Ismael Sonou will join the Expedition Africa team in October 2006. He arrives in Khartoum in mid-October and will stay with the team, as a Field Technician, all the way to the end of the expedition. Here is his story:
Ismael Sonou, a 22-year-old graduate of Algonquin College’s Business Administration program, was born in the West African country of Niger. Of Nigerien and Beninois descent, Ismael, or Ish, as his friends call him, has spent his whole life in Ghana. In 2001, he moved to Canada to complete his secondary school education and to attend college. A proud and successful alumnus of Algonquin College, Ismael currently works as a Project Coordinator for the School of Business at the college.
Ismael enjoys living in Ottawa, “it’s a good environment for students,” he says. The quiet ambience and the political environment found in the nation’s capital are just some of the characteristics he likes about the city of Ottawa. What he likes the most about this city is the fact that it is easy to make friends in Ottawa. His past four years in Ottawa have been filled with activities. As the former president of Algonquin College’s Black Students Association, Ismael has led a number of events, including the 2006 Black History Month Show. When he was a student, he worked for various departments of the college and participated in events such as Orientation week.
This young man is very proud of his African heritage. He can talk endlessly about Africa, his home and his culture, with a bright smile on his face. Benin, Togo and Ghana all hold a special place in his heart, and for good reason. Ismael feels that he is the young man that he is today as a result of his culture and his roots that were instilled in him from a very young age. His country of Ghana is very colourful and cultural, from the numerous festivities to the different celebrations. As he reminisces about some of Ghana’s attractions, including the beaches of Accra and the mountainous areas, he lightens up as he remembers the street vendors and their fresh foods. What did Ismael love most about the vendors? “I enjoyed being outside with my friends, going out at night and coming back home on a full stomach,” he says. He has such happy memories of his life in Ghana.
Ismael wants people to understand that although people are poor back home in Africa, people are still happy. He affirms that Africa is not necessarily what you see on TV. There is poverty in Africa but at the same time, there are people that are well off, he says. Making reference to Kofi Annan (from Ghana), the current Secretary General of the United Nations, Ismael wants the world to understand that Africa has people that are making a difference in Africa and in the world.
So, how does this gentleman stay connected to his culture in Ottawa? Apart from attending various events held by specific student associations across town, such as the Ghanaian Students Association, the Nigerian Students Association and many more, Ismael enjoys attending cook-outs. “The food is cultural; it is our food from back home,” he says, as he talks about the Jolof rice and plantains that he enjoys eating at the cook-outs. He also participates in fashion shows where he showcases African clothing. “Just being in a Boubou takes me back home, even if it is just for ten minutes” he says.
When asked what he misses the most about Ghana, Ismael’s list is endless. He misses the relaxed environment of his country and being with his friends and the people he has known since he was a child. The world needs to know that Ghana is a beautiful place. As Ismael says, there is no place like home, “Home is home; home is you.” Ismael plans to stay and work in Ottawa for a few more years. In the long run, he plans to settle down in Africa, and possibly create more business relations between Canada and his motherland. All the best to one of Africa’s future businessman, Ismael Sonou!