Hannah Elkington, a graduate from Durham College’s (DC) Police Foundations Program, spoke to DC students at Alumni in the Pit about her journey to becoming a York Regional Police officer.
With a job based on security, Elkington told the students about an ironic experience she had in South Africa.
On an expedition, as she made her way across the Kalahari Desert, Elkington reached the border between civilization and the wild.
Running along a fence for a while, Elkington’s curiosity got the best of her.
‘What is the fence for?’ she asked her tour guide.
It is a border between the lions, the elephants and the people, he said, assuring her that they were safe on this side of the fence.
After three days of running along the fence, the barrier ended. Instead of enclosing the animals, it was merely a border between the humans and the wildlife.
Concerned, Elkington asked the tour guide about the animals. Elkington laughed as she reminisced at his response “No, no, no,” he said to her. “They know that they’re not supposed to come on to this side of the fence.”
The not so secure fence experience was just one of the many stories she shared with Durham College students on Feb.2.
Following her graduation in 2014, Elkington was immediately hired on by the York Regional Police and went to Ontario Police College.
Since then Elkington has been on independent patrol for about a year.
When she is not working, Elkington travels to Botswana and Peru to promote education and help out in developing countries.
Her continuous efforts to give back stem from her roots.
Born in South Africa, Elkington’s family made the move to Canada in 1998 following apartheid. The apartheid was based off of white supremacy.
“It was one of the most extreme forms of racial segregation that happened in world history,” Elkington explained, associating it with the Holocaust and other genocides. “So when that ended and different leadership took place in South Africa the country became very violent and almost at civil war with itself.”
After moving, Elkington’s parents made a vow to themselves and their children to not let them forget where they came from, and the struggle they had left behind them.
Her parents’ goal was to break from the comfort zone of North America where safety, food, water and technology came easy and paint a picture of what the world really looks like.
“We grow up in North America in this very sheltered world and we can’t really see past the screens of our iPhones and our TVs…everything is flat for us,” Elkington said referencing Facebook, televisions, and cellphones. “That’s very comfortable… it’s not comfortable to go somewhere and look at a child who’s starving and realize that as somebody who lives in North America, my standard of life contributes to that poverty.” This is a concept she found hard to grasp while growing up.
Elkington said her parents showed her all aspects of the world, the good and bad, but they also offered her avenues to take, to help alleviate some of the suffering in other countries.
Elkington volunteered at a South Africa AIDS orphanage after she graduated high school for three months and said she learned a lot.
“Those kids really taught me a lot of things about being happy in the midst of great struggle, and also finding joy in some of the saddest places,” she said.
While there, she met a 13-year-old who sparked a change of mind.
The young girl was prostituted out by her mother for drugs, and developed HIV/AIDS. Elkington felt bothered by her story.
“You look at that that young person and you go ‘what does the future hold for them?’,” she said.
Feeling discouraged, someone offered her advice – if you only reach one person in your whole life, then it has been worth it.
Elkington adopted this idea and continues to this day to integrate it into her policing duties.
“Having that mindset, I think you see people for what they are,” Elkington said. “If right now I can only make a difference in this one person, I can’t end poverty in Africa, I can’t change global warming… but if I just focus on the one person that’s right in front of me that I can help right now, I’m probably going to make a bigger difference.”
Through advice, tips, and a glimpse of a day in the workforce, the Alumni in the Pit event both celebrates DC grads and inspires current DC students.