Be Open-minded and Make the Most of What's in Front of You

By Samantha Burdett

Aku Dunyo Richter arrived in Canada from Ghana in 1996. She came to Canada to join her Canadian husband, Conrad, who she originally met when he was travelling in Ghana a few years before. Arriving in Canada was a culture shock, arriving in Canada and moving to a small rural community where nobody looked like her was an even bigger shock. Aku was used to always having other people around. Where she came from a person was never alone and there was always someone to talk to. She felt very isolated on the farm with only the grass, the leaves and the birds as her friends. Not one to sit still for long, however, Aku tapped into her family networks in Toronto and joined an African drumming and dance group, which helped her to bridge those early years in Canada. In reflecting back on those first few years, Aku notes that having her husband here helped with settling into life in Durham, but everything was SO different-the people, the food, the society-that it took time and an ability to be open-minded to see those differences eventually melt away.

Aku and her husband continued to work at the family business, Richters Herbs, but moved into Uxbridge when they started their family. Aku and the children were very active, taking walks and talking to neighbours, and getting involved in skating, soccer, baseball and skiing to meet people. By pushing herself to get out and be part of the community, Aku met amazing people and became part of a great community where people looked out for each other; reminding Aku of what her early life had been like in Ghana. The family moved back to the Richters Herbs farm in 2003 when Aku and her husband bought the business from Conrad’s parents but Aku has maintained close connections with the Uxbridge community and the larger Ghanaian community in Toronto. Aku’s daughter has followed in her footsteps and now dances with an African drumming group. The family has made a number of trips back to Ghana together, maintaining connections and relationships with family there.

Durham has grown and the ethno-cultural makeup of many communities has changed since Aku first arrived. Her advice to newcomers, no matter where they’re settling in Durham is “...be open-minded, whoever you are, wherever you’re from, it will be a shock when you leave your comfort zone and arrive in a new place. The best thing you can do for yourself is be open-minded and be accepting of the situation. Make the most of what is in front of you and that way you’ll overcome any situation.” For Aku, coming to Canada was an adventure that she was looking forward to; she was excited about coming and jumped in with both feet, which no doubt also made the transition to life in Canada that much easier.


Aku Richter is greenhouse manager of Richters Herbs.

Originally published in the Spring 2012 issue of The Citizen, a Durham Region newsletter focussed on diversity topics.
 
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