Over the last week I have been thinking a great about my own place in this community as I work on this series of stories about the Vanderhoof Spirit of Diversity Project (see pages one and nine).
The aim of the 14-month project is to create a welcoming and inclusive community for all as evidently, Vanderhoof, like many communities, struggles with issues of exclusion and racism.
In light of this series I have decided to write a brief editorial about my own experience as an immigrant coming to Vanderhoof.
It has been a very difficult transition for me, in particular by coming alone without family or friends.
Once I got over the initial culture shock of coming from London to Vancouver to Vanderhoof … I have to say that most of the residents I have come into contact with have been extremely welcoming and kind. However beyond this I have found the community can be cliquey and so building friendships and ongoing communication has been difficult.
There are the small number of people as well who have been not so welcoming and have made me feel ultimately that I don’t belong here.
Just two weeks ago my sister came to visit and after accidentally knocking over someone’s drink one night was told to “go back to her own country.” I wasn’t surprised by the outburst but I was surprised by the choice of comeback.
The community was described to me the other day as having a number of circles within which people operate and socialize.
Their exclusiveness is not necessarily deliberate. I think this is a relatively accurate description from what I have seen. Of course everybody’s experience is different depending on the individual.
I found it interesting talking to two of the new doctors in town who both said the welcoming medical community was a huge factor for staying in town. One said it was the most welcoming of any community he had worked and was constantly invited to events and social occasions when he arrived. The medical community here seems to have got it right, and it is interesting that despite all of the medical recruitment problems in northern B.C. at the moment, Vanderhoof is the one community that doesn’t have this problem.
Upon researching this diversity series I came across an interesting post on a forum about B.C. towns … it was a post written by a person who moved to Vanderhoof and found it to be anything but inclusive.
The post mentioned the circles in society.
“The only way an outsider can get in the inner circles if he or she married someone in these groups. If you come into the town with your own family, you are set up for failure. Unless you are a professional whom they cannot function with out, like a doctor, a lawyer, or a dentist.
“We were not one of those professionals, so we are neglected from day one. We tried a lot of things to fit in. Joined their church, helped out of their social events, helped out in their school, and nothing,” the anonymous post read.
I think the ideas behind the diversity project is fantastic and greatly needed but the community is still a long way off achieving its aims.
As I work though this diversity series I would really like to hear other people’s opinion on whether they feel the communities of Vanderhoof and Fraser Lake are welcoming and inclusive and why.
I can be contacted via phone 250-567-9258 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.