Ruth Noordegraff and Sunita Gupta are two Kingstonians who help to put out the city’s welcome mat. They know what it’s like to move to a new country and are helping others do the same through their work with the Kingston Immigration Partnership, an organization that helps newcomers integrate into their new home.
Ruth has a specialization in planning, moved here from Holland in 2010 to start a family and advance her career. Sunita’s background is in healthcare. She brings experience from countries such as Kenya, India and England to Kingston where she has lived for 20 years.
Q: What do you love the most about Kingston and the community here?
Ruth: Once you dive into the community and get a feel for what you want to be involved in – it’s really easy to get connected with everybody. It’s easy to feel at home.
Sunita: I’ll echo that. The smallness of this community after moving here from Mississauga is what became very charming about Kingston. It’s a very warm community. We have this joke that there are no six degrees of separation here, it’s more like two.
Q: What is something that stands out as a favourite memory of your work with the Kingston Immigration Partnership?
Ruth: Over the past six months the refugee topic has been in the media a lot. Within a short amount of time we had community leaders around a table to discuss how we will respond as a community. Seeing everyone come together made me feel very grateful for the partnerships we've built.
Sunita: The annual Kingston Multicultural Arts Festival is something that we are very proud of. To see all the people dancing in the streets, sharing and having a good time… The satisfaction that you feel at that point in helping to make your city more vibrant is significant. Q: What is it that motivates you to do this work? What is the ‘driving factor’?
Ruth: If you want to have a community that is functional, successful and strong we have to be a diverse community. It makes my day to see that because of our work somebody got hired or we can celebrate the success of newcomers or host events that bring people together. We can change stigmas or assumptions about a specific group or culture. To be a part of that in my personal and professional life is amazing. All of us working together to build a better community.
Sunita: We’re going to sound like two peas of a pod here! There has to be a common element that draws people to a certain line of work. I can second what Ruth has said. I think there’s a lot to be done still. We’ve barely scratched the surface.