I was born in Jamaica. Growing up there, I felt free – no worries in the world. I loved to play and was really good at sports. My father had 11 children, all with different mothers. Because of this, my mother raised me and my sister mostly on her own and worked extremely hard to care for us. Because she worked so much, my sister and I were on our own a lot, and found ourselves getting into some trouble. Eventually, we were sent off to live with our paternal grandmother. That was when everything changed for me.
My sister and I always had each other, but we never shared our struggles with one another – we didn’t want to burden the other. In my teens, I started dealing with abuse from men, men I trusted. Life got rough, and I felt I had no one to lean on, no where to turn. I didn’t know who to ask for help. I found I would get in trouble in order to escape home life. An opportunity came up to move to the United States, and luckily I was able to go. When I turned 18, I became pregnant. My mother had moved to Canada and invited me to come up to be with her. It felt like a turning point for me and my future baby.
I finally felt like myself, and knew I had this greater purpose and responsibility now that I was going to be a mother. Unfortunately, the baby didn’t make it. I took another turn – feeling hopeless and like I couldn’t finish anything. Now in Canada, in a new city, I met a man. I was very much a damsel in distress, and his dominance felt like something I needed, structure almost. At 19, I found myself pregnant again in a dangerous situation. I had a baby girl. And then a few years later, another baby girl. The situation was volatile, but we managed.
After a very drastic change in behavior and an increase in violence, it was finally enough and I left my abusive partner for a better life for my girls. We were ablet to get support from emergency shelters, and then finally landed at the Brenda Strafford Centre. It is truly amazing how much my life turned around once we were safe. I have been at the Centre for almost two and half years now, and my life is completely different…and so much better then I could have imagined. I started working a while ago, and was quickly moved up to Team Lead at a retail chain. With that boost in confidence, I found myself working harder and striving for even bigger things. The Centre aided in my healing, through one on one counselling, sharing meals, feeling community and having an open door whenever I just need someone to listen.
As I approach my time to leave the Centre, I wanted to share something. This spring on my deck, a little bird has decided to nest. I can see she has laid her eggs now. It has been such a wonderful experience watching this take place over these last few months. It’s like a refresh after winter, a new start, all these opportunities presenting themselves for these little birds, and it sort of feelings like what is happening for me. As I go to leave here, I feel much more confident going out, knowing what the options are, how can I care for myself and kids. The values I want to teach my girls, and advice I have for other women would be to work hard, never ignore your gut feelings and respect every living thing. I am so proud with who I have become, that I am moving on to a real home, one my kids can feel like is theirs and to have a fresh slate.