Human Library Thunder Bay 2014

What’s a Human Library? Instead of taking a book off a shelf, you spend time with a person - a human ‘book’. Ask that person some questions and learn more about his or her life.

Eight people were on loan for the successful Human Library event on January 25 at the Brodie branch of the Thunder Bay Public Library. During the day, the public came in to reserve a 20 minute conversation with the human books at this unique experience offered by CBC Thunder Bay and the TBPL.

Below are the 'books' that participated in the Human Library. Click on them for an audio excerpt.

Strong Man
Afghan Veteran
Radio Personality
Student at Dennis Franklin Cromarty
Paralympic cyclist
Immigrant from Sierra Leone
Muslim Canadian

They call him "The Punisher." Dallas Hogan has been competing in Strongman and weight lifting competitions for over a decade. He is 275 pounds of pure muscle. He can flip a thousand pound tire, and pull a forty-five thousand pound fire truck. In 2012 a serious injury left Hogan virtually unable to move, and threatened his future in sport, but he's made a phenomenal come-back. This fall he went to the Czech Republic to represent Canada in the World Powerlifting Championships, setting a world record in the deadlift. When he's not lifting ridiculously heavy objects, Dallas Hogan works as a youth addictions worker.

Lieutenant-Colonel Geoff Abthorpe is the Commanding Officer of the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment, and his job has taken him as far away as Bosnia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. From August 2006 to February 2007 he served as a combat team commander, based in Kandahar, leading over 150 troops in combat against Taliban fighters. When first returned from his overseas tour in Afghanistan, he found the experience difficult to talk about, but he's since come to find sharing his story therapeutic, and welcomes opportunities to speak with the public.

Across the region, people start their day with Lisa Laco - the warm, welcoming voice behind CBC radio's Superior Morning. Lisa hails from Corner Brook, Nfld, and began her broadcasting career writing commercials for a private radio station in her hometown. She's since worked in print, television, and of course, live radio. Lisa arrived in Thunder Bay in 1992, intending to stay for only 2 years, but she fell in love with the city, and the rest is history. She describes herself as a political junkie, an avid knitter, and (blame the early shift) chronically sleep deprived.

20-year old Nicole Quedent grew up in Wapekeka First Nation, an Oji Cree community of fewer than 400 people in Ontario's far North. At the age of 17, she left home to attend school in North Bay - an experience she describes as overwhelming. She later learned about Dennis Franklin Cromarty, the First Nations High School in Thunder Bay, and was drawn to the opportunity to study in an environment that would reflect her culture. Nicole arrived in Thunder Bay in the spring, and is now in grade 10 at DFC.

It hasn't been an easy road for R. S. At a young age, he began getting into trouble, and stealing to feed a drug addiction. He left home at 14 and spent the next 17 years in and out of jail. In 2009, he decided he needed to turn his life around. He began a methadone program, and moved into the John Howard Society. At 33, he is now clean and doing well. He hopes that sharing his story will help others facing similar struggles to avoid the mistakes he's made, and to realize the same success.

In the world of para-sport, Robi Weldon is an athletic powerhouse. At the age of 15, Weldon learned that she was losing her sight to Stargardt's - a degenerative disease affecting vision. One of the things that helped her cope with the change, was her involvement in sport. While in college, she discovered powerlifting, and managed to set several world records. At the age of 30, she began her paralympic career in skiing. But she later shifted her focus on cycling. In 2012 she and her team-mate took home the gold medal in the 80-km tandem cycling road race at the London Paralympic Games.

Susan Turay came to Canada in 2004 - the last stop in a long journey to escape civil-war torn Sierra Leone. She lived in the capital of Freetown, where she made a living selling vegetables and fruit, and dreamed of pursuing her studies - something that was impossible because schools were closed due to the war. Fearing violence, she fled to neighbouring Guinea, and then Senegal. While living in a refugee centre, she and her family managed to find a sponsor willing to help them come to Thunder Bay. Once here, Susan earned her nursing degree at Confederation College, and started a family. She has two daughters born in Canada.

Born and raised in Toronto, Ayoub Ansari likes to think of himself as a bridge between cultures. He is an active member of Thunder Bay's Muslim community, and passionate about promoting cultural understanding and multiculturalism. Ayoub moved to Thunder Bay from Southern Ontario to study political science at Lakehead University, and he is now part of the charter class at Lakehead's new Law School. He hopes to practice here in the North.