At loveOttawa we really enjoy asking people what they love about our city. Over the past few months, we’ve been jotting down some of the recurring themes and ideas that people have been consistently conveying to us. We’ve taken your ideas and designed a cool t-shirt that reflects these concepts. Ottawans are very proud of their city, but they’re also very humble in the way they voice that pride. The loveOttawa t-shirt offers a simple, clean design and a collection of words in both official languages to help our followers spread the love and display their pride! Order yours now!
Claudia Salguero photographed in her South Ottawa studio.
A few weeks ago, as we were asking our followers on social media about what they loved about Ottawa, we received a few tweets from Claudia Salguero, who very enthusiastically answered, “I love your project. Ottawa needs to be told how vibrant it is! I loveOttawa ‘cause its doors are open wide if you work hard and you believe in what you do.”
Soon after, Claudia invited us to her home studio and shared her love of music, art and community. Energetic, dynamic and versatile, she is, not only a very talented digital and visual artist, but also a Latin Jazz/bolero singer and a community art facilitator who works with organizations like Operation Come Home, Ottawa Housing Corporation and OCISO .
On Saturday, May 28th, Claudia and a group of very talented musicians will perform a one night Latin Jazz concert, “Cantares,” now in its sixth year, at the National Arts Centre. The musicians are from nine different countries and cover a wide range of styles and instruments. We were honoured to attend one of their rehearsals (in Claudia’s studio basement) and were immediately enamoured by the Latin rhythms and Claudia’s lovely voice. Part of the proceeds from the concert will go to a community centre in Bogotá, Colombia.
Thank you, Claudia, for sharing your art and music, as well your passionate sentiments about our city.
You are a vibrant, creative, multi-talented artist. What started first? The art, the music or the community involvement?
“The music and the art have always been a part of my life. I remember being a little girl and making things with my hands, always curious about materials, always trying to understand how things were made, always putting colours wherever I could. There is something I regret, though. I was probably 8 when I decided to paint the shell of a little turtle I had in our fish tank. She died… :(
Singing and music are also a part of who I am and definitely helped me to develop self-confidence (you have no idea how introverted I was!) and, at the same time, the certainty of knowing there is always lots to learn. I started singing at school when I was probably 10 or 11. The community work started here in Ottawa a few years ago and has been a gift for me in many ways. I discovered the joy of sharing what I know and the importance of art as a tool for a healthier world.”
How long have you lived in Ottawa and how did leaving your country impact your work?
“I moved to Ottawa in 2001 and this change in my life has enriched my work. I now have a wider view of the world, a deeper knowledge and appreciation of other cultures, many friends from all over the world and also a better understanding of Latin American culture. As Latin Americans we share many things including our language, but we are still different. If we talk about tradition, food or music, the variety is immense. I have seen and experienced that in Ottawa and I feel now more proud and more in love with Latin American culture. You can see that in my concerts. On the other hand, I have been exposed to artists from the five continents who work with many different techniques. This has been an inspiration and a source of artistic knowledge. My Photo-Fine-Art “Downtown Aluminum Series” is about cities of the world and the energy flowing in their streets.”
We are looking forward to attending “Cantares” later this month. Such a wonderful mixture of talented musicians coming together to play Latin Jazz promises to be a real treat. What would you like to tell Ottawa about the concert and what can we expect?
“CANTARES will be a musically rich, fun, chic, romantic and also educational concert. This year’s repertoire includes songs from many countries of Latin America as well as some classic Jazz tunes from North America with our Latin flavour. Our audience is over fifty percent anglophone and francophone which, for me, is a sign that the concert is enjoyed by everyone in Ottawa, not just the Latin community. I think people appreciate and take pride that a production of this level is Ottawa-based and they want to be part of it and support it. This is my sixth year at the National Arts Centre and for the audience it has become a night they look forward to. Our concerts sell out and we hope to achieve the same again this year.
