Canadian newcomers take part in first Halloween

Besma Salih digs into a bowl of candy at the N.E.E.D.S. Centre’s Halloween event. THE PROJECTOR/ Erik Pindera

Besma Salih digs into a bowl of candy at the N.E.E.D.S. Centre’s Halloween event. THE PROJECTOR/ Erik Pindera

Free candy from your neighbours — it’s something people from Winnipeg may take for granted, but for newcomers, Halloween is yet another concept to learn while adjusting to their new life in the city.

Salih Salih, 16, and Besma Salih, 19, said they had no trouble adjusting to the idea of Halloween, something unfamiliar in their native Eritrea.

“It’s fun. I love sweets,” said Salih Salih through a translator. The Salihs spent their Halloween with staff and friends from Newcomers Employment and Education Development Services (N.E.E.D.S.) Inc. Students and staff went trick-or-treating at N.E.E.D.S., Noble Locksmith next door and the Manitoba Labour and Immigration office down the block.

N.E.E.D.S. is a nonprofit that works with immigrant and refugee youth and their families. Much of its work relates to preparing newcomer youth for education and employment in Canada, but staff said explaining things people from Winnipeg take for granted is important too.

“We want to help explain and try to make sense of the different things they’re going to experience in Canada,” said Jonathan Askholm, a N.E.E.D.S. staff member. “It’s fun to give the kids who are arriving their first Halloween experience.”

The Salih’s said Halloween was easy enough to get behind, but other facts of life in Winnipeg are more divisive.

“Kids really embrace winter at first,” Askholm said. “The thought of seeing snow is pretty exciting for a while. Then they usually get sick of it like the rest of us after a few months.”

Salih Salih said he’s excited for the snow, only having seen it in movies and on TV, but doesn’t like the cold. Other newcomers, like Neilla Nitonde, said they are looking forward to the cooler weather.

“The weather in Africa, it was too hot,” said Nitonde, 18.

Winnipeg’s diversity is Nitonde’s favourite part of her new home, she said.

“There are many different types of people, many races here,” Nitonde said. “We love that.”

Although they’ve only been in Winnipeg for a few weeks, the Salih’s have plans of what they want to do with their Canadian futures.

“I want to be a doctor. I need to go to the university first,” said Besma Salih, adding that her favourite place to be in Winnipeg is a library. “I want to be a police officer for Canada and a football player for Eritrea,” said Salih Salih through a translator.