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Libraries, Volunteering and Canada – Read Dennia’s story


I moved to Canada in July of 2016 from Hong Kong. I was working as a Production Manager of a global fashion retail company. I worked long hours and was extremely busy; this career fully occupied me physically, and mentally. I did not have the chance for stillness and I regret that I spent too much time away from my family due to this busy lifestyle.

I decided to move to the Lower Mainland because I wanted to make some changes in my life. I wanted to do something more meaningful and enjoy more time with my husband. Volunteering was one of the things on the ‘must do’ list of my life. In the Lower Mainland, I was able to find opportunities to give back to people.

When I moved to Canada, I was prepared to be open to changes and challenges. One of the first organizations I connected to, S.U.C.C.E.S.S., encouraged me to begin volunteering. I volunteered as a receptionist, a tax preparer, translation support, and a switchboard operator. Each position gave me a chance to learn more about Canada and help my own settlement journey. It was also a great way for me to expand my network.

I signed up to volunteer as a Library Champion for the Richmond Public Library in March of 2018. This program expanded my knowledge of libraries, community resources and settlement services. I could then share this knowledge with other newcomers in my community. Additionally, this program helped me build my confidence, get a stronger understanding of multiculturalism, and encouraged me to actively share my ideas and feelings with others. The Library Champions Project helped me strengthen my English-speaking skills as my presentation skills. I feel pride for contributing to my community in a meaningful way.

What I found most interesting about libraries in BC is that there are many workshops and events that I would not find in my home country. These activities helped me understand more about my new community, and country, and the supports that were available to me to help me integrate into society and build connections quickly. As a newcomer, I found that librarians were key in making me feel welcome. They were friendly, encouraging, and made me feel comfortable enough to ask questions and find the information I needed.

Libraries in Hong Kong are quite different. These are places that store thousands and thousands of different books or videos for people to borrow. They are quiet places where people can study, read, and prepare for school examinations; but there are no interactive workshops, or fun activities like there are here in Canada.

I do miss the delicious food of Hong Kong. This is one of the most famous places to find a variety of restaurants with different cuisines from around the world.

I think the hardest part of becoming a new Canadian is to know ‘where’ to find the information that you need – how to understand Canadian culture, the people, the community, and the country. It would be nice to know ‘who’ to talk to when you get stuck or have difficulties that come up during settlement. I was lucky that I found S.U.C.C.E.S.S. They helped me learn basic information about Richmond, BC, and Canada and they encouraged me to get involved.

I love the people of this new country of mine. I find people to be very friendly, patient, positive, harmonious, respectful of culture, people oriented and open minded. Being a volunteer was my greatest success. Through these different opportunities, I recognized my value and contribution to my new country. I have become more resilient and have persevered.