I sing many songs in Spanish but I’ll tell my audience about the stories in the songs, the rhythms and the instruments of different countries we use on stage. It will be like traveling the continent. The musicians accompanying me are extremely talented and prolific but most of all beautiful human beings. I feel so fortunate to have worked with them over the years. They are from all over: Brazil, Mexico, Canada, USA, Africa, Great Britain, Peru and Chile. Of course there is me, from Colombia! We are from nine different countries in total and we all bring something from our background to the stage.
As in previous years, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to a foundation in Colombia. This year it will go to “Casa Taller Las Moyas” in Bogotá. Thank you Ottawa, for your permanent support!”
Finally, what do you most love about Ottawa? Are there any places you love to go to or activities you enjoy doing?
“Besides the amazing multiculturalism, the way in which the community welcomes new residents, I love how easy it is to become part of this community and participate in it. In terms of places, I love with all my heart the Rideau Canal and The Arboretum. These are the places I escape to. Biking and skating the canal whenever I can is something I just need to do. I also love Winterlude. I have been learning ice and snow sculpture since 2011 and Winterlude is the best place and time to do it. This is something I can’t do in Colombia!”
Alexander Shelley photographed in Southam Hall at The National Arts Centre.
We have had the privilege of meeting and photographing Alexander Shelley, Music Director and Conductor of the National Arts Centre Orchestra, on a few occasions since his arrival in our city in the fall. British-born Shelley is also Chief Conductor of the Nuremberg Symphony Orchestra (Germany) and Principal Associate Conductor of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (England).
Whether chatting informally in his very unique, engaging fashion or enveloped in music and intensely focused while conducting, Alexander is a class act. Having attended and photographed some of his concerts, we have been fascinated by how he is able to captivate the audience, drawing us into his world, sharing composers’ stories and anecdotes as if they were old friends. Alexander brings, not only international experience to our orchestra, but also a very unique offering, as well as great respect towards Canadian culture. This musical season at the NACO promises to be rich and diverse under Shelley’s musical direction. One of the highlights will be Life Reflected, on May 19th, blending the music of four Canadian composers with literature, film, photography and dance, while sharing the stories of four Canadian women.
Our city is very lucky indeed to have such a talented and dynamic “maestro” who, in the few months since his arrival, has shone some wonderful light on our classical music scene. No doubt, he will inspire future generations.
We love how you have brought a breath of fresh air to classical music in Ottawa . You connect so beautifully to your audience, allowing us to enter your unique world, and enjoy not only the classical genre, but many other styles and rhythms. Do you think we’ve been as good an audience as you have been an artist?
“Oh absolutely! I couldn’t be more moved and excited by the enthusiasm and warmth that has been shown at our concerts over the last 8 months. This city is home to such a great many sophisticated, inquisitive, adventurous, fun-loving and generally rather brilliant people, that the pre- and post-show events have become something of a personal highlight. Having the opportunity to meet and talk to so many of our subscribers, as well a so many first-timers, has helped me to understand what it is that our audience tastes are, what it is that they enjoy and appreciate. Particularly exciting, and a wonderful opportunity for continued growth, is quite how varied and extensive those tastes are – from those that come to the NACO for the great classics, to those searching for the newest sounds and stories.”
Music in all its forms evokes so many different emotions, speaks over countless time periods, is so adaptable. We have a feeling that with you as Music Director, we will be experiencing not only the world’s greatest classical music, but also some very new, contemporary productions, such as Dear Life. We so enjoyed how you and your collaborators brought Alice Munro’s short story to life, giving it a musical voice, filling it with beautiful imagery. Will we be experiencing more of that in the future?
“We will most definitely be experiencing more productions like Dear Life. In the month of May we premiere the most ambitious creative project that the NACO has ever undertaken. “Life Reflected” is a completely immersive show, without interval, with multi-media 3D projections on and around the symphony orchestra, relating and interpreting the stories of four astonishing Canadian women through the collaboration of four of Canada’s finest composers with stars from the worlds of literature, film, photography and dance. It will be truly exciting and represents my vision of what our National Arts Centre Orchestra can do to bring the extraordinary creative artists of this country together, in order to produce engaging, meaningful works of art for our audience.”
