What does it take to try things you have never done before while visiting a country you have never been to and what about going there in the first place if you think people may be unfriendly?
This is exactly what Helina Oforiwaa Quaque from Ghana did when she came to Fort St. James for a mentorship program with the credit union.
Quaque had gotten the impression caucasian people did not like black people through her observations of soccer rivalries and because she had not been exposed to many caucasians in Ghana , but she was relieved to find people in Fort St. James very welcoming towards her.
“You’ve proved me wrong,” she said.
“I think it takes a whole bunch of courage to go somewhere you think the people don’t like you,” said Joan Burdeniuk, manager of the local Integris Credit Union branch who hosted Quaque during her stay.
While Quaque was in Canada on a mentorship, learning about different customer service skills and management, she spent a week in Fort St. James and had the opportunity for a number of “firsts.”
To start with, it was the first time she had ever traveled outside Ghana, let alone flown in an airplane, something she was nervous about at first.
She said she pretended not to be scared in front of the stranger sitting next to her on the plane, but it did get easier with each flight she had to take.
After arriving in Canada, Quaque had the chance to interact with many different parts of the world by meeting the other women participation in the Canadian Co-operative Association’s Women Mentoring Program from six different countries.
She also enjoyed getting to experience the longer days of a northern spring for the first time in her life, and seeing snow for the first time when she traveled to Jasper for a speaker at the credit union there.
“I was frozen,” said Quaque. “But it was interesting.”
She also got the chance to drive a side by side in the bush, which was an extra-thrilling first because she had never driven any type of vehicle anywhere before.
“It’s an experience,” said Quaque.
Local cuisine on offer while she was visiting gave her a chance to try moose meat cooked over a campfire as well, a true Canadian experience, while she made a traditional rice dish called jolf rice for her Canadian hosts to try.
Quaque will go back to Ghana with many stories of Canadian life and some useful training, and her journey also taught her hostess something along the way.
“It’s so much of a two-way learning,” said Burdeniuk, “We assume we’re so different, but there’s a lot more similarities than differences.”