Hannah Reimer

Country of Origin:

Swaziland

Themes:

Citizenship, Immigration, Black History/African Heritage, Identity & Heritage, Multiculturalism & Diversity

Photos:

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Bio

Hannah was adopted from Mbabane, Swaziland in 1987 and grew up in British Columbia but has also lived in Tanzania and the UK.

With a passion for grassroots development and issues relating to peace/ conflict, Hannah holds a BA in International Relations from the University of British Columbia (Okanagan Campus) and an MA in International Studies and Diplomacy from SOAS (School of Oriental and African Studies) in London, UK.

African Affairs is her particular area of interest. While living in the UK, she gained experience with several different organizations related to this area including the Royal African Society(RAS) and the BBC's Focus on Africa and Network Africa radio programmes . She has also collaborated with Mozambican based organization, the" Kuwangisana Organization" to develop a proposal for a sanitation improvement project involving compost latrines.

She has recently returned from living and working in central Uganda for the last 6 months with the grassroots development organization, the Uganda Rural Fund (URF) where she developed curriculum for it's Leadership Institute and assisted with community and youth outreach.

She looks forward to pursuing a career in research and advocacy work with a focus on issues of human rights, reconciliation and conflict management in Africa.

Story

Cultural Identity: Two Parts, One Whole

My earliest memories of life are in Canada. Of Christmases divided between my child-hood home on Vancouver Island and visiting my extended family in Vancouver and Kelowna. Summers were much of the same. I am a proud Canadian, and no matter how far from home some of my experiences have taken me; it is the place I always return to. But, I have never forgotten my roots or where I started.

I was born in Mbabane Swaziland on May 9th 1987. My mother was a Mozambican refugee who had fled the violence brought on by the country’s civil war. Shortly after I was born, my mother left me at the hospital. There were no orphanages set up at the time so attempts were made to locate my extended family using the radio and a short article published in the “Swazi Times”; one of the country’s local newspapers. Unfortunately, no one came forward.

My story could have ended there. But it didn’t. At a few months old, I was adopted by a Canadian couple who, at the time, were working in Cairo as teachers but were visiting relatives living and working in Swaziland.

The adoption process wasn’t without its challenges. There were petitions needing signatures, visits to court, passport applications, meetings with Swazi officials and those who doubted that anything would come of it. But fortunately, all the pieces came together and my parents were able to bring back a new addition when they returned to Canada.

When it comes to my cultural identity, the simplest answer I could give would be to say that I am Canadian and to leave it at that. But that’s only half of the story.

It’s strange to feel such a deep connection to a country that you don’t remember or a culture that you’ve yet to experience but in truth, my life in Canada and my beginnings in Swaziland are so closely intertwined. I couldn’t have one and forget the other or say that one place has had a greater impact on shaping the woman I am today or the passions that drive me because it wouldn’t be true. Both places have played an invaluable part.

When I was adopted, the stories of my family became part of my story and I became part of theirs; I love that I can celebrate these different parts of who I am and continue to be inspired because of it.