Your professional commitments take you from London to Nuremberg and to many other cities around the world on a regular basis. Does Ottawa seem small compared to other European cities? What do you most like about our city?
“I find that Ottawa has the advantages of a major world capital, mixed with the charm of a smaller city. Within minutes of my home I can be at the National Gallery or the NAC, soaking up some culture, in the Market buying some fantastic fresh produce, down Elgin glugging some delicious Ontario wine, jogging up the canal to the lake, or I can pop up to Gatineau Park and taste a real flavour of the countryside. There are not many cities that offer all of that in such a compact space. Love Ottawa!”
Thank you, Alexander, for so graciously and generously affording us your time and company, and for sharing your musical passion with Ottawa.
Some of our Shopify friends photographed in their Ottawa headquarters.
Shopify is one of our city’s most talked about young, trending companies. A developer for multichannel commerce platforms, it is reshaping the concept of commerce internationally. It is also known for its “avant garde” approach to doing business and its company culture of thinking “outside the box”. For many, it offers the dream job and marking a difference.
Walking into their spacious downtown headquarters, one is enveloped in a high functioning yet casual, playfully creative environment. Loving people as much as we love our city, we were very curious to meet and photograph a handful of Shopify employees, and ask them about what they love about our town. We were so very impressed with such a unique, dynamic and passionate group of individuals.
Thank you Shopify, and especially to Konval, for opening your doors and city hearts to our project! It was so much fun!
What do you most love about Ottawa?
“It’s full of hidden secrets!” – Alec
“It’s one of the most well-rounded cities. You can go places so easily. It’s got a great music scene, lots of green spaces – such a humble city.” – Karmen
“Nature is so close to everything. It’s got some great gems.” (one of which we were asked not to disclose!) – Dave
“Its closeness to nature!” – Monica
“Its neighbourhoods and community spirit. We help each other out!” – Mandira
“Ottawa has just the right amount of entertainment and distraction. It enables those who want to contribute to the scene and build communities to do so. It isn’t saturated, there’s space for makers to provide to the city.” – Guillaume
For more information about Shopify and their great people: www.shopify.ca
Gail Stanley photographed at Orchard View in Manotick.
Through our work as corporate/commercial photographers, we sometimes come across people who, in a soft and quiet way, leave us with a smile on our faces and a good feeling in our hearts. This is the case of Gail Stanley, who we met on a recent photo shoot at Orchard View on the Rideau, an assisted living and retirement residence in Manotick.
Gail has cerebral palsy. Despite her physical challenges and an important life change – she had to leave her family home when her dad passed away recently – she has a great disposition and a lovely and positive attitude. At age 65, she is the youngest resident of Orchard View and is lovingly called “the kid” by her close friends. We loved photographing her and captivating her kind cheerfulness.
Originally from Miramichi, New Brunswick, Gail grew up in the west end of Ottawa. She has fond memories of it, as well as the years spent living with her dad, who she was very close to, in the Riverside area. When faced with the task of having to live independently, she had a hard time of it, but embraced change courageously and slowly adapted. She has become one of Orchard View’s most charismatic residents, with her contagious smile and sharp wit.
When asked about her favourite pastimes, Gail points to her three good friends Edith, Dorothy and Len, who are sitting close by playing Scrabble, and replies “I enjoy Scrabble. They got me liking it!” while Edith happily chirps in that “Gail is wonderful with mind games – you know, trivia and things like that!” Edith is her closest friend and speaks of her love of music and how, when somebody plays the piano, she dances and twirls around, despite the wheelchair. Gail also loves her exercise routine, sitting outside in the garden, observing people come and go (“even if they don’t talk to me”) and her day group outings. She also underlines the importance of having her downtime, watching shows in her room and reading.
When her sisters and family come to Ottawa, Gail loves going downtown to the Byward Market for a meal and the opportunity to see all types of people. She also enjoys visits with her cousins to the family-run Stanley’s Olde Maple Lane Farm. This is what she most loves about our city.
