Let me start by wishing everyone a Happy Lunar New Year! The Lunar or Chinese New Year, unlike the Gregorian calendar New Year, traditionally lasts for 16 days. This year it started on January 22 and runs until February 6 so I’m delivering my new year’s wish to you just in the nick of time. This leads me to my topic for this week’s blog…the importance of community.

As many of you know, my daughter is adopted from China. What you may not know is there’s a vibrant adoption community in Ottawa. And thank goodness for that. In the early days of arriving home from China with this not-so-tiny bundle of joy, it was quite lonely. I know motherhood can be lonely and difficult for many women. But having a new baby who was already 16 months old had its different challenges. When we went to the park  in our predominantly white neighbourhood, I felt disconnected from the other families.

The importance of community by Colleen Kanna; Photo of Colleen's daughter in a highchair and mom is feeding her steamed egg with chopsticks.

Feeding Maddi-Fu her favourite food, steamed egg

Thankfully we found the Open Door Society playgroup and that was home for us. We were part of a community that understood where we were starting from. We adoptive parents could open up about our triumphs and challenges. There were tears of laughter and joy, and sometimes tears of sorrow and frustration. We compared and shared stories with one another. And we helped each other navigate the uncharted territory of creating a strong attachment with our children whose lives we had not been a part of from day one.

That was the first community I truly felt a part of and was so grateful to belong to. It was like a lifeline for me. My daughter and I attended that playgroup faithfully every week until she started all-day school. Even after that we kept in touch with many families across the city. We moms had developed a close bond as did our children.

Over the years, my daughter and I have become part of many different adoption groups. We first started out with the group we travelled with. And then somehow our circle grew as we partook in different activities like Sunday morning Chinese classes, playgroups, and just meeting other families at festivals and celebrations.

We’ve celebrated Chinese New Year together every year, that is up until the pandemic. So this year is the first time we’ve gotten together in 3 years.

Now that our daughters are all grown up and many are away at school, I love that we parents are still getting together without the kids. We’re still a community and we’re still comparing notes.

The 2nd community I became immersed in, and not by choice, is the breast cancer community. No one ever wants a cancer diagnosis but if it happens, having a community who gets it and supports you helps a lot. You weather the storm together. Even if you have supportive friends and family, they can’t fully understand what you’re going through.

So my homes away from home during this time was the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation’s Maplesoft Centre, now the Ottawa Community Cancer Hub; and the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre, now the Centre for Health Innovation.

The importance of community by Colleen Kanna, Photo of Colleen with breast cancer survivor, Beverly Thomson at the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation

With breast cancer survivor, Beverly Thomson, at the opening of the Maplesoft Centre

And you’re forever part of the club even if and when your treatment is done. What I appreciate most is that members are always reaching out, giving back, raising funds, and helping others along the journey in any way they can.

All this has made me think about the other communities I belong to and feel a strong connection with. They fill up different areas of my life. They fulfill different needs. I feel very fortunate to be a part of these groups.

There’s the Ottawa Japanese Community. I was on the Board of the Ottawa Japanese Cultural Centre (OJCC) for many years. Now I’m a community member and attend many of their events as a volunteer. I was welcomed with open arms into this community. When my daughter was adopted, they threw us a baby shower and the whole community showed up. It still brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.

Photo of baby shower for my daughter after we arrived back in Canada put on by the Ottawa Japanese Community

Welcome home baby shower put on by the Ottawa Japanese Community

A few of us get together outside of events for brunch or when we have a craving for authentic Japanese food. Which brings me to this reminder: If you’re a fan of Japanese food, then don’t forget to reserve a spot at C’est Japon à Suisha (formerly Suisha Gardens) before they close their doors on July 1, 2023.

Then there’s my adult skating group. We meet each week for the love of figure skating. Some of us do jumps and spins and some of us don’t. But, we love putting on our skates and gliding on the ice. We get some exercise, chat about all things skating and everything else. And just as important as the skating, we have coffee or lunch afterwards. I look forward to it every week.

My skating family, Photo taken by Anna Epp

My skating family. Photo taken in 2019 by Anna Epp

I also have my business community made up of truly awesome women who are also small business owners. What a wonderfully resourceful and supportive community. So grateful and proud to be a part of these local makers and shakers.

And last but not least, there’s the COKANNA Coffee Shop group. I love this group. I started it up at the beginning of the pandemic as a means to keep in touch and support one another. Now 3 years later and countless online coffee shop get togethers, we’ve moved to in-person coffee shops in my condo community.

I’m excited to bring 2 different communities together. There are so many ideas, conversations, activities, people, businesses, and resources we can share in together. The coffee shop group and the events are all free.  It’s an important part of my business and my way of giving back to the community. It brings me joy to offer these coffee shop gatherings and bring people together.

At the end of day, the importance of community is belonging. It means you’re not alone. You don’t have to change to try and fit in. You’re accepted for who you are.

The communities I belong to round me out, make me a whole-hearted person. Thank you for letting me belong just as I am.

What communities do you belong to? Let me know in the comments. If you’d like to join the COKANNA Coffee Shop community, here’s the link to request to join.

I’d like to join the coffee shop

And don’t forget to check out the free upcoming events on my Coffee Shop Events page.

COKANNA Coffee Shop Events

Until next time,

~ Colleen

Colleen Kanna

I’m a recovering Chartered Accountant and Breast Cancer Champion turned Fashion Designer. My COKANNA Canadian-made bamboo clothing is all about comfort and style. Giving back to the community is important to me so I support local breast cancer organizations who treat the whole person and not just the disease.