Uttama

Uttama came to Canada in March of 2013 by invitation of the Saskatoon Burmese Buddhist community. As a Buddhist monk and a Sangha member—one charged with sharing the teachings of the Buddha—Uttama was sought for his skills, practical experience, and knowledge. He is now a teacher, teaching children and others in order to enhance Saskatoon’s Dharma Buddhist community.

Uttama does not know what his future will hold as it is very much up to the will of his community. Right now, he is in Canada on a work permit and is taking the opportunity to learn as much as he can while sharing his own knowledge. He calls it an “exchange of information”, and says that it is his greatest hope for his future in Canada. At the moment, with the restrictions on his work visa, he is unable to attend university in Canada, but would very much love to continue the exchange by enrolling in religious studies at the University of Saskatchewan.

Uttama has become a regular attendee of Global Gathering Place’s Coffee and Conversation program on Thursday afternoons. He speaks glowingly about the program, commenting on the various dimensions of assistance participants receive including relief from loneliness, local advice, employment connections, and help with language. For himself, Uttama appreciates that he is improving his English and has a chance to be able speak with people from so many different cultures and countries. Meeting such a diversity of people is a new experience for him and he says that he has observed how people from different cultures have different ways of thinking and with time, by living here, their minds change to think more like Canadians.

Uttama likes how Canadians think. He said that Canadians are very polite, resilient, full of love to share, and eager to learn new things. Uttama likes to walk along the riverbank where he sees and meets many people. In his orange robes, he is easily identifiable as a foreigner. He loves how people are comfortable approaching him and striking up conversations. He likes how Canadians are friendly, peaceful, polite, and interested in learning about his culture.

He likes most things about Canada, but has also observed that there are many people who seem to be lonely. He can’t remember seeing so many people who struggle with loneliness and thinks that perhaps the difference is that Buddhist teachings provide solutions to this problem in his home country. Uttama explained that Buddhism trains people to be able to control their own minds so that they can search for peace and happiness inside of themselves instead of turning to others to provide it. He says that the goal is to achieve the four foundations of mindfulness—mindfulness of the body, of feelings, of the mind, and of mental objects—in order to be able to overcome sorrow and suffering. If we could achieve this in ourselves, we would achieve a more peaceful world.   

Grant

Grant came to Canada with his wife in 2007 after she received a job offer from the National Research Council. The plan was to stay here for only a couple of years before returning to their home in China.  Three years later, they decided that Canada was right for them and they applied for Permanent Residency status and brought their son from China to join them.
Grant says that there were many factors that influenced their decision. In particular, though, it was the better opportunities available to their son that had the greatest impact. Grant likes the education system in Canada and how it places much less pressure on students while offering richer educational resources. Students have less homework and the competition isn’t as intense. There are also many extra-curricular activities that children can take part in, things like swimming, soccer, and skating.
Upon his arrival, Grant’s impressive educational background helped him to secure a job as a research assistant at the University of Saskatchewan. He worked there for about six years, but found that the job offered very few opportunities for improving his English speaking and listening skills. Although his ability to read and write English was very strong, he found his strong Chinese accent and inaccurate pronunciation to be discouraging. This led him to seek out GGP and the Coffee and Conversation program.
Grant appreciates how much he was able to improve his pronunciation and fluency as a result of attending GGP’s programs. His language ability is much, much better now and he appreciates everything else he gained from GGP’s programs, particularly from Coffee and Conversation and Family, Fun, and Fit. It was wonderful too that his son was included in some of the weekend activities like mini golfing and swimming.
Grant and his family really like Canada and they have decided to make it their forever home. They have applied for Canadian citizenship and look forward to becoming more involved in their community. They want to be able to vote and to have a say in the decisions that shape this country.  They also look forward to continuing to enjoy some of Canada’s simpler pleasures. For example, the fact that there are so many green spaces open to the public is something they love. In China, with its much higher and denser population, lawns must be protected from people. Grant remembers how impressed he was the first time he saw children and families playing sports or enjoying other activities on one of Saskatoon’s many grassy spaces.
Grant hopes to build his career, either in the finance industry or at a university doing research work. He holds a PhD in Mathematical Finance and is looking into completing his Masters of Quantitative Finance. He is also very close to achieving a designation in the financial field with the Canadian Institute of Actuaries. He hopes that a Canadian degree and Canadian credentials will open up wider career opportunities. He would also like to meet and become friends with more local people.
Whatever he decides and wherever he finds himself, we wish him the greatest of success.

Finda

Meet Finda, a Canadian citizen who first came to Canada in 2004 as a refugee from Sierra Leone. Finda is remarkable in that she seems to radiate joy. She says that coming to Canada was a dream and becoming a citizen was the culmination of that dream. She is proud to be a citizen of a country so full of love and consideration for its people. Buoyed by that positive energy, she is confident in a bright future.

Before moving here, Finda lived for seven years in a refugee camp in Gambia. She says that conditions in the camp were terrible. There wasn’t enough food, water, or necessities like clothes to go around. Life was so hard. Finda was so excited when she found out she could come to Canada because Canada was known among the people in the camp as the best country of all. Even so, she was apprehensive. Then one night, she had a dream. In her dream, she could see a shining light with people inside of it. She felt that the dream was God showing her future in Canada; a future filled with brilliant light.

Finda says that she was very depressed when she was in Africa. In Gambia, there was nowhere she could work, or earn money and no ability to access anything like a student loan that could allow her to study. So, she felt that she had no future. She was lucky that she was able to come to Canada as a Government Assisted Refugee. She was met at the airport by people who helped her and her family settle down. She was overwhelmed by the kindness of Canadians, especially the women. Canadian women are filled with compassion she says, “they moved me from suffering—from darkness into light.” She says that she left her depression in Africa and has found a place where people respect her, like her, and help her.

Finda has found life to be much easier in Canada. It’s easier, more relaxing, and there is peace.  Shortly after arriving, Finda found work housekeeping at the hospital. She’s been working there now for eight years and she says that it’s an amazing place to work, surrounded by other very good people. Her employment was recently upgraded to permanent full-time, an important development which allows her to be able to build and plan for her future.

Finda laughs as she talks about how scared she was the first time she saw the snow. The snow fell during the night and when she woke up and saw it for the first time, she was afraid to go outside even though she knew that she had to go to work. She called her friends for advice and they offered reassurance and coaxed her to venture out. She went outside and the snow reached up to her knees. She said that she was very afraid but, at the same time, was struck by how beautiful everything was, blanketed in sparkling white. Bundled inside four coats, she couldn’t even lift her arms. Even so, she managed to get on the bus and begin learning about how to survive the winter.

Finda meets and talks to a lot of people. She knows that there are many who face real problems and sometimes they talk to her about their difficulties. However, for her, life is very good. She says that she likes the people here and she lives in a nice neighbourhood. Her face breaks into a wide smile as she explains that even though she’s the only black person in the whole apartment block, she’s never once felt discriminated against. She’s never faced it and she says that her children have never faced it either.

The future for Finda and her children is bright here in Canada. She works hard, she’s surrounded herself with strong and caring friends, and she takes advantage of every opportunity for personal growth. Right now, for example, she’s learning how to use the computer. She is grateful to the Global Gathering Place for the help she receives and, in turn, we at Global Gathering Place are grateful to Finda for her positive attitude, winning smile, and willingness to lend a helping hand. She is a shining example of why we exist.

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