Chatting with Gail, one gets the feeling that happiness is found in the simplest of things, in spite of challenges and that it only really comes down to attitude. As we prepare to leave, Gail shyly asks about the photo and wonders if it looks fine. It looks beautiful, don’t you agree?
Jeff McIntyre photographed in his art studio, Little Italy.
Artist Jeff McIntyre creates art while quietly contemplating the world around him. A generous man, he is also a voracious reader. He can be found either at his 400 acre property in Val-des-Monts (Quebec), living peacefully with family and friends, or at work in his Ottawa studio, where we caught up with him earlier this month.
Jeff is pursuing his art while also being a family man. His studio is speckled with evidence of his children, the space peaceful and orderly. His art has a very defined voice and he loves to share his work and ideas. His latest project is an art installation comprised of a life-sized replica of a traditional North American canoe camp. Dripped in a vibrant red coating, all objects interact with each other, celebrating our country’s heritage and depicting the importance of man’s interdependence. When exhibited, it will be accompanied by sound and light. Jeff likes to accompany his work with videos, sharing the process and making it tangible and real.
Jeff is an adopted Ottawan, originally from Montreal and Toronto. His work has become well-known and has lead to many exhibitions and commission pieces. His paintings are in numerous international private collections. His determination to pursue art as a way of life is commendable. We are grateful to you, Jeff, for adding to Ottawa’s growing cultural community!
Would you say that your close relationship with nature and the time you spend in it has influenced your new work, the Red Sticks Project?
“Most certainly. From a young age, I constructed primitive shelters when exploring the lakes and river systems of northern Ontario and Quebec, Canada. As an artist, it is very rewarding and beneficial to work with materials and share narratives from one’s own environment and experience. There is never a doubt that I yearn to create art with natural materials from my own land.
The planning and fabrication of the Red Sticks Project has been most enjoyable. Personally, it really does not get better than this:
Sculpting trees for shelter posts and widdling saplings for a pot’s tripod.
Rolling a fire pit circle with rocks carved by melting glaciers 10,000 years ago.
Building a traditional canoe camp as explorers have done for centuries.
Sleeping inside my Art, under the stars, beside a bending stream.”
We love your Demonstration (cities) Collection. It’s busy, noisy and screams at the spectator, yet it is vibrant, balanced and happy. Do you feel at times that you are a social commentator through your art?
“Thank you. Yes – colour, movement, vibrancy and beauty can be found in even the most desperate and tragic events. Media imagery clearly provides a visual congruency – whether Baltimore, Budapest or Bagdad; the pictorial record is very much the same. I hope the Demonstration Collection creates an open, international space for discussion and comment about how world events are increasingly interdependent and what this new reality means for shared global responsibility.”
Why did you choose Ottawa to live in and what places around town do you love the most?
“There are not many cities in the world that could offer the contradictory lifestyle which I demand. Where else can I enjoy the morning at a studio in a wildlife reserve – and then 40 minutes later, be working at a studio in the core of a city? Ottawa has it all; arts, music, culture, food, and most importantly, close proximity to wilderness experiences.
Krista Walsh photographed at Black Squirrel Books & Cafe, Old Ottawa South.
It’s always a pleasure to discover local talent and more so when that person can inspire others! Krista Walsh is, at 29, a fantasy author who has, in the short span of three years, published five novels and is about to launch a sixth, completing “Meratis”, her second trilogy.
Fascinated with the fantasy genre, Krista, an Ottawa native, has been writing from a young age. When she decided to publish her first book, she faced the very difficult and competitive challenge of finding a publishing company that would. Not one to give up, she rolled up her sleeves and decided to do it herself, joining forces with a growing community of authors and literary creators. Through self publishing and her blog, The Raven’s Quill, she weaves new tales, creates unique characters and shares her world with her readers.
Behind a quiet demure and smiley disposition, we discovered a strong and determined young woman who has, at least for one full year, had the courage to make possible her dream of writing for a living. Krista embraces her next months with great optimism and the hope that her readership will grow and her many projects and ideas will become a reality.
