Finding community and friendship when it matters most

campers at camp with arms over each others shoulder

We first met Adhara just after she came to Canada with her dad, Abdul. They were refugees fleeing the Civil War in Yemen, and they had been waiting months to be admitted into Canada.

Knowing his daughter was sick, Abdul’s first stop was SickKids where she was diagnosed with a brain tumour, and was also found to be extremely malnourished and traumatized by her experiences of war. The hospital had to estimate her exact age—two or three—since records of her birth were unavailable, and her prognosis was concerning.

During that first week at SickKids, we made friends with Adhara. Although she didn’t speak much, or understand English, she was expressive with her face. Our staff would play peekaboo or pretend to sleep, and she would take joy in pretending to scare them.

Adhara loved bubbles and music, and our in-hospital team provided her with plenty of both. With his limited English, her dad was deeply appreciative, thanking staff and volunteers every chance he had with handshakes, hugs, and smiles.

Experiences of war and scarcity had made Adhara reluctant to share—if markers, scissors, or anything else were given to her, she would hold onto them, fearing someone might take them away. Whenever Abdul would grab a coffee or go to the laundromat, Adhara would be agitated and worried until he returned.

That soon changed when we started working with her. Adhara had become more trusting and comfortable with our team. During bedside visits, she laughed, danced, and played along with us, while her dad took a much needed break. She began to share, offering snacks and toys to our staff and volunteer team members who visited.

She was a changed child during the last months of her life—a special gift to a loving father, and a new community of friends in her newly adopted homeland.

*Camper and family names and images have been changed to protect privacy

Kids being kids in the hospital

Family circles up for fun from afar

Share your story

If you would like to share your camp story with us, please contact:

Jennifer Fitzpatrick

Senior Development Officer

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