Mentorship: A Wayfinder….

by Doug Piquette, Executive Director, ERIEC

I can think of a number of people, family, movies, events and books that had a profound influence on my life and I sometimes wonder what would have happened had I not crossed paths with those important influences. I can recall the teachers that were inspirational and supportive of my inquiring nature. As a teen, I remember certain books that inspired me, changed the way I perceived the world and helped to motivate me in some way. I was to discover that mentors can come in all different shapes, sizes, and voices.

The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you: they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.

Wade Davis, “The Wayfinders”

While working overseas in Peru many years ago, my younger brother gave me a book that had a deep influence and resonance on my professional work with communities. The book was entitled, “One River” written by Wade Davis, a fascinating Canadian born author and renowned ethnobotanist. For any of you who are interested in exotic adventures and scientific investigation, Wade Davis is your man!

I recently read another one of his books called “The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World”, which is also an inspiring read and but led me to think about the work we do at ERIEC. The term ‘wayfinder’ is being used a lot these days in very different contexts but in Davis’ book, it refers to the ancient practice of navigating on the open ocean without the modern navigation equipment like a sextant, compass, binoculars or a GPS!  Ancient Polynesian cultures would successfully sail thousands of miles across the open ocean, where an error of even one degree could have a major impact on one’s final destination.

I began to think of the important role and the intuitive abilities of the ‘wayfinder’ during these long trips and carrying only the provisions they could pack in their sea-going vessels.  It made me think of the voyage of a skilled immigrant and their families to come to places like Edmonton.  This ancient concept in some ways could be a metaphor for our ERIEC Career Mentorship program. In our role as ‘wayfinder’ we can help skilled immigrants plan for their settlement journey and navigate towards their successful integration here in Canada.

It may sound naive, but when you enter a cross-cultural situation, you are by definition an ambassador for your culture.

Wade Davis, “On Native Ground”

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