We caught up with Krista at the Black Squirrel Books & Cafe, a special place where books, coffee and people come together to celebrate the love of reading.
You have written and published five books in under three years and a sixth is underway. That’s incredible! Why is self publishing the best option for you?
“My mentor in England first walked me through the steps in October 2013, and I haven’t looked back. I love having the final say in my cover artist, and my choice of editor. I love being hands-on throughout the entire process from draft to final product, and learning every part of the business side as well as the creative side. Every day I learn something new about marketing or self-editing, so my process is constantly evolving. On the opposite side, when readers have issue with my work, that’s all on me, as well, but I consider that a great excuse to learn where I can improve.
I’ve surrounded myself with an amazing team of artists, proofreaders, editors, readers, all from networking and reaching out. The self-publishing/indie community is the other incredible benefit of choosing this method of publishing — we’re working together to raise each other up whenever we can. We share our experiences, offer support and encouragement. My team is invaluable to me.”
What made you decide that you needed a year away from your full time work commitments just to write?
“The biggest reason is because at the moment I have the opportunity to do so. Fortunately, my family and my partner are among the most supportive people I know. From the time I started writing (at about 6 years old), my parents have always encouraged me to express myself through words. They would always take the time to read my massive epics about ghosts and kids on adventures, and never made me feel I should focus more on “societally recognised” careers. In January 2015, I dropped down to part time work, balancing a 2-day a week day job against 5 days a week (what are weekends?) writing, and I increased my productivity from 2 books a year to almost 4. I loved having the extra time. My stress levels decreased, and I was generally a happier person. I was able to focus on learning my business, improving my marketing, and therefore seeing more of a return on my efforts.”
You strike us as a very hardworking, confident young woman who has fearlessly paved her own way in the competitive literary world. Do you, at times, feel overwhelmed by it all?
“Oh goodness gracious yes! Even having the entire week to focus on my dream job, I still have days where I want to crawl into hole for a month or six. As much as I love putting words together, it’s still work. There are days where my to-do list is a page and a half long and every item as a deadline or is something I dread doing. There are tasks on both the business and writing sides that I can’t bring myself to enjoy, but they still need to get done. Getting notes back from readers, or getting poor reviews is enough to make me bury my head in the freezer with a bucket of mint chip ice cream.
Again, fortunately, I’m surrounded by people who are there to draw me back into the real world and hand me a spoon so I can at least eat my comfort ice cream on the sofa while I sort through my stress and form my plan of attack. I love my job, and while there will always be stressors and frustrations, there are far more rewards to keep me coming back.”
As an Ottawan, what do you most love about the city and in what ways has it impacted your writing career?
“The walks. Ottawa is a beautiful city with so many gorgeous routes to lose myself on to think or de-stress or find someplace to write. From May to September, I often grab my notebook and find someplace by the Canal or the Rideau River to read or jot down notes. In the winter, I like discovering new local coffee shops that I can work in for an hour or two — I see that as a great mutual support system among business owners.”
Thanks Krista for introducing us to Black Squirrel Books and for sharing your story. We love how you’ve followed your dream and turned your passion into a reality!
Chris Bailey photographed in front of Equator Coffee, Westboro.
At loveOttawa we get to meet such fascinating individuals. It’s always a pleasure to run into young people that are making a change. This is the case of author/speaker Chris Bailey.
Chris’ soon to be released book, ‘The Productivity Project‘, is the result of a yearlong task of time management experiments that he began to conduct on himself after graduating from Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business. As he shared his thoughts and findings on a blog he called ‘A Year of Productivity’, Chris soon began to have a strong social media following. His hard work and determination has led to the culmination of a dream for this 26-year-old. ‘The Productivity Project’ will be published by Penguin Random House and launched internationally on January 5th.
We met up with a very busy and enthusiastic Chris a few days back. Although not originally from our city, he has made Ottawa his home! We were truly inspired by his determined, positive nature, brilliant ideas and, above all, his genuine and humble ways.
What inspired you to embark on The Productivity Project?
