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How this immigrant landed the top job at a B.C. curling club — without knowing how to curl | CBC News

How this immigrant landed the top job at a B.C. curling club — without knowing how to curl | CBC News

Edelaine Penaflor has never played curling before. She says she’s still learning the winter game. 

“I just know it’s sweeping and throwing some rocks,” she told host Carolina de Ryk on CBC’s Daybreak North. “I still don’t know how you win.”

Despite not knowing how to curl, the 28-year-old immigrant was hired as the executive director of the Fort St. John Curling Club.

She landed the role in August last year, and is now channelling her work experience from the Philippines toward her new role in the northeastern B.C. city.

An immigrant’s journey 

Like many newcomers, Penaflor started the job hunt as soon as she landed in Fort St. John. 

She submitted more than 20 applications for different roles in different industries, she says, because it’s not easy as a new immigrant to work in the same profession as she had in her home country.

After graduating with a degree in hospitality management, Penaflor worked for five years in events management at five-star hotels in Manila, including Sofitel Philippine Plaza and Conrad Manila.

She came to Fort St. John last July with her partner, who is studying business administration at Northern Lights College. Instead of pursuing another degree, she says she wanted to get some work experience. 

Penaflor pictured on vacation in Singapore with her partner, who is studying business administration at Northern Lights College. The couple came to Canada last summer. (Submitted by Edelaine Penaflor)

Penaflor says she found the job posting for the executive director role at Fort St. John Curling Club by chance and decided to give it a try.

“When I was searching for jobs … part of the job description doesn’t talk much about curling,” she said on Daybreak North. “It specified you … need to know events management, which is my background coming from the Philippines.”

“So I told myself, why not try it?”

To her surprise, she got the job.

Penaflor says working at the curling club lets her make good use of the events and sales management skills she honed in the Philippines.

Penaflor, far left, and her colleagues at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza hotel in Manila. She worked as an events management professional for five years before coming to Canada. (Submitted by Edelaine Penaflor)

“We actually have curling, we have a bar, we have a soccer pitch that’s here. We also have a banquet space,” she said of the club. “It’s not just like curling any more — we’re actually serving the entire community.

“What’s helped me in my past experience is I know how to handle the members here … I had good relationships with my clients [in the Philippines], so whenever I would move [between jobs of] hotels, they would go to me.”

5-star hotel experience

According to former club president Kenton Evenson, the Fort St. John Curling Club has to run year-round, so it’s important to have an executive director who can keep the facility busy when there are no curling events in the summertime, especially during the pandemic.

“It’s a huge, empty space of potential, so having somebody that can see that space and sell that space and so … all these organizations can have access to it, that’s something super important,” said Evenson, who was part of the board of directors that hired Penaflor.

Kenton Evenson, the former president of Fort St. John Curling Club, says it’s important for the club to run all year-round by renting out its facilities for events during the summertime. (Fort St. John Curling Club/Facebook)

Evenson says he’s glad someone as experienced as Penaflor took the role, despite her lack of experience with the sport.

“Being able to curl is great — you want people that understand the sport and how passionate people are about the sport, especially in Canada,” he said. “But … the more important thing is how to manage people, how to make sure buildings [are] running.”

“That kind of background was very evident in Edelaine for sure, coming from something as big as a five-star hotel.”

Penaflor says her current priority is to increase revenue for the club by renting out facilities. The curling rink has previously been used as a venue for events, which Penaflor plans to host more of. In the last month, they’ve received requests to host proms and graduation ceremonies at the rink.

Penaflor says she’s enjoying the role so far, as well as living in Fort St. John — despite the extreme cold weather.

“It’s been a great joy to me being with the curling rink,” she said.

“Everyone has been so nice, and seeing that I’m an immigrant and I’m not from Canada, people here who have been here for so long have been very understanding.”

Daybreak North6:52The woman running the Fort St. John curling club still doesn’t understand the sport but loves it anyway

Edelaine Penaflor had never heard of curling, as a sport, before moving to the Peace this summer from the Phillippines. But that hasn’t stopped her from jumping into her job as the Executive Director of the Fort St. John Curling Club. 6:52

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