Growing up Pietermaritzburg, on the east coast of South Africa, and then living in Cape Town for fifteen years, Jill Barrowman and her husband Lance were looking for a change. The pair decided, after looking briefly at a couple of other countries, sending out a few resumes and a job offer from a company in Kitimat, B.C., they felt it was just the change they were looking for.
After assuring family and friends they were not in fact crazy, they set off in June of 2015, dogs and all. According to Jill, it’s an been an adventure they have never regretted.
Lance is a land surveyor and had his job lined up before their move, and Jill started working for the Visitor Information Centre/Chamber of Commerce in Kitimat, where they explored, worked and played for the next five years.
They both have a love for hiking and the outdoors and in their travels and explorations around the province, they came through Smithers several times, and fell in love with it here.
So once again, they packed up, loaded up the dogs, and made the move to Smithers.
They arrived in Smithers exactly five days before the COVID-19 pandemic lock-down in March 2020. Although they were quite excited to go out to eat, take in the businesses and town that was their new home, instead they spent the time outdoors on their motorcycles, hiking, playing in the snow, and checking out the beauty of the Bulkley Valley.
Jill knew some people in Smithers through her dealings with the Kitimat Chamber of Commerce, so when an opportunity came up to fill in as the Chamber of Commerce Manager in Smithers for a year, Jill went through the process and got the job.
Lance was able to still work for the same surveying company but is happy for the move to the Smithers area, as he and one of the dogs they own are trained for search and rescue (SAR), and there is a very active SAR team here.
The Chamber, although experiencing an unusual year with most of the events it normally holds cancelled due to COVID, has been a wonderful experience according to Jill.
She was able to talk to and meet (through Zoom) many of the residents and business people here, and it helped her get creative with the job.
“Even though we didn’t have the events as usual, I still have been meeting so many great people, and have loved this job, it’s been a fantastic way to be introduced to a new community,” Jill said.
In a way, COVID has allowed Jill and Lance to discover Smithers and Telkwa from the “outside in,” so to speak.
Although, neither town is “open for business” in the usual way, it doesn’t seem to be slowing Jill or Lance down from enjoying living here and making new friends.
“I thought Kitimat people were friendly, but the people here are unbelievably friendly,” Jill said with a heartfelt laugh.
“We moved here during a tough time for people and for businesses, but we have been incredibly amazed at how people and the community support each other here. We see other places where they just look out for themselves, but here we have been happily surprised and so glad we are here.”
With spring coming and hopefully an easing of pandemic restrictions soon, Jill and Lance are looking forward to more adventures ahead.
Lance looks forward to getting the training time required to join Bulkley Valley SAR.
The two have bought a home, and this week Jill started a new job for the Village of Telkwa as the economic development officer.
“I am really keen about the new opportunity; it’s in the village I live in, it’s a great group of people that I am excited to work with, so it works out good.”
“I will miss the Chamber and working with Susan, but I knew it was a short-term contract from the beginning, so I was fortunate at the timing of this job coming up.”
With her new job, and the friends they have already made along the way, towns they love, outdoor scenery and activities that keep them exploring, Jill and Lance are happy to call this area home.
“We are so very fortunate,” Jill said. “It’s like we are living a dream people talk about, in a place that’s so spectacular.”