“Productivity is an idea I’ve been obsessed with for the last decade – not productivity in the cold, corporate sense, but in the sense of getting the most out of how little time we have every day. Who wouldn’t want more of that?
The Productivity Project book is the crescendo for a yearlong project I embarked on after graduating. I graduated with a couple of full-time job offers but I figured that if there was a time I should explore something I was so deeply passionate about, it was then! So I took a year to conduct productivity experiments on myself, interview the most interesting productivity experts from around the world, and read as many books and papers as I could on the topic.”
You are on the cusp of launching a book that will reach a huge audience on a topic, productivity, that affects everyone in the working world. How have you been able to accomplish so much in so little time, at such a young age?
“I think the answer is pretty simple, and maybe not surprising: I’ve invested in my productivity quite a bit over the last decade, which has let me get more done every day. Of course, like everyone else on the planet I’m not ultra-productive every single day, but most days I achieve what I intend to, because that’s a skill I’ve developed over the long haul. My daily productivity has, over time, compounded to let me accomplish more. I do things like step back frequently to think about what I want to get done every day and week, shut off distractions quite often, spend a lot of my working day disconnected from the internet, and invest in my energy levels, like by exercising, eating well, and getting enough sleep.
Lest I sound conceited, some of it is definitely luck, and being in the right place at the right time, but productivity let me take advantage of the opportunities that have come my way!”
In your experiments you refer to a gap between ‘intention and action’. What exactly do you mean by this?
“This is an idea I’ve always been fascinated by. Every human on the planet intends to do stuff – like slim down, pick up a book instead of firing up Netflix, eat better, and get more done every day. But I don’t know of a single person, including myself, who acts on everything they intend to do – most people have a big gap between what they intend (or want) to do, and what they actually do. This is another reason productivity piques my curiosity: over time, I’ve come to see it as a way of bridging that gap. To me, intention is one of the most fascinating ideas out there. It’s what makes us human.”
What would you say to a young Ottawan who is starting a career?
“I’d suggest not planning too far ahead. If you know exactly where you’ll be in five years, your work probably isn’t interesting enough. I’m not suggesting that you don’t plan – I personally keep an 18-month plan—which is long enough for me to think about where I want to go in my career, but short enough so that I’m not blinded to any opportunities, or trying to predict what the world will be like five years out.
I’d also, of course, suggest investing in your productivity. This is cliche advice coming from someone who experiments with the topic for a living, but I really think productivity either makes or breaks how much you get done every day, and how successful you are in general.”
What do you most love about our city and why have you chosen it to make it your home? What are some of your favourite spots around town?
“I love how, even though we have a pretty big population, Ottawa doesn’t feel like a typical large city – it feels like a bunch of small towns that happen to be adjacent to each other. I live in Westboro, but always feel like I’m stepping into a totally different city whenever I visit friends, or travel around!
My favourite spots around town include the National Gallery, The Tea Store (the most underrated place in the market), Equator Coffee (in Westboro), and Planet Coffee (also in the market). There are so many cool places in this city!”
Thank you, Chris, for sharing your ideas and being an example of intention put into action! The passion that led to your productivity project will, without a doubt, impact and inspire many people.
Olivia Nixon photographed at Echo Lands Park, on Ottawa’s Rideau River.
One of the wonderful things about loveOttawa is the great people we continuously come across, even as we go about our day to day. While working on a corporate shoot a few weeks ago, we met communications professional, Olivia Nixon. Her positive energy and good vibes immediately came through as she spoke of having just come back from waterskiing. Waterskiing “in Ottawa”, we asked? Her enthusiasm quickly caught on and, before we knew it, we were pulling up at Echo Lands Park, by the Rideau River, with our camera equipment and white canvas, to photograph Olivia in full gear!
You are Ottawa born and raised. What do you most like about our city (besides being able to waterski!)?
“What I like most about Ottawa is our unprecedented access to the outdoors. We have nature’s playground all around us! There’s lots of water, hills and gorgeous countryside. You can waterski in the morning, go to work for the day and then go cycling in Gatineau Park in the evening. It’s fantastic.”
