MIGRATING as an adult was probably one of the most challenging things I’ve done. I was in a well-paying job with great prospects. I had established a good social network of close friends, acquaintances and business contacts and was looking to settle down in Kuala Lumpur.
In the middle of this seemingly perfect life, I decided to uproot myself and move halfway across the world to Winnipeg, Manitoba. Why Winnipeg? That is the question I get asked all the time by Winnipeggers themselves. Our frigid winters are enough to terrify even the Ice Queen. Minus 30 degrees is no joke.
But after nine years, I could probably give you a million reasons why this is the best place on the planet. The first reason being the friendliness of the people. The slogan for this province is “Friendly Manitoba.” And they really do live up to their name. When I first moved here, I knew no one except my mom. Within a few months, I had made friends with other immigrants from Portugal, Vietnam, Africa, India, China, Israel and Guatemala. I was in Manitoba’s cultural hub.
In order to expand my network and experience, I started volunteering with the Mood Disorders Association of Manitoba and the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society. My mother suffers from schizophrenia so I was determined to learn all about mental health in order to help her and be a better caregiver. This is the second reason why I love Winnipeg. There are plenty of free mental health supports here. Mental illness affects one in five Canadians. Although there is still stigma around mental illness, community organisations are constantly working to change that through education.
In 2013, I co-founded Hateless Canada in hopes of creating awareness about mental health and bullying among school children. I believe that if we can start having these conversations at a young age, we will be able to prevent more teen suicides and the prevalence of mental illness when they become adults.
Winnipeg is full of people who want to make a difference.
I partnered with experts in the field of mental health and recruited youth who had a personal experience with mental illness or bullying to share their stories. Hateless also provided an opportunity to youth and upcoming artists to share their music. Together we toured schools across North America and have reached over 30,000 children to date. Our efforts have been commended by both the Premier and Mayor and we are not stopping anytime soon.
Had I not left my comfort zone and ventured into the sea of uncertainty, I wouldn’t have had these opportunities. Take risks. Embrace what the world has to offer.