'Just so perfect': Strangers help refugee learn to skate in Ottawa
Fabrice Niyungeko from Burundi learned to skate in Ottawa with the help of some kind strangers. (Lauren Dobson-Hughes / Twitter)
Published Thursday, February 16, 2017 12:36PM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 20, 2017 12:50PM EST
“The men clung to the sides of the rink, like they were drowning. Their gangly legs splayed out under them like newborn fawns.”
That’s how Ottawa resident Lauren Dobson-Hughes described, on Twitter, seeing two young men attempting to skate at the Rink of Dreams outside of Ottawa City Hall on Wednesday afternoon. It was the first time either man had stepped foot on ice together.
As it turns out, the first-timers were refugees from Burundi, who arrived in Canada only a week before.
In a series of tweets, Dobson-Hughes described witnessing strangers step in to offer help and encouragment. She started her account by writing that the young men, with their “hoodies and long legs”, appeared “skitterish” on the ice.
“The men painfully, slowly inched their way around the rink, clinging to the sides,” she wrote.
The men painfully, slowly inched their way around the rink, clinging to the sides. A woman started asking people if they could teach skating— Lauren Dobson-Hughes (@ldobsonhughes) February 16, 2017
Dobson-Hughes told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Thursday, that the men looked like they had no idea what they were doing and that it took around 10 minutes for them to complete a full circle around the rink.
Eventually, a woman started asking if any of the 10 or so other skaters on the ice knew how to teach skating. Dobson-Hughes said another woman with figure skating teaching experience volunteered to give the wobbly skaters a lesson. She said one of the men, Lionel Ntibaharire, was more “cautious” and chose to watch his companion, Fabrice Niyungeko, learn instead.
Onlookers started shouting words of encouragement such as “bravo” and “great job” to Niyungeko as he attempted to push off from the side of the rink and skate on his own.
Dobson-Hughes said that, after about five minutes of learning the basics, Niyungeko took a hesitant step towards the middle of the rink and the other skaters and the seven or eight spectators burst into applause and congratulating him.
“He was so happy,” Dobson-Hughes said with a laugh. “He was all like, ‘Look at me. I did it. This whole skating thing.’”
As he skated all by himself, he got a spontaneous standing ovation from skaters and spectators, and he beamed with pride pic.twitter.com/D2GJTb5J7n— Lauren Dobson-Hughes (@ldobsonhughes) February 16, 2017
Dobson-Hughes said it just felt really special to witness the kindness of strangers, even if it was only for a brief moment.
“For only five minutes, a group of people who have never met each other came together to help these two young men enjoy a small slice of what it is to be Canadian,” Dobson-Hughes said.
With all of the news coming out of the U.S. concerning anti-immigration policies under U.S. President Donald Trump, Dobson-Hughes said she felt compelled to share the story with her more than 5,000 followers on Twitter to share that there are good people in the world.
“It was just so perfect. It could have been out of a movie,” she said.
Dobson-Hughes wanted to clarify that Canada has its own share of problems when it comes to immigration and refugees and that it’s by no means perfect either.
“Sometimes this country is ridiculous and wonderful and welcoming,” Dobson-Hughes gushed in one of the tweets.
You couldn't have scripted it better. Sometimes this country is ridiculous and wonderful and welcoming. Fin— Lauren Dobson-Hughes (@ldobsonhughes) February 16, 2017