Meet Erin Deng—her story is about taking a gamble, not because you have to but because you want to.
Erin was born in China in the city of Beijing in 1972. She is an only child and she grew up speaking Mandarin. Her parents still live in China. Early on it was apparent that Erin had a head for numbers and she became a Chartered Accountant.
Things were going very well, she had lots of friends and she had a good job. But Erin had done some travelling and the rest of the world was a big temptation. As she puts it, life is short and she was curious to see the world as others see it, not just as she read about it. She knew that people in different parts of the world see things differently, they have different points of view, different perspectives.
She had spent a year in England at the University of Birmingham getting her Master's degree in Accounting in 2002. Then in 2006, she spent 4 months in the United States at the University of Texas in Austin. Initially, she wanted to move to the United States but her application for immigration was denied, which led her to think about Canada. She didn’t know a lot about Canada so she came for a visit. She travelled across Canada visiting both Vancouver and Toronto. But she did not want to live in a big city.
Coming to Kingston was more by good luck than anything else. Her friend’s brother lived here and he liked it. He said it was a perfect size, just big enough to have everything someone would need. Small town feel with big-city amenities.
Erin decided to come to Kingston to see for herself. It was in the first week of October 2013. The weather was perfect, the fall colours were in full glory. Best of all she found everyone friendly. She liked Kingston but moving here was still a big decision. It took Erin about a year before she was ready to commit.
Finally, in December of 2014, she immigrated to Canada and started living in Kingston.
Making that kind of a move can be scary and lonely. Erin had heard new immigrants could get some assistance at Immigration Services. Luckily, there is an office here in Kingston.
The concept behind Immigration Services is that the Kingston community is strengthened by the contributions and skills of immigrants, newcomers, and refugees. They assist newcomers with settling in and help make their transition to Canadian ways as smooth as possible. Erin visited their office and asked for some help. Patty Fiori was a volunteer with Immigration Services. She was asked to work with Erin.
Patty was always ready to help. She had done all sorts of volunteering over the years but helping out at Immigration Services was new to her. Erin was her very first client. Patty’s job was to help Erin with her English and help her to understand the Canadian way of life.
This meant Patty and Erin got together as often as they could, usually just for coffee or tea. Patty helped Erin by familiarizing her with Canadian customs, for example explaining Halloween and Valentine's day. She also helped her with things like grocery shopping. For new immigrants, it is the little things that can make settling in easier.
Patty has since moved away from Kingston and Erin was Patty’s only client with immigration services. I guess pairing the two of them up was meant to be because they are still great friends to this day.
Things between Erin and Patty worked out so well that in 2016 they were asked to give a speech at the Immigration Services volunteer appreciation night. Patty and Erin were such good examples of volunteers and new immigrants working together.
Erin loves the beautiful character of the Canadian people. She finds Canadians to be very generous and giving as a whole. She spoke of the time when she went to see her physiotherapist. The young lady had a small bandaid on her arm and Erin asked about it. Her therapist had heard on the radio that the emergency services needed blood, so she went to donate. For her, this was no big deal, “Somebody needs blood so I go and give blood”. She would not even have mentioned it if Erin hadn’t asked. Erin was impressed with her generosity.
One day Patty took Erin to City Hall for a tour. Erin was interested to learn about the history of Kingston and of Canada and she really liked the tour. Even though she was still nervous about her English she decided to volunteer as a Kingston City Hall tour guide. She worked one day per week from May to October this last year.
Kingston gets many Chinese visitors and Erin was able to occasionally give them a tour in Mandarin but she also gave tours to English speaking tourists. She intends on volunteering at the city hall again next summer.
In August 2016 she moved to her current house on Point Crescent. It is a beautiful street. Erin’s house backs onto Lake Ontario. She quickly got to know the neighbours on her street. So much so that as you can see here they were happy to show up for a few photos.
Erin works for a Chinese company with interests all over the world. She does a lot of travelling and visits many places and still gets to visit China two or three times a year.
In 2018 she applied for Canadian citizenship. It is a long process and she received her citizenship in October 2019. She is proud to be a Canadian and is happy to call Kingston home.
If you enjoyed reading about Erin's journey and would like to read another Kingston In Focus feature - hop on over to Brock Young's story here or Abi Tripp's story here.
If you or anyone you know want to share your story through a photo session contact me today. I would love to have a chat.