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Friday, 28 April 2017 08:00

Popular BCIS staff member a finalist for a national award

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Argaw Argaw is in the running for national recognition through a website competition. Argaw Argaw is in the running for national recognition through a website competition. Photo by Ryan Dahlman

Argaw Argaw, the Brooks and County Immigration Services settlement counsellor, is well known in the County of Newell and the City of Brooks for his diligent and tireless altruism. Now, the rest of Canada is also getting to know him. He is one of the finalists in the RBC Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards (rbctop25.com).


After being nominated by an unnamed person, Argaw has been selected from a pool of 630 submissions nation-wide and made the final cut of the Top 75.
Extremely humble, the amiable native of Ethiopia, says while thankful for the opportunity, the nomination is not about him, it is about his co-workers and the entire community of Brooks that he is representing.
“This nomination is not only for me. The success we all enjoy is very strong because we have people supporting each other all the time,” he explains.
At first, he didn’t believe he was nominated for an award. He found out it was a legitimate event, but had to keep the information quiet until March.
Argaw says the BCIS staff is one big family and he is constantly amazed how they all get along so well.
Even though they are all from different countries and parts of the world, it seems like they are long-time family members.
He says in fact the local governments and agencies he deals with, including the provincial courts of Medicine Hat, SAAMIS Immigration Services in Medicine Hat as well as those throughout the county of Newell, help make any work involving settlement of new immigrants as simple and straightforward as possible.
Now he and his BCIS counterparts work with with clients from Asia, Latin America and Africa.
Besides his regular role, Argaw also has been the co-ordinator of the Volunteer Income Tax Program (CVITP) tax clinic with Canada Revenue Agency, for the past three years. This involves getting people to assist newcomers in doing their tax forms. This keeps Argaw busy as he needs to ensure he is well versed in any changes in the rules, credits or exemptions for everyone each year.
Argaw has been in Canada for five years.
“It’s challenging to keep updated on all of those changes tax wise, but if I’m not up on those challenges and changes, then it makes it hard (for the people we serve),” explains Argaw. “I mean doing taxes  was something different for me when I first came here. It was different because you don’t file taxes in my country of Ethiopia.”
Argaw is happy to be in Canada where he joined his wife who arrived first.
He holds a bachelor’s degree in management from Ethiopia.
He first heard of Canada listening to BBC programming from the school in Ethiopia. His initial feelingabout Canada was it was a land of opportunity, it was prosperous and most importantly, it was safe.
It’s been a long, trying road for Argaw, who when he came to Canada started in Winnipeg working as the volunteer co-ordinator at Newcomers Employment and Education Development Services (NEED Inc.) in Winnipeg. He was in Winnipeg for two years.
Friends in Edmonton and Calgary encouraged him to move to Alberta because at the time, there were far more opportunities.
Argaw was getting admittedly frustrated with wanting to find different employment. He would send out a lot of resumés, but couldn’t seem to get anywhere.
“It was then I changed my approach, I opened myself up and worked hard to take advantage of every situation,” he says adding he tells his clients they have to be patient, understanding and work towards becoming used to their surroundings. If they try to adapt, it will make it much easier for them to thrive in Canada.
“It’s very rewarding to see the successes.”
He saw the job opportunity in Brooks and decided to apply. While there is more opportunities and people in larger urban centres, he got a good feeling about Brooks from the first time he arrived in the “City of 100 Hellos.”
He wanted to move to a smaller city because he’s from a smaller centre in Ethiopia.
His first gut feeling about Brooks was that he was going to love it and he hasn’t been wrong. There have been some difficult and challenging times in Brooks, but he says the positives far exceed any sort of slight turbulence.
He loves the sense of togetherness of the residents in the city and the county.
“When we have organized community events, you just see that community engagement,” Argaw explains.
“People celebrate the diversity here. We grow diversity and it has grown fast — you see it everywhere you go.”
Even as a newcomer himself, Argaw had to adjust to a lot of new cultures he hadn’t experienced before and was surprised at the diversity and attitudes towards some customs.
He says for example, something as simple as a handshake can be taken wrong by certain people from different countries until they acclimatize.
Sitting at a desk he smiles and says he’s always reminded of a quote from John Rhon, who is a renowned motivational speaker: “Never wish life were easier — wish that you were better.”
Argaw is definitely ambitious, but in a non-threatening, non-overly aggressive way. A kind soul, Argaw only wants to help people around him and make wherever he is a better place.
“If I sit back, I don’t improve,” says Argaw with a smile. “Things in the world change every day. I don’t believe in (having) one skill. I might study something different.
“It’s my nature; I’m curious. I’m thirsty all the time. It’s the way I am.”
To support Argaw, go to the website (rbctop25.com), click on Argaw’s profile which is near the top and register an email address in order to cast a vote. The Top 25 will be announced on the website on June 27.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor