How one Bus Serviceperson’s childhood in Ethiopia inspired him to chase his dreams

How one Bus Serviceperson’s childhood in Ethiopia inspired him to chase his dreams

Samson Assefa
Samson Assefa

Leaving Ethiopia for the promise of a better life in Canada is what brought Samson Assefa and his family here some 26 years ago. “The choice to come here wasn’t complicated,” says Samson. “Canada has a reputation of being a mosaic of cultures and a welcoming society.”

Samson settled in Surrey with his wife and two children before joining the TransLink enterprise. His career began in 2006 as a Transit Operator, later moving into the Bus Service Department. “Joining the TransLink enterprise was one of the best decisions I have made,” says Samson who notes that fellow Ethiopians who had started working here were supportive and encouraging. He enjoys both his work and the comraderies with his colleagues.

In addition to his role within the TransLink enterprise, Samson is also one of the leaders of the Ethiopian Transit Workers’ Association (ETWA), a non-profit charitable organization whose members are employed within the TransLink enterprise. Founded in 2005, ETWA is engaged in community and youth empowerment programs and believes in building a vibrant and sustainable community.

In collaboration with TransLink’s HR department, the ETWA hosted a seminar in resume writing, online applications, and interviewing skills for several community members who were seeking employment with TransLink. They also established and fund an annual scholarship to a graduate student at the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning who exhibits excellence in academic, professional and community activities and, most importantly, has a vision for sustainable public transit planning.

For Samson, the significance of honouring and recognizing Black History Month, is its importance in helping broaden the understanding of Black Canadian history and the contributions they have made in shaping our society. “Our children and future generations need to come together as Canadians while celebrating our unique diversities.” Samson stresses the importance of learning about one’s history and taking pride in one’s roots.

Growing up in Ethiopia, Samson learned about the Battle of Adwa in 1896, where Ethiopia defeated the more advanced and sophisticated European military avoiding likely colonization. “Our victory over Italy sent a shockwave in Europe, upsetting the time’s race hierarchy, and inspired many influential leaders like Marcus Garvey and Nelson Mandela. This unique experience has made me a confident Black Canadian who is not afraid to chase his dreams,” he says.

An impactful way to honour the spirit of Black History Month during February is by strengthening your allyship. Samson urges white people and other people of colour to continue to support the Black community in their ongoing quest for equity and a level playing field.

“Black Canadians are diverse with unique backgrounds, history, and challenges. Get to know your Black Canadian neighbours, classmates, and indeed your colleagues in the TransLink enterprise. Allyship is a process and starts with friendship.”

A great place to start is by reading and researching. Samson recommends picking up Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave.

While Samson recognizes that there is so much more work to do when it comes to fighting discrimination, racial injustice, and systemic inequality, he also thanks the leadership at TransLink for highlighting the need to make our organization a more diverse and inclusive workplace. “Equity, diversity, and inclusion is a long journey, but we are on the right path.”