Celebrating multiculturalism and diversity in the community, 14 multicultural champions were selected to be featured and have their stories shared in the Penticton Western News on a monthly basis in partnership with the South Okanagan Similkameen Local Immigration Partnership Council and other partners.
Tomoko Abe took a holiday in Penticton while studying English in Vancouver and has never looked back since.
The 37-year-old loves the outdoor lifestyle that the Okanagan offers.
“On my days off, I go to the beach, I go hiking or golfing. In winter, I go skiing at Apex or Baldy. Every day seems like a holiday. I never get bored.”
Abe immigrated to Canada from Japan in 2015. She had wanted to travel the world and a visit to Vancouver won her over.
“When I first arrived here, someone stopped me to ask directions. I was surprised. Whenever I’ve been in England or the United States, no one asks me for directions because of my Asian features. But someone did here and it made me feel very welcome.”
Abe studied English and got her nursing license in Vancouver. She then took a job in Saskatchewan, but she yearned for a return to British Columbia. She now works as an intensive care nurse with Interior Health in Penticton.
Abe enjoys the multiculturalism in Canada, it was one of the main reasons why she chose to come here. She says people have made her feel very welcome, especially a family in Saskatchewan which her employer connected her with.
“They picked me up at the airport and let me stay in the basement of their home. They took me to garage sales to find furniture and things. They were really amazing.”
Abe says her employer in Saskatchewan also generously gave her six months of preceptorship.
“I guess they get so many foreign workers there they like to help them get comfortable in their role under the guidance of an experienced staff member. You don’t work alone. There is always someone with you.”
When Abe first arrived in Penticton, she was trying to find ways to get connected to the community. She walked past the South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services office and decided to stop in for help.
“They offered me an opportunity to volunteer. I’ve worked on a couple of programs where I have been able to mentor newcomers. I’ve made a few friends along the way which have helped me build community.”
Abe is extremely happy with her decision to move to Canada and has no intentions of moving back to her homeland.
“I like the work and lifestyle balance here. I get more holidays than I did back in Japan. More time for doing fun things.”
Abe is taking steps to upgrade her nursing credentials by taking a critical care nursing course which gives nurses the knowledge, skills and abilities to work in all levels of intensive care nursing. It would allow Abe to work in larger centres and earn more money, but she’s in no hurry to make that jump.
“I love the Okanagan and Penticton lifestyle. I don’t want to move right now, but it is an option that I might use down the road.”
Abe says she has started to miss Japanese culture now that she has been away from it. To keep it fresh in her mind, she tries to share her culture with Canadians — telling them about Japanese history and some of the beliefs and philosophies of Japanese people. She feels it will help people appreciate the value of multiculturalism.
“There’s a lot of different kinds of people around the world and if you accept multiculturalism, you’re accepting those differences. It doesn’t mean you have to adopt those differences in your own life, but just respect them in others. I’m starting to see that respectfulness in many Canadians.”