By: Eric McCarthy – Journal Pioneer
Neighbour-2-Neighbour keynote address will be given by new Canadian citizen Tareq Hadhad, CEO and founder of Peace By Chocolate
ELMSDALE, P.E.I. —
The Feb. 8 Neighbour-2-Neighbour event at Westisle Composite High School will feature a distinctive Olympics flare.
Organizers are inviting newcomers to West Prince to bring along the flag of their province or country of origin.
“The steering committee has been very much a part of saying, ‘We want to do an Olympic-style entrance,’” says Scott Smith who, as West Prince community navigator, is coordinating the 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. event which will be filled with musical entertainment, demonstrations, and food sampling.
Smith said there are already more than 40 booths confirmed for Neighbour-2-Neighbour, including newcomers showcasing their culture and local employers, service providers and organizations.
“It’s a matter of bringing the whole community together, but there is still a call-out: If someone wants to put in a booth, call us now,” Smith said. “There are so many great things going on. We want that to be part of the day, too.”
For anyone who does not have a provincial or country flag for the march-in, residents can contact Smith at (902) 853-3636 to make arrangements to have a copy of a banner printed off.
“This is quite a strong message of welcome from neighbour to another neighbour.”
-Melanie Bailey, P.E.I. Association of Newcomers to Canada
Steering committee member Kester Nurse is prepared to go even further and plans to have the Trinidad soccer shirt he’s worn for Community School’s “Ten Countries in Ten Weeks” presentations.
The Neighbour-2-Neighbour keynote address will be given by new Canadian citizen Tareq Hadhad, CEO and founder of Peace By Chocolate.
Special guests include Lt.- Gov. Antoinette Perry, Egmont MP Bobby Morrissey, L’nui Mnikuk First Nation chief Darlene Bernard, and local MLAs and mayors. There will be a special drumming welcome by Indigenous drum group, Hey Cuzzins.
The master of ceremonies for the day will be Toronto-based comedian, originally from Mill River East, Shawn Hogan.
Health P.E.I. is partnering with CBDC West Prince Ventures in hosting the event. There will be an opportunity during the program to meet the region’s newest healthcare professionals.
In addition to the Olympic-style march-in, organizers have arranged for local recreation directors and Western Region Sport and Recreation Council to organize Olympic-style games in the gymnasium for youth.
The Neighbour-2-Neighbour welcome, though, also applies very much to lifelong residents of West Prince because, without it, Nurse suggests, “you’re kind of half-baking the cake.”
“This is quite a strong message of welcome from neighbour to another neighbour,” comments Melanie Bailey with the P.E.I. Association of Newcomers to Canada.
‘Huge growth cycle’
Bailey views Neighbour-2-Neighbour as a celebration.
“P.E.I. is growing. Thousands of newcomers are pouring in. We’ve got this big building boom and, with that, labour is growing,” she said. “More people come in, more jobs are created, so we’re actually in a huge growth cycle.”
The format will be intertwined, said steering committee member Maxine Rennie. “It’s really a way of showcasing and highlighting West Prince and all we have to offer,” Rennie said. “It’s all of us coming together and really showcasing the great place we’re living in.”
Rennie was part of the organizing committee for the first Neighbour-2-Neighbour event in West Prince two years ago.
“It was a great day and it was, ‘when are we going to do it again?’”
That event also laid the groundwork for the creation of the community navigator position which Rennie describes as “an essential point of contact for longtime residents and newcomers coming in.”
With a large crowd anticipated, Westisle’s theatre, gymnasium, lobby, and some classrooms will be utilized. Jordan LeClair and the LeClair family will serve as the house band for a series of performers from several cultures.