Refugee children learn to Trick-or-Treat with Catholic Charities


For the refugee families served by Catholic Charities, a post-Halloween Trick-or-Treat party thrown by the agency’s staff was just as full of excitement as the night of Oct. 31 itself.

More than 60 refugees from 22 families resettled through Catholic Charities’ refugee and immigration services gathered at the agency’s offices in Camden for a part-educational, part-fun morning on Friday, Nov. 6.

The day began with a presentation from local librarian Julie Tozer of the Camden County Library. She spoke to families about the many free services that are available through public libraries — such as computers, English as a Second Language classes, children’s programs — and signed families up for library cards on the spot.

“In our programs we always want to combine learning about a subject and having fun together,” said Priscilla Adams, Catholic Charities’ Refugee Academic Success Coordinator. “We want to help our clients learn about resources in the community and also about culture in the U.S., and for them to feel connected to us and to the communities they live in.”

While their parents were signing up for library cards, children could decorate a mask and brown paper Trick-or-Treat bag or have their faces painted. Then Catholic Charities’ staff took up stations throughout the building to hand out candy to the trick-or-treaters. Most of the children, representing countries as diverse as Myanmar (Burma), Iraq and Syria, had never experienced Trick-or-Treating before.

“I think they were mystified by what was happening,” Adams said of the youngest children. “Halloween is a very big holiday in the schools. This way families could learn together about Halloween in a very supportive and understanding environment.”

The candy was donated by Westfield Friends School in Cinnaminson. Children were sent home with a Catholic Charities’ flier inviting them to bring any extra or leftover Halloween candy in to school with them for refugee children. The response was overwhelming. Not only was there plenty of Trick-or-Treating candy, but the refugee children were also sent home with bags of it as prizes.

During the library presentation, families were offered fresh fruit and water to provide some nutritional balance, Adams said.

When Trick-or-Treating had ended, families were invited to peruse an array of donated school supplies to take home with them. There were notebooks, children’s books, backpacks, binders, pens and pencils, all provided by donors in the community.

By the end of the program, Catholic Charities’ staff may have had as much fun as the children.

“Staff were so delighted to see the smiles on the kids’ faces while giving them candy,” said Moustafa Aldouri, case manager with Catholic Charities’ Refugee and Immigration Services. “This event was a great way for clients who come from overseas to feel that they’re welcomed and part of the culture in the United States.”