Lea (right) grew up in Cameroon and moved to Red Deer in 2018, after spending six years in Montreal. Her friend Amanda has lived in Central Alberta most of her life. Find tools to help make Red Deer a more welcoming place at rdlip.ca/antiracism.

Lea (right) grew up in Cameroon and moved to Red Deer in 2018, after spending six years in Montreal. Her friend Amanda has lived in Central Alberta most of her life. Find tools to help make Red Deer a more welcoming place at rdlip.ca/antiracism.

Born half a world apart, a shared passion made them fast friends

Red Deer neighbours Lea and Amanda offer tips for making new connections with people from diverse backgrounds in the community.

* * * * *

Making new friends as an adult is hard, no matter where you live. As a home care aid, Lea sees it all the time.

“I have the opportunity to get to know people when I enter their homes. They’re all so kind! But many of them don’t know how to meet people. It can be scary to break the ice,” she says.

As part of their Anti-Racism Campaign, the Red Deer Local Immigration Partnership is helping build new relationships, and celebrating cross-cultural friendships through their Proud to be Your Neighbour initiative.

Lea grew up in Cameroon and moved to Red Deer in 2018, after spending six years in Montreal. Her friend Amanda has lived in Central Alberta most of her life. Thanks to an introduction from a mutual friend, Lea and Amanda didn’t have much trouble breaking the ice. And with their bubbling personalities and common passions, a friendship blossomed quickly.

“When we first met it was WOW. We are women, we are wives, we are mothers, we are entrepreneurs. Some friends have one or two things in common, but Amanda and I have all four.”

“As women it was really empowering for both of us,” Amanda adds. “You know when you meet someone and you feel like you’ve known each other forever? That was us.”

Both women are passionate about fashion — Lea’s business is called Lea Fashion Queen, and Amanda runs a fashion line called Royal Miss — and that passion is the foundation of their friendship.

“Soon after we met, Amanda asked to hear about all of my business ideas and helped me decide which to pursue first, which is how I started teaching youth sewing classes,” Lea says.

“I’ve been an artist in Central Alberta most of my life. There’s this untapped garden of individuals that have nowhere to show their art. It’s such a treasure chest there, just waiting to be opened,” Amanda says.

READ MORE: Red Deer Local Immigration Partnership: Finding Value in Community

Making Red Deer a more welcoming place

When the Red Deer Local Immigration Partnership asked residents what would enable them to speak out against racism, the top two answers were learning how to take action, and feeling more confident.

When it comes to confidence, Lea encourages people to be brave and break the ice, and Amanda agrees.

“People want to share. People want to know people. But we get into our heads too much. My advice to somebody who wants to branch out and network more is to bring it to the forefront of your mind. Keep that intention in your mind every time you leave your house,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to ask questions or make mistakes. Get curious about your own ancestry, and use that to find common ground with people you meet.”

Red Deer is home to people with diverse backgrounds — nearly fifteen per cent of Red Deer’s population was born outside of Canada. For Lea, the best way to connect across cultures was to start with fellow Cameroonians.

“Sometimes we wait for community to come to us, but the Cameroon community goes out into the community — volunteering to teach French at the library, sharing Cameroonian food on Canada Day,” she says. “Sometimes we want to share, but we don’t know where to go. The more events Red Deer hosts, the more opportunities there will be for that cultural exchange.”

Interested in making Red Deer a more welcoming place? Find more tools at rdlip.ca/antiracism.

CommunityImmigrationracism