How I got here

Well.  You all know I live on Bowen Island, a small island community of 3,500 population in the Howe Sound about 45 mins by boat from downtown Vancouver.  I’ve been here 16 years and have become to know a fair number of people here.  I was never one to be the centre of attention.

This whole Year of Mid Life Enlightenment (aka my living & working in Nepal and Bangladesh last year, plus visiting friends & family all over the world) has managed to put the reluctant me in the spotlight.  Well, spotlight on Bowen (big fish in small pond and all that) so let’s not get too excited.

What with the few presentations I have given on Bowen, recounting my experiences throughout my Year of Mid Life Enlightenment (not Mid Life Crisis please), together with Drs Peter Wing and Claire Weeks and our fundraising and awareness building of the fantastic work the staff at Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre www.sirc.org.np is doing for SCI patients newly injured in Nepal’s recent earthquakes – I’ve become rather well known in this small pond.

I was a little embarrassed when Martha Perkins, Interim Editor of the Bowen Island Undercurrent – our weekly newspaper – asked if she could ask me a few questions for an article.  As part of the paper’s Canada Day celebrations, she was doing a series of stories on Bowen Islanders and how they ended up on Bowen.  I agreed.  This is what resulted.

What struck me about each of our stories is that we all landed on Bowen by pure chance, drawn in some way to the promise of a life a little less conventional, and all of us had a bit of the wanderer in us.  With Martha’s engaging style of writing, she really caught the essence of each of us.  How fortunate were we to have Martha write our stories.  Looking forward to the next in the series!

I certainly learned a few things about my fellow islanders – I never knew Piers and Joan (Sarah-Jane’s parents) had packed their kids into a boat and sailed to Vancouver BC all the way from South Africa!  How daft is that!  And I loved Joong’s story of overcoming many obstacles to get where he is today – a distinctive story for many immigrants now calling Canada their home and native land.

I wanted to share this with you, as those of you who know me, know why I started this blog but many of you did not know how I had made Bowen Island my home.  Now you do.

Martha posted my story on Facebook, and that prompted many of my Irish friends and family to tell me what significant thing happened to them the week I emigrated from Ireland in April 1997.

  • The day before I emigrated to Canada, my sister Sinead moved to Edinburgh, Scotland
  • The Monday before I emigrated to Canada, my friend Mary moved to London, England
  • April 1997 saw my friend Rita also move to Glasgow, Scotland.
  • There were a few other stories of significant changes shared with me in private, all happening around this time.

I guess that burgeoning Celtic Tiger was not to everyone’s liking!

Peter's express bus is mentioned in the article - this is me with Peter's bus behind me on the very busy Georgia Street.  Home to Bowen is nigh!

Peter’s express bus is mentioned in the article – this is me with Peter’s bus behind me on the very busy Georgia Street. Home to Bowen is nigh!

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In the past two years, my work in Nepal has expanded to the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation www.bomkarlsson.com and the Spinal Cord Injured Network Nepal. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in the north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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3 Responses to How I got here

  1. beverley lindsey says:

    Kate, a really interesting article by the Undercurrent paper, about you, Sarah & Joong Kim and how you all discovered (in such unique ways) beautiful little Bowen Island. Thanks for sharing this on your blog. As always you are such a generous soul to share not only your story but Sarah & Joong Kim’s as well. Namaste, Beverley.

  2. Renu says:

    Kates! You are a shinning star whereever you go, a gift I am only to pleased to be a recipient of;)

  3. Pingback: Twenty Years a-Growing | Bowen to Bangladesh

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