My journey within Canada is full of excitement, hard work and the pursuit of every opportunity presented to me. But it’s a journey that began long before I arrived in this country in 2009. I was born in Maroli, a small village located in the region of Gujarat, India, a community of about 12,000 people, home to my family, my five brothers, and me – the only girl.
Tannu Sayed, Laboratory Supervisor, Shared Health
When I was born, my grandfather added “Jahan” to my name as a symbol of honor and respect to a girl born into his family. The word is of Persian origin, meaning “universe” or “world”.
In India, for a woman to pursue an education, the support of your family is required. For a Muslim woman, there are also other requirements, including the wearing of a Hijab or Burqa which gave me inner strength to achieve what is mine.
My family saw my potential to be successful, to fly. Their support allowed me to pursue not only a Bachelor but a post-diploma, an education that has allowed me to follow my life’s passion for health care.
In India, I worked for the World Health Organization, the Indian Red Cross Society, the Rotary Club, a mental health institute, and private labs. I pursued an education not only to better myself but also to offer support to my family. I saw Canada as a land of great opportunity and even did my post-diploma in French language before I left India so that I could speak both of Canada’s official languages before coming to Canada.
Before coming to Canada, I would regularly travel 37 kilometers to the closest internet café. It was the only place I could research everything I wanted to find out about the country. I would spend hours researching Canadian provinces and capitals, printing off photos and information to take home to show my father who would ask “what did you search, what did you find”.
When I arrived in Canada, I was very young, just 26-years-old, and had never been away from my family. I felt a lot of fear during that first journey, wondering about the Canadian reaction to “how I talk, how I look”.
But from the moment I landed, I knew that I belonged here. People didn’t just look at me, they said “hi, good morning, welcome” and it felt just like a home. I knew that my instinct to come here, to Canada, was the right one and I felt that this was going to be a fantastic journey in my life.
I wanted the opportunity to expose myself to everything that Canada had to offer, starting from my arrival in Quebec. I visited everywhere, walked probably hundreds of kilometers in those first few days. That first trip through Quebec gave me strength. I knew there were going to be challenges, but I saw those as growth opportunities.
From Quebec, I moved to Ontario where I worked and lived for six years. During my time there I continued my studies toward a license to practice in Canada as a medical lab technologist.
My journey did not end in Ontario. I had studied a lot of provinces in that internet café, and I had admired the beauty of Newfoundland so when I was given an opportunity to work as an MLT in that province, I went.
I was the first and only Indian who had worked in that lab, providing service to an area larger than 500 kilometers. I was welcomed there, taken for curling, exposed to playing hockey. I fell probably so times and I got up every time. I didn’t feel any injury, I just felt welcome and acceptance.
Even though I was different, I was one of them. We might speak differently or look different, or have different upbringings, but we are all Canadian. I had read about Canada’s multiculturalism on the world stage, but the opportunity to live it, being a woman, being a minority – I never felt alone.
Once again, I made the effort to visit everywhere and everything. I didn’t miss a town from the east to the west coast of Newfoundland and then I got an opportunity in Manitoba. There are 10 provinces and 3 territories and I wanted to explore as much as possible so I took it.
It was during a period of great change in the health system here. There was uncertainty but I was confident that my path had brought me here for a reason. That decision has come to give me some of the greatest opportunities of my life.
I worked hard, and took every opportunity. Some were term positions (including one in the lab at St. Boniface Hospital) but I was sure that my skills would be recognized and that has been proven over and over again. Before that first term ended, I had found a role at HSC, which then led to the supervisor role that I am in today.
Throughout my journey across Canada I have never stopped pursuing my studies. I did my certification in Quality Systems, Red River College’s Management and Leadership Program, among others and I’m considering an MBA or a Masters in Community Health Services.
I have been given so much and I’m so motivated to give something back.
When people reach out to me to ask about Canada and what it’s like here, what opportunities exist, whether they are from Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi or Sri Lankan backgrounds, I say “It is up to you. This country has an abundance of opportunity in health care. You have to ensure you have a sense of contribution, devotion, and dedication. If you have that, the sky is the limit here. You will run out of your ability to pursue opportunities before this country runs out of opportunities to offer you.”
I have now bought a home here in Manitoba and I finally feel that I have my roots in Canadian soil.
I feel stronger than ever, braver than ever, brighter than ever. In my heart I want to continue finding ways to contribute, to be useful.
My bravery to travel to this country is matched by the bravery this country shows when welcoming those who come here. I will take any opportunity to express how grateful I am. This country has taught me humanity. Wherever you go, you feel that you belong.
The beauty of Canada is found in the stories of the people who have come here. In my travels I’ve heard from people who have come from many places. Now I’m on the other side of it, welcoming new Canadians who come here, sharing my stories, offering them hope and a sense of security in the opportunities that are available here.
Of course, there are going to be struggles, but it is up to us to find the strength and lesson in those struggles. Sometimes you might need to give in. But you never need to give up.