So we actually ran the ad in all of our Muslim Community newspapers, and uh, we put it through all of our branches and not one person applied, because they did not know it was something that was new and uh, they did not know anything about it. And me not knowing what it entails, what I’m getting myself into, uh, the, the U.S. Consulate office invited me over, um, to, you know, say what type of programs do you want to get interested in?
And right now working with truth and reconciliation
And at the same time, I did not know that how much of an impact this would have on the future of my life and my dealings with the community. So the, we went and I, I went the first day, uh, when I had hit DC, uh, there was nobody there because I traveled some of the farthest and I had my flight was a day after.
The exchanges, um, were so different for other people, but people thought because I was Canadian and it was all almost the same and we think of ourselves as our nation, as a big diverse and cultural nation, building from newcomers
I came, uh, on my own from the airport and everyone was sleeping. Uh, all, all of our, aides and everyone was sleeping. So I was like, am I at the right hotel? So I sat in the lobby for at least a good 45 minutes and there was not even the front desk person there.
I have all my bags there and I’m thinking, okay, this is gonna be, this is gonna be something that I’m gonna have to start to do. So actually an individual came, um, he was a tall individual, um, and he had an accent and he said, “Oh, how are you brother?” And then I assume, because, uh, he presumed that I’m Muslim, he called me brother, that’s the greeting that we give, cause in Islam we consider all of everyone our brothers and our sisters. So then right away, I said, “Oh, how are you brother?” He said, “Oh, um, I’m from Sudan.” I knew, okay, fine. This is from the same exchange program. And then we just started talking and for like a good 15, 20 minutes, he never asked my name.
So he said he called and somebody, and then the person came down, bought me, checked in, we went in, sso that was a start of my program. It was really, uh, difficult, but then I thought to myself like, look how destiny works. I come from one side of the world, this guy comes from the other side of the world, and we meet in a lobby to help each other. And how did that happen? It happened through IVLP. That was like the number one thing.The smallest things happened with IVLP and the exchanges that we have with individuals, a lot of us take to heart and we keep it, uh, always.
But I always had that notion that the United States wasn’t like that. And it was something that was, I was naive about. But when I went into the exchange programs and seen some of the programs that are being done in the most rural parts of the United States and how diversity plays and how based on that diversity, we have cultural awareness, I was mind blown.
I was in Pensacola, and as you know, uh, in Canada, we have a large First Nations, um, group here and large First Nations here that we support through government. But when I went to, uh, Pensacola, uh, I actually went and we went to one of the – um, uh, re- reserves there and we learned about the Highway of Tears.