Maureen

Maureen came to Canada in 2016, from Rwanda. In Maureen’s words, “Canada is a nice country, and they are so protective… it is not an easy thing to get their visa. I am glad that they allow me. It was a long process and lots of waiting!”

When she arrived, there was snow on the ground, and it seemed very cold, yet everyone said she had missed the worst winter weather! Still, Maureen got a kick out of wearing long, tall, winter boots, something you never saw in Rwanda. And when summer rolled around, seeing the light still in the sky at 10 PM was a big surprise, unlike anything she’d ever seen. The surprises continued this fall, when the leaves began to change colour. Maureen now says that she likes the cycles of the seasons, and the beauty of seeing nature come back to life in the spring.

The seasons and weather are not the only difference between Canada and Rwanda. Maureen says that back home, fresh tropical fruit is the easiest, cheapest thing you can buy, while processed foods are more of a luxury. Here it’s the opposite—if you can find fresh tropical fruit at all. She has also noticed that in Canada, people pay much more attention to the time when making plans and going about their day. In Rwanda, time is secondary: “What’s more important is the event itself.” Reflecting on this, Maureen says that the Canadian lifestyle has made her realize how much can be accomplished in a day, but at the same time, in her culture “they finish the project very happy and peaceful.”

Maureen has been learning new things every day in Canada. She regularly attends Coffee and Conversation at Global Gathering Place, which has been “a great opportunity to hear their stories (and) learn a little of the culture, which helps me to increase my understanding/ knowledge of how to respect and appreciate other peoples’ belief and values.” She also took our Computers Level 2 course, and obtained her CELPIP certificate.

Today Maureen is taking steps toward her dreams for the future. She hopes to attend university soon to study commerce, through which she believes she can make a positive impact in people’s lives. She already owned a successful small business—when she was in high school! —providing basic goods to students. Maureen says, “I love helping people. It makes me feel like a better person when I can make someone smile or feel special… when I was younger, I did see many people mistreated.” She wants to give back as much as possible, and is influenced by her grandfather, who always said that, “People may forget what you achieved, but will remember how you made them feel.”

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.

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