Our Journey to Canada

January 3, 2019

Meet Annie Vanrivong, a proud Laotian-Canadian. Annie is a mother, wife, and the Founder and President of Wolf & Rebel, which is "not just a brand, but rather a movement and lifestyle. It is women owned and operated with a message about making the most out of life. Sending positive vibes where ever you go and empowering others." Annie is a graduate of St. Clair College and is the owner of Runway expedition, a project of building a tiny house school bus with her spouse in order to travel North America with their two daughters. Annie is committed to supporting those in our community and around the world. When reflecting on her family's immigration story this is what she had to say: 
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"I was in grade school when I first learned and truly understood what my parents had to go through in order to be where they are today. I will forever be thankful and proud of their strength and determination they’ve shown. My father, Khamsao and my mother, Ounneua, were both born in Laos. When they were only 18 years old they had to leave their friends, family and entire life and flee the communist country in the middle of the night.
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The only way to escape was to swim the Mekong River which was heavily guarded by armed men. The journey to freedom would be equivalent to swimming the Detroit River from Windsor to Detroit. My mother didn’t know how to swim very well so my father had to carry her on his back towards Thailand.
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Once there, they reached a refugee camp and stayed there for two years until they got connected with a church that was willing to sponsor them in Nova Scotia. There they received English lessons and jobs where my mother worked in a daycare and my father worked in an auto body shop.
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Not a single day went by since they got to Canada that they didn’t work hard to provide for my three sisters and I. They came to Canada with nothing more than themselves and were able to build a life and a family.
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Growing up we were very involved with the Laos community. My parents taught us traditional dances that we would perform with our cousins and family friends at Laos gatherings. We would also get together with other children for lessons taught by my aunt on how to read, write and speak our language. My childhood had so many amazing memories of constantly being surrounded by extended family and feelings of a strong sense of closeness.
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As my sisters and I got older, a lot of our traditions started to disappear. I feel like this had a lot to do with being a teenager and also a minority. You notice how different you are from your classmates and develop a need to fit in. So you start acting, dressing and eating more like them. I began to separate myself from all the things I once loved as a child. Eventually, my culture and language became lost in translation.
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But now that I am older and a mother myself, I can see all the effort from my parents to expose us to our culture. Even with their own grandchildren, they teach them the language, the food and even traditional music, dance and garments.
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One day I plan to bring them to Laos to visit family and learn first-hand where they came from. I want to show them why it’s important to cherish the past because from my parent’s hardships, I’ve been molded into the person I am today. They’ve passed down their fearlessness and determination so that whatever I want to do in life, I know that it’s possible.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

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