Stay and Grow is a network of committed individuals and organizations that facilitate meaningful connections with new residents to Saint John. Their Mission is to ATTRACT new people to Saint John, ENHANCE the newcomer experience in Saint John, and to RETAIN these folks as permanent members of our Saint John community.
Here are our interviews with the founding members of Stay & Grow:
Thank you Heather, Jiaojao, and Li, for taking the time to tell us more about Stay & Grow.
Heather White Brittain:
What is your role?
Along with Li Song and Jiaojao Meng, I am a cofounder of Stay and Grow. It began from a thought that I expressed that if we really wanted new residents to stay and grow here in our Greater Saint John community, we had to get to know them and ‘walk the walk.’
What is something that most people would be surprised to know about your job?
In my development role with Imperial Theatre, I actually spend a lot of time helping people. I think that often times people have a view that fund development is about raising money or capital and while it can be this, I know that my role is more about relationship building.
Do you have any Stay & Grow events Planned for this Fall?
Yes, we do have events planned for this fall. Our first event will be in September.
Where do you see the future?
I hope the future will be one where we continue to expand our reach to new residents from all walks of life. When communities learn from different backgrounds and share meaningful cultural exchange – whether it’s a new friendship, trying a new food or learning a new skill, we will all benefit from this. My hope is that this exchange will continue to grow for future generations.
What is your role?
I currently work at the YMCA of Greater Saint John as a Youth Employability Project Coordinator. I coordinate the Skills Launch Program which is designed to: help immigrant youth explore their career options, gain local work experience, and understand the Canadian work environment. This program will help immigrant youth make steps toward their career dreams. Along with Heather and Li, I’m a co-founder of Stay and Grow.
Which Value resonates most with you and why?
In my capacity, I have worked with local employers and businesses in Saint John to become more diverse and socially inclusive by helping them employ and build connections with more newcomers, and this adds value to the community’s continued population growth and strategic plans.
Saint John is a growing city with multicultural resource and traditional customs and culture that has welcomed so many international students, immigrants, and refugees. As one of the international students, Saint John is my root where I continued my education and started my career. It’s my home where I have to work hard to maintain the beauty of my city and explore the potential opportunities to let more people who love Saint John to Stay and Grow here together.
What is the best part of being part of Stay & Grow?
Relationships, sincerity, and unconditional support for all the Stay Grow friends. I always tell people who come to a Stay & Grow event that once you come and share your challenges and stories, I’m sure that you’ll bring at least one friend after you leave the event. Whenever you need support or help, all the Stay & Grow friends are here. People trust each other and share their concerns. The friendship and connection building is so meaningful and beautiful, and this is how we make a safe place to let people start falling in love with Saint Johners first, then you’ll get to know more about our city.
What is one of your favourite moments from being part of Stay & Grow?
When Stay and Grow event participants come across each and say ‘hey, I met you at Stay & Grow’. That moment is so beautiful. Stay & Grow becomes a ‘CONNECTOR’ between two strangers and builds a meaningful connection for them.
Working with Li and Heather to support new residents in SJ and meeting new friends at Stay & Grow, it makes me always smile in the morning when I wake up. Isn’t it beautiful when you have such a wonderful team?
What is your role?
I currently hold the role as the Managing Director at PRUDE Inc. and also a licensed Realtor with Exit Realty as I hope to provide real estate information to my clients in their native languages through a monthly newsletter that’s also easily shareable through various communications platforms in different languages.
PRUDE Inc. has been promoting diversity in all forms, and cultural inclusiveness with all respects since 1981.
Exit Realty is a great real-estate company that is currently growing in our region.
I am passionate at working and volunteering in our community, and to help many more newcomers to stay in the region.
What is your favorite aspect of being part of PRUDE?
Li has been working with PRUDE Inc., implementing dynamic programs, and giving a strong voice for diversity, equality, and inclusiveness through education and workshops for visible minorities, newcomers ,and citizens, in the Saint John region.
What are some of the most challenging parts of newcomers to our community?
Community connection is challenging. Our community in the Saint John region is unique. People are friendly and with the culture that is closely connected to each others. Sometimes it is challenging to break through the tightly connected circles to build trust for newcomers themselves. The culture is changing as our population demographic is changing, the way we eat, the way we have fun, the way we educate our kids, etc..
What is something you’ve accomplished while being part of Stay & Grow that you feel most proud of?
Building relationships with many new residents, developing friendships with many unknown path finders in our region and in-person to hear their amazing stories, and building a welcoming environment for our community to be inclusive, and respect all cultures and people. Most importantly, we all share the growth mindset, which is the key to being successful in our own ways.
For more information on the wonderful work these ladies and their organizations are doing, please check out the following links: