Gratitude and Opportunity

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“Kiza adds colour to this place”

Looking for Wifi

I had gone to Subway in Transcona when I was visiting Winnipeg. I planned to take advantage of their free WiFi with no intent to buy anything. After standing outside the restaurant with my cell phone for 15 minutes I decided to inconspicuously take a seat inside.

I was greeted by one of the workers who wondered where I was from. He had seen the bicycle when I leaned it against the window. He told me he had never been outside of Winnipeg and wanted to know the best place in Canada to visit.

After chatting with  him off and on for a half hour he offered me a bowl of cream of mushroom soup. I had initially declined the offer as I had ended the day with a good supper. I changed my mind and told him I would love some. I offered to pay for it but he told me the soup would have been thrown out because they were closing for the night.

I decided I would put up a thank you facebook post of his gesture of generosity. He clearly wasn’t offering the soup because I was a good client. There was a different motivation.

Kiza’s story

To do the facebook post I asked for his name. Now I knew I had been speaking with Kiza. His name intrigued me. Turns out he is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo). His parents had fled for their lives from DR Congo due to political unrest, and Kiza had been born in a refugee camp.

At age two Kiza’s parents left him with his grandparents and moved on to another refugee camp where they figured their opportunity to get sponsorship was better. Once his parents arrived in Winnipeg his parents made application to get Kiza to Canada. Kiza wasn’t reunited with his parents till he was nine years old.

During the time that Kiza was in a refugee camp he already valued education. He arrived in Canada speaking Swahili, Bengali and French. His command of English was impressive because I found him easy to understand.

Kiza’s experience in the refugee camp taught him several life lessons. He recalls his father skimping on food so Kiza and his brothers would be able to eat. He told me that when you have little means, family is everything. The second thing he told me is that when you have little means you smile a lot.  We’re smiling because once you stop smiling you have nothing. If you lose your spirit you have no future.

When I met Kiza he had just graduated from high school and was very pleased to have been accepted into university. He was working his summer job to save up for his tuition fees.

To help save up for university he had been cycling to work. Initially it took him an hour but over time he reduced his commuting time to twenty minutes. On top of that he arrives at work feeling energized. Having biked almost halfway across Canada I could certainly relate to that.

Opportunity

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A free high school education is helping me realize my dream.

Kiza is overjoyed at being accepted into university. He appreciated the free education offered through high school. His acceptance into university was a very important stepping stone towards realizing his dreams. The fact that his education through high school was free made him even more appreciative of the Canadian educational system, because, as he sees it, it opens up opportunities for anyone who has dreams.

His goal after completing his university degree is to help rebuild DR Congo. He wonders whether that is dreaming too big. There is so much that needs to be done to rebuild DR Congo. The problems are many and he wonders how someone can even figure out where to start.

I assured him that one can never dream too big. Dreaming too small will result in short changing himself and lead to disappointment. Keep dreaming big and stay focused. Dream big and share the dream.

His sense is that it is best to start with the next generation. He thinks promoting education and making it available is the best place to start. Ensure that all children receive basic literacy.  He wants young people to expand their education to include learning trades like electrician so they can help rebuild their country while at the same time develop a sense of satisfaction.

Kiza proudly shares that he is motivated out of a sense of appreciation for the opportunities that Canada is giving him. He’s not looking for a hand out. That’s the furthest from his mind. His motivation comes out of a sense of hope because deep down he believes that he can make a difference.

Chantel, Kiza’s co-worker at Subway, appreciates him for the colour he adds to the place. She says it with a chuckle realizing the double meaning.

When Kiza shares his dreams his excitement is infectious. Even as a teen he lives with a clear idea of what his priorities are. His toughest choice at this time is between helping his family when they need something and getting his tuition money together.

Kiza is one of three people I know who have been displaced because of the war in DR Congo. All three are focused on finding ways to help their country recover from the political strife and assist in the rebuilding of their nation. Seeing his love and dedication for his country, a land that he has never seen, prompted me to share a book with him.

Connections

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I want every child in DR Congo to receive basic literacy.

The book is titled Still With Us: Msenwa’s Untold Story of War, Resilience and Hope. I met Msenwa Oliver Mweneake shortly after he arrived in Canada. He shares a story that involves twice fleeing from DR Congo. Despite that he lives with a strong conviction that God has a purpose for him, a purpose to help rebuild his beloved country.

It was an honour to meet Kiza. The whole time he was talking to me, he was busy doing the daily end of the day clean up. While he talked his hands never stopped working.

Hearing Kiza’s story I more clearly understood why he could not just dump the cream of mushroom soup. When someone lives with a spirit of generosity, sharing in the plenty is a natural response.

Even though Kiza is living in an economically struggling home, he does not live with a spirit of poverty. Poverty is not part of his vocabulary.

Kiza is clearly motivated by gratitude, appreciation and the belief that he has the personal resources to make a difference.

 

 

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