Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Home, In Newfoundland

"There was just something very hypnotic about this place. This combination of the hostility of the land -- with its rugged appeal -- and then the people, with their singsong lilt, that had lived through immense hardships and tragedies, but saw in me a willingness to come out to this remote area and embrace it. They shaped the way I began to think about life."
"And living here, I was able to shed this albatross of identity that had always hung around my neck. My Asian identity had always defined who I was in Zimbabwe. But in Twillingate, as the only Asian, that whole weight fell away."
"My emotions around this honour [appointment to the Order of Canada] vary from disbelief to absolute joy, to this sense of equity, a sense of fairness because, as you know -- I grew up in a kind of fractured apartheid society."
Dr. Mohamed Ravalia, Twillingate, Newfoundland
Dr. Mohamed Ravalia in Twillingate, N.L. Known as "Dr. Rav," to locals, the doctor received the Order of Canada on July 1.
Memorial University    Dr. Mohamed Ravalia in Twillingate, N.L. Known as "Dr. Rav," to locals, the doctor received the Order of Canada on July 1. 
Zimbabwe's loss was most certainly Canada's gain. Zimbabwe had and continues to have need of highly motivated, educated people. But the country's dictator Robert Mugabe, chose to cleanse his country, once a victim of colonialism and apartheid when it was called Rhodesia, of non-native Africans. The country's agriculture sector had thrived with white-owned farms employing tens of thousands of black Zimbabweans, their produce feeding the country and amply producing for the export market.

All that is gone, the country's inflation rate sky-rocketed, and so did its unemployment, but the satisfaction of killing farm owners and looting the farms of white Zimbabwean farmers, handing the property over to former 'freedom' fighters who had and continue to have no interest in farming the land, has guaranteed the country's dismal economic failure. But evidently much satisfaction was derived from ridding the country of as many of its whites as possible and as a byproduct, its entrepreuneurial and professional class, Zimbabwe's Asian population.

Much as Idi Amin did in Uganda, when the educated professionals and the small business owners represented by a large expatriate Asian community were forced to flee by government edict. Many of those fleeing the oppressive threats in those countries came to Canada as refugees. And Dr. Mohamed Ravalia was one of them. Immigrants and Refugees who arrive in Canada with their professional degrees in hand and their experience behind them must pass professional academic standards of Canadian design before they are permitted to practise in their new country.

Canada is badly in need of health professionals to settle in out-of-the-way and rural areas of the country, underserved by medical personnel. Physicians are in high demand in many parts of the country, while newly-graduated general practitioners tend to congregate in urban areas. Dr. Ravalia went temporarily to Twiillingate, a small community in Newfoundland, and he was the first family doctor to settle there thirty years ago.

Now, the 57-year-old Dr. Ravalia, an East Indian by heritage, Muslim by religion, a refugee from Zimbabwe who arrived at this northeastern outpost expecting to be there for a few years, has been recognized for the immense value he brought to Twillingate and to Canada, by being inducted into the Order of Canada, along with other Canadian noteworthies.

Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism.
Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism. A view of an iceberg from a hiking trail in Twillingate.

While Newfoundlanders, a hardy people with an often twisted sense of hilarity, view people from outside their community as different from themselves they are themselves unique in Canada. Any reservations they may have had about the presence of Dr. Ravalia were swiftly dispelled. He married a local woman and with her had two sons. And he immersed himself in the family life of the community.

When Rhodesia gained its independence in 1980, the country where Dr. Ravalia had just graduated from medical school decided to expel that portion of their society whose presence the government had never valued; the Asian community. "This community embraced me from the start. I just kind of transitioned seamlessly to a rural Newfoundlander, and I am very content with my station in life", the good doctor stated.
Peter J. Thompson/National Post
Twillingate Harbour, Newfoundland  Peter J. Thompson/National Post

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