Special program sees Islanders share holidays with newcomers

Jim Day
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Joe Byrne, co-ordinator of the Holiday Host Program, is wrapped up in the Christmas spirit. The P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada has hosted the program for 20 years as a way for Islanders to introduce newcomers to the Christmas holiday season and the traditions that surround it.

While Christmas is a time to gather with family and friends, a long running program encourages Islanders to also welcome newcomers into their festive celebrations.

For the past 20 years, the P.E.I. Association for Newcomers to Canada has organized the Holiday Host Program.

Co-ordinator Joe Byrne says the program allows Islanders to introduce newcomers to the Christmas traditions.

“The other part of it which is really important is just that people enjoy each other,’’ says Byrne.

“That’s a lovely way to integrate.’’

Up to 18 P.E.I. families hosted newcomers through the program last year. Some hosted more than one family.

With newcomers coming from places afar as Iran, China, Iraq, Egypt and Korea, each gathering offers a great opportunity to share and learn differing cultures.

The other part of it which is really important is just that people enjoy each other. Joe Byrne

Newcomers speak glowingly of the experience of sharing the warmth of an Island family’s good cheer.

“They just love it,’’ says Byrne.

“I get thank you notes...and they’re lovely notes to get.’’

The host and newcomers usually get together between Dec. 21 and Jan. 1.

Byrne urges Islanders to consider volunteering as a host and invites newcomers to Canada to experience a Christmas holiday tradition with an established Islander.

To take part, contact Joe Byrne at 902-628-6009 or by email at joeb@peianc.com.

Organizations: P.E.I. Association for Newcomers

Geographic location: Canada, Iran, China Iraq Egypt Korea

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