I’ve been asked this question many times this year when I introduce myself as a Sauvé Scholar: so, what is it like living in a house with people from around the world?
Living at Sauvé house has been one of the most magical experiences of my life. When I first arrived, I had no idea what to expect. After a delayed flight, I found Jeeshan at the airport. We made our way to the House, the last of the Scholars to arrive on that day. The first thing I felt was the immediate warmth of the house—Josh cooked up a dinner for us and Mohammed, the “House Mayor”, showed me to my room. Before I knew it, I was settling into my new home for the next 8 months.
I had planned to work on my Sauvé project, participate in speaking engagements and Tea Talks, and explore Montréal and the culture of Québec. What I didn’t expect was that living with this group of people would become the best part of the whole experience and cultivate relationships I know will go far beyond the Sauvé year.
There is Jeeshan, the older brother I never had. I am not surprised when I bump into him in the kitchen and he pinches my cheeks (so this is what it feels like having an older brother). Now, thanks to him, many of my housemates pinch my cheeks. There is Simangele whose gorgeous voice has lit up the house on many occasions. Josh is resident chef, cooking up a new dish everyday. Having grown up on the land, his passion for the land has made me see another side to being Canadian I wasn’t exposed to before. Paul, the Kenyan, hates cheese but can often be found cooking up an amazing Kenyan dish or inspire me with his Kenyan stories.
Charlotte and Maria are gym buddies extraordinaire. We often find ourselves sharing stories of life pre-Sauvé House, late into the night on the edge of my bed, nicknamed “the couch”. There is Stephanie, a self-described "third culture kid” recently discovered she was Qalipu Mi’kmaq First Nation. That insight into her heritage opened the door for the Scholars to discover more about Canada’s Aboriginal people. Alia never fails to inspire me. From the stories of her 6 year-old-self negotiating for beads at a factory store with her dad to founding and spearheading Emerge, an international NGO, her empathy and dedication has challenged me to think bigger and dream bigger.
Yimin and I have have had long conversations on the state of human rights in China. I feel very lucky to have shared this year with him and look forward to meeting him someday in inner Mongolia. Esmael’s compassion and personal courage in times of adversity have given me hope for Kenya with people like him. Mohammed, who affectionately refers to everything as a “disaster” has brought warmth to the house. My most memorable moments with him have been laughing hysterically over food, persuading him to stop smoking or having deep conversations about his native Palestine.
Dechen is having one of the best years of her life and it shows. She can be found cooking up a spicy Bhutanese dish, heading off to CTV, or teaching me more about Bhutan. I absolutely love her pure kindness. Finally, there is Ethan whose stories of Oxford and studies on social innovation have motivated me to explore the area in greater depth.
For me, the surprise of Sauvé House—and the magic—has been in the everyday little moments. The ones where a conversation, a birthday celebration, watching my housemates experience snow, skating or hiking for the first time, a game of Mafia (in which I am often killed first), a breakfast or Sunday night dinner, a morning hug, a pinch on the cheek, a dance in the kitchen, an impromptu pillow fight or afternoon on Mt. Royal have become lifelong memories. These are moments when individuals who I had never met before made a connection with one another, built trust and become a family.
The following video was presented at the Jeanne Sauvé Foundation in December 2011 to mark the end of the first half of the Sauvé calendar year.