I made a stop in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan while on my Roadtrip with Reason and was thoroughly impressed. It's a little prairie city with a big prairie personality, and one that showcases a lot of diversity. I was extremely surprised (and puzzled) to discover representation of so many cultures in Saskatoon, until I later learned that Saskatchewan is "making efforts to attract at least 5000 newcomers each year to contribute to its growing economy."
Ah, hah! Puzzle = solved.
I had made plans to volunteer with the Global Gathering Place, a "non-profit drop-in centre that provides services for immigrants and refugees in Saskatoon." The reason for their existence (in Saskatoon) became much clearer once I was introduced to this culturally diverse city, placed in the Canadian Prairies.
The Global Gathering Place (GGP) are committed to providing “holistic, adaptive and person-centered services to support the efforts of refugees and immigrants to overcome challenges and participate fully in Canadian life as equal members.” They also “educate the public about refugee immigrant issues, address misconceptions, and highlight the valuable contributions that refugees and immigrants make to our community.” Essentially, they act as a support system for immigrants and refugees by creating a community-like atmosphere and by offering programs and services that help them adapt comfortably to their new home.
One morning I arrived to a classroom, knowing that I would be volunteering to help the Instructor with her English Level 1 class. There were approximately 10 students, probably between the ages of 30 – 70, who were newcomers to Canada and were proactively trying to learn the language. They were all from different countries, different educational/professional backgrounds, and were at different levels of English skill. The similarity between every single one of them was the amount of hard work they were putting into the class, the frustration they displayed when they would make a mistake, the pride they felt when they did well on an activity, and the absolute desire to master the English language.
As the girl who did very poorly on her Spanish Level 1 in University (who, me?! heh), I really appreciated their commitment and overall attitude to what was clearly going to be a serious challenge. It is also important to mention that they were incredibly genuine and sweet human beings who were so excited about their new learning opportunity. I left the class hoping that they would eventually succeed and lead a happy life here in Canada.
Who needs to worry about language barriers when food is the subject?
It’s an international language, it seems.
We all went over to the local grocery store with a task of finding the items necessary to create the meal. I had never thought about how difficult grocery shopping would be to someone who had no experience in a big-box store. Some of them had journeyed to this grocery store already, where as others (who had only been in Canada for a very short period) had steered clear and were baffled by its size. Many of the people in my own group spoke reminiscently of shopping at little markets, but were also so excited to find items from home in the ‘International’ section. Overall, it was a successful shopping trip and I am sure they had a great time cooking (& eating) their recipes in the following class.
I left feeling so grateful to live in a country where diversity is encouraged, and for places like the Global Gathering Place who help newcomers feel at home in their new home.
This experience served as yet another wonderful reminder as to why I am so proud to be Canadian.
For more information on the Global Gathering Place, please visit their website HERE.