The plane ride from Iqaluit to Ottawa was ripe with emotions for Sarah. She was starting a new adventure where postsecondary education was her objective. As the first in her family to leave Iqaluit for college, this trip was full of both anticipation and fear.
“It was really difficult leaving my 2-year old daughter Rachel behind, but my mother promised to visit often with Rachel.” Sarah found comfort in knowing that the bond between her mother, daughter, and herself was strong. But she feared spending 18 months away from her community of 8,000 mostly Inuit people to a city of 1 million mostly white people. The few times she had visited Ottawa made her realize how different she was from Canadians in the “south”.
I met Sarah during her first month at Algonquin College. We were waiting in the lobby of the Indigenous student centre (Mamidosewin). I noticed her slouched posture, lowered eyes, and uneasy stare. I broke the uncomfortable glances between us with small talk. “How are you enjoying the campus?”, “Do you like your program?”, “Have you found a study buddy yet?” Sarah was finding college life more difficult than she had ever imagined, and decided to follow the advice of an instructor by using the services of the Mamidosewin Centre. I could tell from her soft-spoken responses that she felt uncomfortable seeking assistance from strangers.
Months later I met Sarah a second time. There was a subtle glimmer in her eyes. Her mother and daughter were coming for a week to visit. I wished her well and encouraged her to stay focused on her dreams.
With determination and a bit of luck, Sarah could achieve her dream of becoming an early child care assistant. In her own words, “My community really needs qualified child care workers. Our children are the life blood of our community. If I don’t do it, then who else will.”