My son and I recently went to the viewing of You Are Here - a documentary hosted by Lunenburg Doc Fest at the Cineplex Theatre in honour of National Canadian Film Day. The documentary is based on Gander Newfoundland’s response to the 7000 stranded passengers that converged on their community of 9000 people during the 9/11 attacks. The musical “Come from Away” is based on that story. It was excellent.
In the film, the term, 'Come from Away' was meant as a term of endearment, meaning, the folks who are not from there, nothing more or less. It’s a term that I’ve long believed is a made-up phrase that locals don’t really use. People who aren’t from here might call themselves a 'Come from Away,' but I, nor anyone I know, identify a new resident as a come from away. But is "Come from Away" not just a title but a way people are treated?
This conversation recently came up at one of our weekly NOW Lunenburg County meetings when discussing the plight of some new Lunenburg County residents who called us, asking for help getting, well, help! These folks, and there have been more than just one, lamented the inability to get tradespeople and have shared a concern that it’s because they’re new to the area, or “come from aways” if you will. I explained that I highly doubt that. I shared how I struggled to find a roofer. Contractors, plumbers, electricians, they’re all in high demand.
But some folks are convinced it’s the result of not being connected to the right people. After hearing a similar story for the third time, I thought, am I wrong? Perhaps I live in an idealistic world. Maybe the term 'come from away' isn’t a made-up term but is an actual thing that is another barrier prohibiting people from moving here and successfully creating a life here. Maybe ‘come from aways’ aren’t just struggling to hire tradespeople, but they’re also struggling to find friends, groups and their own community.
What if local employers, the same employers who have shared that they're struggling to find staff, are missing people who are right under their nose because these new people aren't connected to the right people? These new people, we're told, might not even know where to start or who to talk to in their industry to begin their job search.
So, what can we do about it?
Can we first remove the term "Come from Aways" unless you're talking about the play? Or if you like the term and want to call yourself that? But to identify someone as a, "CFA" feels a little bit like calling me a "local". Both terms are accurate but depending on how they’re used they can be derogatory. I really don't like that. Can we just remove the labels?
But what else can we do about it? Well, we can share the one thing that we '’locals” know, and that's the experience of living here. I recently met a new, lovely couple, Howard, and Judy. Howard came from the financial sector in Ontario and knew very few people. I simply sent out an email to the people I knew would know far more about the opportunities in that industry than I do. I introduced them via email and days later, he was employed.
My request is two-parts: First, can we stop thinking of people in two groups, from here or not, and instead, think of us all in one lovely group; people who have chosen to make Lunenburg County our home? And second, recognize that if we connect the right people together, we're helping to build a strong community for everyone.
Tina Hennigar is the population growth coordinator for NOW Lunenburg County.