Trying Something New

Ploytida Samanachangphunk had one sister living in Whitehorse before she immigrated to Canada. Now she has three sisters and an extended family here.

Ploytida’s sister would return for family visits to their hometown of Nan, in northern Thailand, and tell her about life in the Yukon. Ploytida became intrigued.

“I love my country. Thailand is very beautiful. But I wanted to try something new,” she says. Like her sister, she wanted a different future.

They applied for Ploytida to immigrate.

Then, like now, Canada assessed a person’s suitability for residency with a point system that takes into consideration language skills, education, work experience, age and where in Canada the applicant will reside, among other things. High value is always placed on moving to areas with lower populations and on good language skills in English or French.

In spite of a strong family network to support her in Canada, “I didn’t have enough points, then,” says Ploytida. She would have to wait to join her sister.

Then one day, Ploytida learned they had found a Swiss man living in the Yukon who was interested in meeting her. He visited Nan twice before marrying Ploytida and bringing her home in May, 1993.

“Whitehorse is similar in size to Nan, and has lovely countryside, but no traffic,” says Ploytida. “And I love the snow. When my husband took me to the cabin that first winter the snow was like diamonds. It was so shiny and beautiful at the cabin.”

Her husband helped her integrate.

“He made me go talk to people to pay our bills, and challenged me to try to get jobs here and fix my own problems,” she says.

Soon they had a son, Albert, born at Whitehorse General Hospital. Slowly, with the encouragement of her husband and sisters, Ploytida built the confidence to manage on her own.

“But, my reading and writing wasn’t very good, and my sisters encouraged me to take English as a Second Language classes in 2001.”

One sister, Toy, even joined her. Part of the course included first aid training, which improved both of their job prospects and language skills.

Ploytida admits, “I wouldn’t have considered getting my citizenship before those classes.” But she did, and on October 19, 2001 she became a Canadian.

Unfortunately, her marriage did not last, and as a single mother Ploytida was forced to fend for herself. She found work as a custodian at the Yukon College, where, to this day, she has a cheery smile for everyone she meets.

“Lots of people helped me in Canada. Now, I have about 300 co-workers.”

As she nears retirement, she plans to divide her time between Thailand and the Copper Ridge home she shares with her son, who works for Yukon Energy.

Ploytida returns to Thailand often to visit her brother and one sister remaining in Nan. Each year she visits the local schools with treats for the children and stories of a land at the other end of the world, where the weather might be cold but the people are warm.

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