I served as an administrative assistant in Village Green Thrift Store Saskatoon as my IVEP placement. The store operates in two separate buildings. One deals with furniture and the other clothing/houseware materials. They both get their supplies through donations of used items that are in good condition from the public. They then sell the items at a very cheap rate, thereby raising funds for MCC to facilitate its programs all over the world in meeting the needs of the less privileged in disaster/conflict-affected areas of the world.
The unwavering and tireless effort of the volunteers in helping the store fulfill its mandate has been my greatest source of inspiration and passion all through my placement period. There are mostly older women, in their 60s, 70s and 80s, even 90s, but the zeal and passion they have toward the goal of MCC is beyond imagination. I love to sit at the lunch table to chat with them. They are always excited and very inquisitive to know something new about Nigeria. One day, one of them saw me putting some cups into the dish washing machine and with a smile on her face asked me if we have electricity and dishwashers in Nigeria. I was full of surprise by her question but smiled back at her and answered yes, we do. I can still see the surprise on her face. Many people think all the black people in Saskatoon are from the same country. One of the customers, while talking to me, began to describe a place in Kenya and was asking me questions about it. When I told her am from Nigeria, she was surprised to find out that Nigeria is not in Kenya and that they are two different countries in Africa. My first day at work, one of the staff looked at me and asked me where I learned English; he was surprised when I told him we speak English in Nigeria.
My hosts are adorable, I feel at home with them. We play ukulele and visit places together. Some of my challenges have to do with food and the weather. Back home I am used to eating mostly salty foods with fewer vegetables, but here it’s the opposite. One day when we were having a potluck party I saw a pot of rice and couldn’t wait to taste it. When I finally did, I asked my host, “did they add sugar to the rice?” and she laughed at me. The winter has been my greatest challenge especially when it is below -30. One day I looked through the window before going out and behold the sun was out, I was so happy that it would be warm, but to my greatest surprise it was still very cold. I looked at my host and said to her, “this sun is deceptive and different from the one in Nigeria.” She laughed again, and said it is not so and then explained why it is like that. I always approach every difficulty or challenge with an open mind to learn from it, and I always ask questions about what I don’t understand.
Saskatoon is a breathtaking destination in every season, but winter is really special. There's something about the hoar frost that graces tree-lined streets and the South Saskatchewan River as it winds through the city's downtown that makes you stop and truly appreciate the wonder of nature. Places like Waskesui National Park, the museum, the skating park, the games stadium, and the art gallery are all breathtaking places I’ve been, thanks to my provincial coordinator.
The IVEP program has been a great blessing to me – getting to meet, interact and live among people of different cultures, not to mention the other IVEP from over 20 different countries whom now are not just friends but family.