In the heat of midsummer as people deck themselves in red and white to celebrate the true north strong and free, it’s worth reflecting on the things that make Canada great. Among so many traits, diversity is often cited as an attribute worthy of admiration within the broad Canadian diaspora, as it is within each Schlegel Village.
In many ways, the Villages can be seen as a microcosm of the wider country, where people of diverse backgrounds are drawn together to support one another as they strive to make the most out of their every day. Between residents and team members, it’s safe to say more than 70 countries are represented within all villages, and that diversity was celebrated during Canada Day as much as anything else. Perhaps the greatest gift this diversity offers is in those moments when a shared connection emerges between Villagers that bridges generations and offers unexpected comfort during what can be an uncomfortable time.
The Village of University Gates offers a prime recent example of such a connection, though similar events occur often in all the villages.
When John Mitrik moved into University Gates this spring, he was slow to warm to the transition. Like many of the team members, assistant director of nursing care Patricia Venning would greet John along Main Street when she saw him, but their conversations were nothing more than simple chit chat in passing. Fate, Patricia says, stepped in when she was asked to join a care conference with John’s wife to discuss his transition, though she typically supports residents in an entirely different neighbourhood.
John was happy enough, it seemed, and there were no medical concerns, but John’s wife suggested he’d been missing a connection to his Slovakian heritage; if he could find a way to reconnect with his roots, he’d be much happier, she thought.
Patricia’s eyes lit up. The Slovakian community in the Waterloo region isn’t very big, she says, but it is there and it is strong and she is proud to be part of it. Patricia was just a child when her family immigrated to Canada and she grew up speaking the Slovakian language and honouring the cultural traditions of her homeland.
When next she saw John, she greeted him in Slovak, and he smiled broadly, stunned perhaps to find the connection he was missing in someone he’d already formed a friendship with.
“It seemed like I was back home,” he says. “This woman, it’s just like she came from heaven, one of the angels.”
They connect often, reminiscing about the homeland, hockey and the wonderful Slovakian people, and Patricia is just as happy as John when they take the time to talk. The entire experience is a strong reminder of the value in taking the time to truly know each resident in the Villages.
“It was a fated meeting,” she says. “I don’t know what it is about heritage and connecting with people from the same country you are from – it think it just touches our soul a little more.”
Within any community in Canada, these types of events randomly occur, and the villages are no different.
“Each person has a story and some can connect us on a closer level,” Patricia says, “if we just take the time to have friendly conversation.”