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Gordon Bell student warming up to winter

Gordon Bell High School student Pacifique Nahayo is experiencing his first Winnipeg winter.

In September, Nahayo, a Grade 12 student, arrived in Winnipeg to study at Gordon Bell. He is a privately sponsored immigrant from Burundi, Africa.

Located in the African Great Lakes region, Burundi is bordered by Rwanda to the north, Tanzania to the east and south and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west.

“My uncle is here and he told me how Canada is, about the coldness and the snow,” Nahayo said. “It’s my first time to see snow. I was surprised.”

On Dec. 10, Nahayo sported a winter parka on an icy, but mild day where the high temperature was approximately -1 C, well above the average high of -8.5 C.

For many Manitobans, -1 C is practically shorts weather, but keep in mind that the high in Burundi on Dec. 10 was a humid 28 C.

“For me, it’s too cold,” Nahayo said.


Pacifique Nahayo stands outside Gordon Bell on Dec. 14. After a weekend of snowfall, Winnipeg woke up to -20 C, with a windchill that made it feel more like -27 C.

Still, Nahayo said he is excited to see more snow and the colder temperatures that the rest of winter will surely bring. In addition to his parka, he has gloves, a toque and winter boots he can break out when the mercury truly dips.

He’s even up for trying out some winter activities like skating or snowshoeing.

“I think I can try. If I get somebody to do it with me, I can try,” Nahayo said.

Jill Stefanyshyn, an English as an Additional Language teacher, said Nahayo is adjusting well to life in Canada.

“He’s made some great friends and he’s always at school,” Stefanyshyn said. “He never misses class. He’s really taking a liking to learning and the school life we provide for him here.”

According to 2019-2020 WSD school year data, over 40 per cent of Gordon Bell students are immigrants or refugees. Many of those students come from tropical regions. 

Stefanyshyn said Gordon Bell staff are always on the lookout for students who don’t own the proper clothes for winter.


“We have some coats from Koats for Kids that we can provide if we see that they are coming to school with some needs,” she said. “We can also open up community opportunities for them if there are other facilities that are able to help them as well.”

For more information on how to donate to United Way Winnipeg’s Koats For Kids program, go to www.unitedwaywinnipeg.ca/koatsforkids


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