I arrived in Canada on July 20th, 1998. The transition in the first year was very difficult because life was constantly changing in this new country. When I left the poverty of Grenada, I expected a better life in Canada. I quickly came to realize that I was now just as poor in this country too. All the great stories of what life would be like in North America hit hard and fast in the face of this new reality. I quickly came to realize that my father was struggling to make ends meet when I arrived. He could barely help himself, let alone the eight children he left back in Grenada.
Nonetheless, I was content with his meager offerings. The morning consisted of bread, cheese and a cup of tea. Lunch was optional with a snack of some sort, such as a slice of marble cake as my go-to lunch. Dinner was always rice and chicken. I didn’t eat chicken, so I ate the rice alone, but there was tuna to go along with the rice on some lucky days.
We were definitely in survival mode. Our little two-bedroom basement apartment was furnished with items my dad had picked up by the side of the road on garbage days. Upon arrival, my father handed me two garbage bags of clothes as my welcome gift. The clothes were given to him by one of his co-workers. I went from being almost naked to having a closet full of items to wear, and I didn’t have to share with anyone. I was beyond excited.
Our way of spending quality time together was going to the thrift shops looking for cheap finds. Sundays were spent together at the Salvation Army parking lot begging donors to give us their donations because we were so poor. The big black garbage bags we received were hits or misses. If it was a miss filled with items we couldn’t use, like baby clothes, we would donate them back.
Another stop we made together was the Salvation Army food bank. I continued on my own until 2012, when I lost my job. I would collect food, books, toys, clothes for myself and my daughter. I was never ashamed or too proud to accept help when I needed it.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever envisioned a life where I would be in a position of being the one giving back. My good fortune has allowed me to donate money and shipping supplies to the local food bank for their annual food drive.
During Colt Paper’s Christmas wish toy drive, we were able to collect and donate 900 toys for the children at St. David’s in Grenada, my former community. A Go Fund Me Page was established to help raise money to purchase a photocopier for St. George’s Junior Anglican School.
I believe in paying it forward. We should all carry the attitude of gratitude with us daily. We should be thankful for everything life has to offer, even the hardships. Out of these hardships came the ability to have compassion while giving back to the less fortunate.