International Gateway Kelowna partnered with the Kelowna Curling Club this week to offer Ukrainian refugees and other international students a chance to learn one of Canada’s most popular winter sports.
Blaine Melnyk of International Gateway Kelowna says the event is a part of their community connection series, introducing students to different community members and activities such as curling.
“We’re always trying to find interesting activities for our students. For this, we wanted to bring in our students and really start to introduce them to different members of the local community. And this is such a great community builder, the Kelowna Curling Club,” explained Melnyk.
“For the most part, they’re just really excited to be meeting other members of the community. A lot of them are bringing their kids as it’s a great place to push a rock, sweep a broom and have a good conversation with somebody.”
Kelowna Curling Club manager Jock Tyre says the club has been working with Kelowna Community Resources for a long time, and when Gateway Kelowna reached out, they didn’t hesitate to cook something up for Kelowna newcomers – and not just on the ice.
After a session of free curling, the club was also serving up a free dinner and social hour for all the new curlers, as well as volunteers and coaching staff.
“I’ve always said it’s one thing to be out there learning curling, but you truly don’t know someone until you sit down and break bread with them and have a meal. That’s how you get to know people. Off the ice we want them to get to know us and we want to get to know them. More importantly, we want them to feel like they’re a part of our community,” said Tyre.
“It’s a great experience and a good chance to expose people to Canadian culture and to get them to try a sport they probably have never played before or even seen before, and to truly learn something about Canada at the same time. We get a lot of kids out there, and I’m hoping someday these kids turn into curlers.”
Svitlana Shmorgum and her family, who came from Ukraine, says they’re grateful for the tremendous support they’ve received since fleeing their homeland in August.
“We are so grateful for this opportunity. Many students here have never played this game before. It’s going to be a neat new experience. I think I will like it as I’ve watched many videos about this and it seems to be very exciting.”
The Kelowna Curling Club will be hosting the Ogopogo Mixed Bonspiel on February 25 and 26.