“大海”的真实名字叫Curtis Struthers。Curtis Struthers的中文名“大海”让人联想起海外华人都熟悉的加拿大人“大山”。在2月29日下午采访之前简短的寒暄中，大海告诉记者，这里不少华人也的确经常把他与大山混淆。他和“大山”（Mark Rowswell）见过5次面，已是好友。他每次北上回去家乡的时候都要经过大山的家乡。他被冠以“大海”的名字，他玩笑地说，一是他身材比大山魁梧，二是“海洋”比“陆地”广阔。
在与新移民交流的过程中，大海发现他们并非无法学习新语言，而是害怕说话出错，这使得他们害怕和加拿大本地人交谈。随着加拿大华人社区的日益壮大，新移民可以在这个安全场所自由使用中文交流，而不必太费心学习英语和克服文化障碍。大海说他曾遇到一位女士，在加拿大生活了十年还是担心自己英语说不好。她说大海是她的第一个加拿大本地朋友。震惊之余，大海意识到许多新来者都是和相同文化背景的人呆在一起，却不结交当地人。他说：“ ……只呆在家里或只与具有相同文化背景的朋友一起外出，以及只在那些用母语就可以应付日常生活的营业场所活动，几乎不可能学习和提高自己的语言能力。如果想学习一种新的语言，就需要将自己置身于讲英语的环境中，并与不会说中文的人交朋友，不要因为害怕犯错误而退缩。 错误是经验的一部分”。为了帮助更多的新移民开口说英语，大海还坚持每月组织聚会。他们每月都会安排某个晚上在不同餐馆享受不同的文化美食，参加聚会的人可以在小范围内聊天。
A tall, handsome man is frequently seen at many events organized in the Chinese community, sometimes as a master of ceremonies, sometimes as a guest, and sometimes as an organizer of the event. ……. He is Dahai, a native Canadian who contributes to Canada’s multicultural diversity and occasionally gets recognized for his efforts. Most recently, he received the “Artist Achievement Award” from a well-recognized service organization in the Chinese community.
His proper name is Curtis Struthers. His Chinese name Dahai is inevitably reminiscent of a very popular Canadian who is very well-known among the Chinese.
In a brief greeting prior to the interview on February 29, 2020, Dahai described how he was given the Chinese name of Dahai because he was taller (bigger) than Dashan in a photo. That lead to the comparison of how there is more ‘Water’ than ‘Land’. Many Chinese often mistake him for Dashan. Dahai also told reporters that he and Dashan, whose proper name is Mark Rowswell, have met many times over the years since their first meeting in 2015 backstage at a Chinese Spring Festival Gala. Because of Dahai’s resemblance to Dashan, he is often asked if they are brothers. He jokes about how they do share the same mother country of Canada. Now, Dashan and Dahai are friends.
Dahai was born on a farm in Northern Ontario, a 6-hours drive from Toronto. He has been living in the Greater Toronto Area since 2001. In university, he majored in accounting and finance. After graduation, he has helped new graduates and experienced workers with their cover letters and resumes in efforts to help them find better jobs. He has been teaching business courses of finance, accounting, mathematics, and technology to post-secondary students for over 15 years. Since 2017, he has been teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) in the Chinese community to a broad range of students, from as young as 5 to as old as 65.
Dahai described himself as someone who is passionate about helping people any way that he can. He likes to meet new people and whenever he discovers any needs, he will look for ways to help fulfill that need or solve that problem. He also has gone through some challenging life experiences and would like to share the lessons he has learned with people who are struggling in similar situations. By this way, he hopes that they can better understand their own situation and find a way to overcome it.
Last year, Dahai worked for nearly 3 weeks at a Summer Camp that was at a resort located within talking distance of the beautiful Taihu Lake in Jiangsu Province. He also spent some personal time in Suzhou and Shanghai after the program. He summarized this as fond memories with hopes to return one day.
