COSTI Immigrant Services
GoldCause & Action
BronzeBest Experiential Engagement
At a time when Syrian refugees face increasing hostility and even outright bans, Canada has continued to be a stronghold of safety and acceptance. But though we’re proud of our country for eliminating barriers to immigration, refugees arriving in Canada still face another unavoidable barrier: language.
With the rapid influx of refugees—37,000 since November 2015, of which over 60% are children—access to language services and entry to kindergarten is often delayed. Seeing this need in the community, we built Ahlan Bear to help bridge the language gap as quickly as possible. Ahlan speaks a combination of useful and cultural phrases in English and Arabic to build language skills and connect refugee children to their new home. The word Ahlan means “Welcome”. It conveys the sentiment “You've come to stay with family,” and that's exactly how we want refugee children to feel when they arrive in Canada.
At the start of the project we formed a partnership with COSTI, one of the largest immigrant organizations in Canada. They helped us not only to design the bears, but get them into the hands of refugee children as soon as they arrive in the country. With distribution taken care of we knew making sure we had the right phrases and the right Arabic dialect was next. COSTI put us in touch with language and resettlement experts and we worked in close collaboration with them to finalize the phrases and translations. Once we had the right words, finding the right voice was next. We ended up recording the phrases with the help of a little girl named Sasha Nafaa, who was once a refugee herself.
The reception to Ahlan from Canadian and international media was overwhelming. John McCallum, Canada’s Minister of Immigration, came out to support the initiative, flying to Toronto and handing out Ahlan bears to newly arrived refugees. Ahlan is providing more than just language skills—He's proving employment as Syrians themselves have been helping in the production process as a way to introduce them to the Canadian workforce. The process has already begun to introduce a French speaking Ahlan to Canada, and plans to expand to even more languages are taking shape as well.
Creative Director: Aaron Starkman, Ian Grais, Chris Staples
Art Director: Simon Au
Writer: Aaron Starkman
Designer: Dustin Gamble
Creative Technologist: Dustin Gamble
Digital Producer: Kyle Hicks
Print Producer: Narine Artinian
Broadcast Producer: Monika Ghobrial, Sarah Vingoe
Account Supervisor: Becky Rudson, Lauren Grudzinski,
Director of Amplification : Leah Gregg
Director: Phil Connell
Producer: Joey Bilewicz
Director Of Photography: Brian Smith
Editor: Paul Skinner
Animation: Wingman (James Andrews)
Colourist: Clinton Homuth (alter Ego)
B Camera: Mitchell Gall
Engineer: Vlad Nikolic
Audio House: Vapor RMW with Art Mullin (creative director)