‘Super nice’: Teen refugees in Calgary make wooden flamingos for spring ski season celebration

Some young refugees building new lives in Calgary are getting a chance to be part of a spring tradition in southern Alberta.

They’re hard at work bringing some colourful new additions to the mountain wildlife.

The refugees are among students working in the wood shop at Forest Lawn High School, making wooden flamingos destined for the Sunshine Village Ski Resort, just outside Banff, Alta.

“First, we cut the flamingos, then we sand them and then we paint them,” Grade 10 student Ahmed Al Hajj said.

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Al Hajj, 16, came to Calgary with his family as a refugee from Syria.

“Because of the war,” Al Hajj said.

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He and his fellow students, some also refugees who have come from Afghanistan and Somalia, are making 100 flamingos for Sunshine, to help the resort mark the start of the spring ski season.

“They put them all over the ski hill,” cabinet-making teacher Cory Melenchuk said.

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It’s a project that’s helping the students learn about business. Sunshine is paying for the flamingos.

“And then everything comes back to the school, supports the program, buys more materials, buys better tools,” Melenchuk said. “It helps ground them in their new life in Canada.”

Melenchuk said creating the flamingos helps the new arrivals in Canada become part of the country’s culture and traditions.

“It’s super nice that they can be part of something bigger than just the school,” Melenchuk said. “They can have their work out on the mountain.”

Al Hajj said he is glad to have the opportunity.

“Yeah, it’s a good thing,” he said.

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