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Successful immigrants are strong but flexible.

On November 3, 2017, I had the honour of sharing the stage with quite a fantastic group of newcomers at the Top 25 Immigrants in the Maritimes Awards gala. These awards were established to highlight the success and leadership of people who decided to give back to their communities in our region.

Each one of them has such an inspiring story, a story that demonstrates just how lucky we are that they have selected the Maritimes to start a new life and make a new home. They are natural leaders who have overcome personal challenges and made a difference in their communities on various fronts. Recipients came from volunteer organizations, academia, military, charities, civic and public service, business, and entrepreneurship.

This recognition is especially meaningful because the idea came from My Halifax Experience and My East Coast Experience, an organization founded by Ifeanyi Emesih, an immigrant who decided to make a difference for himself, his family, and his community.

The gala took place around the same time a new poll was released showing that in 2017, 85 per cent of Nova Scotians surveyed look favourably on immigration and believe that “immigration is key to growing our province” and “immigration has a positive impact on the province.” This is an important acknowledgment of how essential it is to attract and retain skilled newcomers to fill local labour gaps and enrich our communities. Those new immigrants are additions not just to a skilled talent pool and the labour market, but to volunteer organizations, our culture, and our communities.

Nova Scotia’s immigrant population is diverse and rapidly increasing, according to new Statistics Canada data. The number of newcomers to Nova Scotia is growing, with approximately 4,000 new residents calling Nova Scotia home in 2017. This is primarily thanks to a record number of immigrants who came through the Provincial Nominee Program.

In a world where change is the only constant, adaptation is the only answer. The special thing about immigration is the need for constant adaptation. As a university marketing lecturer, I know firsthand the importance of the principal of adaptation for businesses. It is taught as an essential element for businesses to consider for their new markets entry strategies.

Adaptation is just as important for immigrants. It is not simply a nice skill to have; it is an essential skill to have.

An Egyptian proverb once said, “Know the world in yourself. Never look for yourself in the world, for this would be to project your illusion.”

I’ve always liked palm trees, mostly because they’re distinctive looking and remind me of growing up in Egypt and vacations in warm places. I often notice how palm trees bend in severe winds but don’t break. The palm tree continuously remains standing. Now I find them even more remarkable after learning an intriguing fact about these trees.

A mentor told me once about some advice he gave to a newcomer. It has remained on my mind to this day. This mentor asked the newcomer: Which are you—an oak tree or a palm tree?

Oak trees are usually heavily rooted but tend not to move or be flexible and adapt to strong winds, in contrast to palm trees. A palm tree’s roots spread wide and very deep. The tree moves around to adjust to the wind direction. During strong winds, many oak trees break or fall down, but the majority of palm trees remain standing tall. When the palm tree faces strong winds, its root system is not weakened, but strengthened by these storms.

The root systems stretch and grow stronger when the wind blows hard on a palm tree. This characteristic alone is remarkable. This fact makes me see them in an entirely new way.

Most successful immigrants are palm trees. Resilient. They adapt to difficulties and uncertainties, plant strong roots in their new communities, and adjust to their new surroundings.

When changes get difficult, don’t give in or give up. Stretch, expand, and sway, then bounce back on your feet even stronger.

Be a palm tree.

Rany Ibrahim

Rany Ibrahim is a business strategy professional, communicator, writer, analyst, business workforce consultant, tech startup founder, and part-time university faculty. He also serves on various academic and professional boards. Rany is a member of the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference, is among Atlantic Canada’s 50 most inspiring entrepreneurial leaders under 40, is a Top 25 Canadian Immigrant Awards winner, and was recognized by the Nova Scotia House of Assembly for his contributions and community involvement. He is passionate about immigration, human rights, freedoms, and democracy.