A few years ago, Dahai founded several platforms to facilitate communication between new and settled immigrants, such as the Asian Canadian Cultural Association, the Asian Canadian Commerce Association, the Chinese Canadian Cultural Club, and the Chinese Canadian Commerce Club. His involvement in the local Chinese community increased gradually.
Earlier in 2013, Dahai attended a Multicultural Festival in Mississauga. There, he spent the majority of his time at the expansive display within the China Pavilion. There, he saw some interesting information booths as well as some entertaining cultural performances while meeting new people. His new friends invited him to a couple upcoming Chinese cultural events. From those first events, he was invited to more and more events. His involvement spiraled from there. Since 2014, Dahai has also been the master of ceremonies of many events, further expediting his involvement.
With his passion for helping people and while he was helping newcomers with their integration into the Canadian culture, Dahai found himself answering the same questions again and again. This inspired him to create something that could help more newcomers more efficiently. Because of his love for alliterations, the group called Chinese Canadian Cultural Club was formed. The basic idea of the club was to pair newcomers with Chinese immigrants who considered themselves “established” and settled into life in Canada. The pairs would have something in common, such as children of the same age or living in the same community. Slowly, people with similar interests in helping newcomers to integrate with the Canadian culture also collaborated and started helping the club. As the club grew, a Chinese realtor had inspired him to make a similar club, but for the new entrepreneurs. Thus, the Chinese Canadian Commerce Club was inspired, with the same concept of pairing the established businessperson with the new entrepreneurs.
The inspiration to create the Chinese Canadian Cultural Club and Commerce Club were solely by his own efforts in the beginning.? Since establishing these clubs, he has found some other people with the shared interest of helping people and then they have been able to collaborate and help more people. He said he was so thankful for these other people.? As they say, the efforts of a team of many people can achieve greater results than many individuals working for themselves.? He’d like to think of this alliteratively as “Synergies Serving Society”.
Through the meetings with newcomers, Dahai found that rather than being unable to learn the new language, they were more afraid of making mistakes. This made them afraid of talking to local Canadians. With the Chinese community in Canada growing larger by the day, the community became a safe place for the newcomers to speak in Chinese freely, without having to care much to learn the new English language and overcome the cultural barrier. Dahai told a story of how he met a lady who had been living in Canada for around a decade and was concerned about her English skills. She told him that he was her first local Canadian friend. Shocked, Dahai realized that many newcomers were staying around people of the same culture and not meeting nor becoming friends with any locals. He said “… it is nearly impossible to learn and improve one’s language ability by only staying at home or going out with friends of the same cultural background and taking care of daily life activities at places of business which can take care of the transactions in the native language. If you want to learn a new language, you need to put yourself out there and go to the English-speaking places and make friends with people who don’t speak Chinese so that you must speak in English since the others you’re meeting cannot understand Chinese … the need to practice and not hold back out of fear about making mistakes. Errors are part of the experience!”
Wanting to help more newcomers open up and speak in English, Dahai also formed monthly in-person meetings. These monthly meetings involve dinners at different restaurants with different cultural foods every month, and everyone attending having small side conversations. Alliteratively, he referred to this activity as “Monthly Meal Meet-Ups”.
The service of helping the newcomers and partnering them up with the established Chinese-Canadian is free.? If there are any fees for events or other things, it is only a cost-covering fee.? Organizing and administering these clubs does not profit Dahai financially. He feels richer emotionally and spiritually as a result of the positive impacts made on the people around him.? He says that is a far better benefit than a few dollars.
As a “foreigner” for the Chinese newcomers, Dahai’s Chinese speaking in the beginning was pretty much just limited to Ni Hao (Hello) and Xie Xie (Thank You).? But, thanks to the new smartphone technology, Google Translate, which he refers as “ShouJi Fan Yi”, communication became so much easier. Regardless of their language differences, communication is key.
With its ongoing expansion, the bright future of the Chinese Canadian Cultural Club is very much something to look forward to.