As a student of international development I have always been passionate about exploring new cultures and meeting new people. In many ways it was this curiosity that inspired me to travel internationally, never realizing what existed in my very own community.
A few years ago I moved to West Africa to work for a government-run middle school in a community of 800 people. At that time I had never lived outside of Canada, let alone on the continent of Africa, and I was entirely on my own.
While in West Africa I lived with a family and quickly developed a strong bond with its youngest member, 13-year-old Naomi. My favourite part of the day became reading with her after school, a place she was fortunate to attend. Our time reading together soon became our very own book club, and many of the boys and girls (and even parents!) who joined us did so because they weren’t able to go to school. For some, reading with us was the only chance they had to hear new stories, learn new words, and practice a different language.
Shortly after returning to Canada, missing Naomi and our book club, I began tutoring families with their English. Through our time together I realised I could continue exploring, continue learning, right in my own backyard. My volunteer work afforded me many of the same opportunities that I had while I was abroad, such as building bonds with new people, and learning about their cultures and where they came from. All of the things I love about traveling, I have learned to do at home.
Canada is made up of people from all over the world, with very diverse histories, cultures and stories. I feel fortunate to be able to learn from that, and I am grateful to Naomi who inspired me to act and make a difference here at home. This Thinking Day, explore your own community in a new and meaningful way and learn about how you can make a difference.
By Rachael Quick