TORONTO — A woman who shared a video of two Eritrean children reacting gleefully to their first Canadian snowfall says the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the clip is reaffirming her faith in the country as a welcoming place for newcomers.
Rebecca Davies shot the video on Saturday, 48 hours after the children shown in it arrived in Canada with their mother and two siblings as privately sponsored refugees.
In the video, the seven-year-old girl and five-year-old boy twirl, dance and revel in the snow shower in the backyard of Davies’ Toronto-area home.
The clip has since garnered nearly 2 million views and been shared thousands of times on Twitter, often with accompanying hashtags and messages welcoming refugees in general and the children in particular.
Davies, who helped sponsor the Eritrean family through the private Ripple Refugee Project, says the video’s reception gives her hope.
She says she encounters racism and anti-immigrant sentiment in her work on behalf of refugees, but says the positive responses to the clip have left her feeling more confident about the society the family is eager to join.
“When a universal, lovely little vignette of kids playing in snow gets this kind of response, it gives me some hope for humanity,” she said in a telephone interview.
Davies said the Eritrean family landed in Toronto on Thursday, bringing an end to a lengthy saga.
She said the single mother fled the war-torn east-African country in 2013 and spent the next five years in a refugee camp in Sudan. Two of the four children who accompanied her to Canada were born in that camp, Davies said, adding all the kids are under the age of eight.
The family’s first full day in Canada was marred by steady rain, limiting opportunities to explore Toronto, which they plan to call home. Conditions didn’t seem too promising on Saturday either, with high winds sending daytime temperatures plunging to near the freezing mark for the first time this season.
Davies said her family had tried to explain the concept of snow to the Eritrean newcomers. So when flakes began unexpectedly descending from the sky, she lost no time in pointing them out to the family.
The two youngest boys stared out the window in fascination, but the eldest boy and his sister appeared to run away after the first look outside.
“I was thinking, ‘where are the big guys? I would have thought this would have been magic,'” Davies said. “But then you hear them screaming up the stairs. They found the bag of various winter coats and boots that many people had donated to us, threw on anything, ran past us, opened the … patio door and just started twirling.”
The video shows the beaming children exclaiming in delight and jumping around the small yard as the snow falls. The girl is seen spinning around with her face raised up to the sky as her brother jigs up and down. At one point, both put their hands out and watch the flakes land on their upturned palms.
Davies said the flurry didn’t last very long, but allowed enough time for her six-year-old daughter to teach her Eritrean playmates how to eat snow and gave all three a chance to have a mini snowball fight.
The video struck a chord on social media, where thousands of users liked, shared and exclaimed over the children’s obvious excitement.
Underpinning many of the messages were comments encouraging the family as they begin a new chapter on Canadian soil.
“This is what life is all about. Children, new to Canada that have never seen snow, and embracing it in that magical way that children do,” wrote one Twitter user. “Welcome to Canada sweethearts! Your lives will hopefully be a beautiful journey.”
Davies said the children haven’t just confined their excitement to Canadian weather — they’re currently eager to enrol in a neighbourhood school and start going to class.
Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press