We love how passionate you are about your hobby and knowing it’s possible to practice it right in the city. Does Ottawa have an active waterskiing community? Besides proximity, why is the Rideau River ideal for this sport? “Ottawa has a small but pretty passionate waterski community. We are really lucky to have the Gloucester Water Ski Association in Ottawa that offers affordable skiing including access to a tournament boat, a water ski slalom course and a bunch of really great people who are just as wacky about the sport as you are. The Club is volunteer-driven and everyone has to pitch to keep it running. The Rideau River is actually not the worst place to ski. Boat traffic can be a bit of an issue but that’s one of the reasons I, along with some other early birds, ski at 6 a.m. The water is like glass. There are worse ways to start your day than skiing with your friends at dawn and then heading to work afterwards.”
What are your favourite spots in the city or in your neighbourhood? Is there a “hidden gem” you’d like to share?
“That’s easy. I have three. I work from a “home office” which often is code for my local coffee shop – my two favourites are Alice’s Village Café in Carp (yes people, that’s in Ottawa) and Quitters Coffee in Stittsville. The coffee is yummy and the vibe is right for creative types. The third “gem” is the Cheshire Cat Pub on Carp Rd. It’s our “local” – literally down the road from where we live. But don’t tell anyone because it’s really hard to get a table there – it’s busy all the time.”
How would you describe Ottawa to a person who’s never been here? “Ottawa is like the “Goldilocks” of cities. We’re not too big. We’re not too small. We’re juuuuust right! And, I would add, with lots of exclamation marks, we are not a boring government town!!!! There’s so much more to Ottawa than that!”
Thanks so much, Olivia for sharing one of your passions and what you love about Ottawa. For more information about Olivia Nixon and/or to connect with her, you can view her Linkedin profile.
Syrian refugee, Rasha, photographed in Dundonald Park.
Rasha was forced to flee her hometown of Damascus, Syria over two years ago. The safe life she once knew, her job as a flight attendant for Air Syria and her loving surroundings changed dramatically when her family came under threat. After her two brothers were murdered, her own life under imminent danger, she fled and arrived in Beirut, Lebanon. She had left behind her elderly mother, sister and young nieces.
Rasha’s only wish was to reach safety and help her remaining family members leave Syria. She went directly to the UNHCR office in Beirut to seek help and, while awaiting the results of the commission about her future, she worked endlessly under very difficult circumstances. It was an unwelcoming and scary environment for her. After an eighteen month wait, she was told Canada would welcome her. Rasha initially went to Edmonton. There she faced a few obstacles but eventually, wanting to come to the capital, made her way to Ottawa.
With many challenges behind her, Rasha has come a very long way. Thanks to our friends at the United Way, we met up and chatted with her. We are reminded of the importance of stopping our busy lives and taking the time to look around to help others.
Rasha has a beautiful, yet sad look to her. In her mid-twenties, she looks older and more worldly than most young women her age. She is soft-spoken yet strong, speaks with conviction but in an at-times broken voice, is determined yet fragile. Her English has been learned quickly, out of the need to survive, to be understood. She pulls out images of her family and nieces and whispers, “I will die if something happens to my mother or sister.” Through the help of a kind-hearted Ottawan, she has found an apartment and a job. She is taking French classes in her free time, on a daily basis. She wants to do many things. Her dream is to become a police officer. In our city, “I feel safe, finally. I love Ottawa. People are so nice, so friendly.”
Although many questions were exchanged in our encounter, the one that we got an immediate answer to pertained to her family.
Now that you are safe, what is your biggest wish, Rasha? “Please, I need my family. This is my biggest wish.”
Happy Thanksgiving, Rasha. We so admire your courage and strength. May you be reunited with your family very soon.
For more information about how you can help refugees like Rasha, please contact the United Way Centraide: www.UnitedforRefugees.ca or call (613) 228-6700. For information about Ottawa’s relationship with the refugee crisis please, contact Refugee613: www.refugee613.ca