The basement of Westman Immigrant Services was filled with the sound of drumming and laughter as more than 20 newcomers to Manitoba took part in Drums Alive.
“Drums Alive is a project sponsored by Healthy Brandon in order to get people active and introduced to a new activity that they can do all year long,” said Melanie Hellyer, who instructed the approximately one-hour session on Friday.
She described Drums Alive as part fitness and part Zumba as participants play drum beats on large exercise balls.
“It involves a lot of movement and right-brain, left-brain movements that gets you thinking and working while you do it,” Hellyer said.
Newcomers from Russia, India, China, Mauritius, Ethiopia, El Salvador, Philippines and elsewhere gathered to take part in the free session.
Hellyer was one of five instructors who were trained in Winnipeg as part of the initiative. The instructors have being offering free sessions introducing people to Drums Alive.
Yesterday marked the end of the free sessions, but Hellyer said they plan to start offering classes.
“The community has loved it,” she said. “And it gives people something to do in the wintertime when it’s tough to get outdoors because it’s so cold.”
One of the neatest parts of the session came after Hellyer would explain the routines. After a short sentence, she would pause — then the silence was quickly replaced by the hum of at least five different languages as interpreters relayed information to the newcomers.
Joy Escalera said it’s vital to introduce immigrants to a variety of activities as they might not be familiar with recreation opportunities in their new country.
“It’s very important for newcomers to be informed about what’s available and for them to try something new that would help facilitate their adjustment to a new country,” she said.
“We don’t want them to stay home but to socialize and try new things.”
And in the long run, it also serves as a benefit on many levels.
“Physical health is important, too, and not just giving them information but really acting on it to develop health, not just as mind but as body,” Escalera said.
» Twitter: @CharlesTweed
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 23, 2014