe Canadian students can learn to speak some basic Arabic.
And what did your parents think about your idea?
They thought it was a fantastic idea but we didn’t really know how to go about it at first. But then, when we realized that my computer coding teacher was also an Arabic teachers, that was a really nice coincidence. We started chatting together and came up with the idea of a website. So my teacher and their students made the Arabic translation videos, my Mom helped me with some of the writing and my Dad helped me with a little bit of the technical stuff.
That’s good. So you got help from them. And how long did ti take to put the website together?
It took about a month or so. I absolutely love computer coding and website design so it was a lot of fun for me and I worked on it a lot.
That great you’re learning a lot of stuff at the same time. While putting this website together, did you learn some Arabic as well?
I did. I learned some of the words and phrases on the site. My little brother did Oliver did too. He had a new girl from Syria joined his Grade 2 class and he got to use some phases with her.
What have you gained from all this experience?
I learned that people really love to help others in any way they can, but don’t always know how to get involved.
We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from the website. Lots of teachers have written to say that they’re using it with their students. We’ve heard from a Toronto police officer who is using the site with their unit. People who are sponsoring or who have met Syrian refugees told us that they tried out some phrases from the site and the Syrians really appreciate it.
and has your worldview changed since the arrival of the refugees?
Yes. I’ve come to realize that making even the small gesture of kindness can really make a difference to people. We need to remember that all humans are equal and we should to whatever we can to help someone feel welcome or included. Especially if someone is different than us, we might need to make some effort to reach out to them – but it’s always worth it.
You know what, I really enjoyed our interview and thanks to you I’m also learning some Arabic from your website. Ben, I wish you all the best of luck in life, you’re a kind-hearted person who likes to help people. May God reward your efforts. So take care for now. Ma’a salama and hopefully we’ll talk again.
You’re welcome. Have a good evening.
Haven’t seen the website yet? Check out Benjamin’s site at weareonecanada.ca