Crossing Borders Impacts Waterloo Region

Stories of past struggles and future hopes filled the Eastwood Collegiate auditorium on Thursday, January 7th as Crossing Borders, a group from WCI, participated in an assembly with the aim of providing information on how to welcome refugees and new students to the school.

Lead by ESL teacher Ms. Schulze, Crossing Borders is a group that consists of former refugees, current refugees, and allies. The group played a large role in the Syrian Refugee assembly that WCI put on to initiate the fundraising campaign to support a Syrian refugee family, as well as a large role in the one that Eastwood put on.

“We were invited to Eastwood to be a part of their ‘ECI Cares’ presentation,” said Ms. Schulze. She went on to explain that “they did three 25 minute long assemblies that were a little bit like our Syrian refugee assembly, although they’re not raising money for a family.”

Magnet ESL schools are set to be receiving many new students from Syria and neighbouring countries, and assemblies at both schools emphasized how important it is to treat these newcomers equally and to welcome them with open arms. As one presenter put it, “They just want to get on with their lives.”

The Eastwood assembly featured a video, a spoken word performance, one refugee’s story, a line of students who are involved in Crossing Borders, and a song.

Following the assembly,one grade 9 student at Eastwood said, “We need to to something about this problem with all the people who had to leave their homes because of war. WCI being there really helped because it showed that another school is involved in this just as much as ECI.”

“We want to increase empathy, commitment to service, welcoming and all that- but we also hope that people will be inspired to hear what we’re doing and then go ‘we can do that’. It’s our call to action,” is how Ms. Schulze describes Crossing Borders mission. “Crossing Borders evolved from student work that was never intended to go big, and it just did! It’s completely student-driven in that way.”

Eastwood is not the only place that Crossing Borders has and will impact. At the end of January they will be attending and presenting at a Trustee Conference. “It’ll be a feature presentation, and since trustees are decision makers, we hope that our presentation will lead to some changes or open up some possibilities for us to do more equity and inclusion work.”

Crossing Borders will also be attending a conference in the spring titled “Celebrating Linguistic Diversity.” It is an international conference in Toronto, and the biggest ELL (English Language Learner) conference in North America.

In the past, Crossing Borders has made presentations at various high schools and elementary schools, as well as for the Waterloo Region District School Board on several occasions. The group has also presented at conferences such as the Harmony Movement and at churches, Kitchener City Hall, at the KW Multicultural Festival. The group recently won a World Refugee Day award of distinction for their work.

Ms. Schulze agreed that the group fulfilled its purpose at Eastwood, saying: “I think we’ve fulfilled our purpose at Eastwood. You can’t always know if you’ve had an impact because you’re presenting and not in the minds of the audience, but we have a running idea that if we make anyone cry, or if someone comes to talk to us at the end, then we’ve done our job.”