Saturday, May 9, 2015

ANJU

FOURTH IN A SERIES from *Working For Change.

Anju had never had a bank account, bought groceries or drove a car. She was coddled and she was bright. Having earned a PhD in Developmental Biology, she was smart academically, but knew little of the world.

To leave her home in India and come to Toronto was a bold move. She even surprised herself with her decision, “You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice.”

As a newcomer Anju she ended up attending *Working For Change’s, Women Speak Out programme. While there, she learned to see life’s experiences as assets as well as personal branding and how to sell herself in job interviews.

Together in a small cozy apartment Anju and her daughter are settled and happy. 

Great news came from one of her recent job interviews. She was accepted by the Ontario Government as a disability adjudicator. “It had always been my dream to work for the government.”

ANJU FUN FACT: She is one to walk up to strangers on the street who have caught her eye and tell them what it was that she admired about them. “It is easy for me to do, I feel life is too short, we need to express good things, not bad things” she says gesturing – bangles jingling.


*Working For Change provides education and employment opportunities for people disadvantaged by mental illness, addiction issues, poverty, homelessness, violence and newcomer/immigration challenges. For more formation, please visit www.workingforchange.ca    With files from Leslie Scrivener

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Thursday, May 7, 2015

STACEY

SECOND IN A SERIES from *Working For Change.

In it’s day, Regent Park was a model community. This is where Stacey Bowen grew up. Her first floor bedroom never had bars on the windows. It was a good and safe community then. Time passed, things changed, and so did she.

Stacey, an irrepressible firecracker, is filled with confidence and a love for creative writing. She is a different person now. Crack used to be Stacey’s refuge. Looking back, she just shakes here head at who she was.

The turning point came when one of her young daughters asked, “What’s wrong with you?”. Stacey thought she had hidden her demons. “There is this moment of clarity when you really see what your life is,” she says of her 18-year habit. “I was trying to protect my children and it turned out I was the enemy. I broke down”.

Stacey attended Voices From The Street, a programme run out of Working For Change, a Toronto non-profit organization. It changed her life. “It made me look at myself as a whole being. You have to be honest or you will fail.”

She has been clean a long time now. She has worked to break the cycle of a family who has for generations been on social assistance. She earned a diploma in counselling from George Brown College and she has lectured at drug treatments centres. She also works as an empowerment councillor for the CAMH (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health). Stacey has also returned to her love of writing where she is enjoying telling stories and using her own experiences to help others.

STACY FUN FACT: Despite the challenges in her life, Stacey has an infectious laugh and overflows with optimism. 

*Working For Change provides education and employment opportunities for people disadvantaged by mental illness, addiction issues, poverty, homelessness, violence and newcomer/immigration challenges. For more formation, please visit www.workingforchange.ca    With files from Leslie Scrivener

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

LUBNA

FIRST IN A SERIES from *Working For Change.


It was dark, cold and overcast. The brightest thing around was her cheerful pink hijab, a stark contrast to our surroundings. The colour is a reflection of the woman within.

Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Lubna Khalid arrived in Canada in 2000 as a young bride in an arranged marriage. She was a stay-at-home mom assuming traditional roles, “In our culture men provide and women say home. That’s all our women were doing despite being well educated”.

With an agile mind and ambition, Lubna began to help other newcomers from South Asia. She organized weekly women’s groups to share talents and understand their new lives in Canada.

Lubna has a masters degree in Psychology, it was not long until she set her mind to empowering other women through speaking and consulting. 

Lubna was a powerful voice at a symposium at the Harvard Business School, illuminating the restricted lives of Muslim women who marry into traditional homes. She has also spoken on women’s empowerment at conferences in Peru and Turkey.

Lubna enrolled in the programme, Women Speak Out, run by Toronto’s not for profit success story, Working For Change. She is now the coordinator of Women Speak Out.


LUBNA FUN FACT: She loves to play video games with her three children “Candy Crush is of course my favourite” she says laughing.

*Working For Change provides education and employment opportunities for people disadvantaged by mental illness, addiction issues, poverty, homelessness, violence and newcomer/immigration challenges. For more formation, please visit www.workingforchange.ca 

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

PEGGY

Bala Falls is a sensitive subject for the folks of Muskoka in Ontario. A hydro plant is proposed for the falls and is causing tension in the area and with the provincial government. Organized committees and protests are ongoing to lobby against the project.

Enter 56 year old Peggy Peterson. She is passionate about the area, the heritage and the water. Peggy lives north of the falls but for the last 8 months has been spending most of her time camping out across the street in a tent and a van as her way of protesting. Peggy goes it alone, watching over the area while keeping tabs on the comings and goings at the proposed site.

PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN


Monday, May 4, 2015

PHILLIP

With his new and updated website coming online in less than 16 hours, Phillip Saunders is excited to finish rebuilding the site and show his latest work. Do check it out a little later, www.phillipsaunders.com

Born in 1990 in Jamaica, Phillip came to Canada and Toronto in 2010. He is a full-time portrait artist who works freelance and will also take commissions. 

He is seen here creating some wall art. At this stage he is blocking in colour, form and depth. Eventually, when finished it will brightly loom, lifelike out of this darkened alley. His wall art is big bold and colourful with a sense of playful whimsy. Though seen here with a large wall surface, he paints mostly on canvas.

PHILLIP FUN FACT: Phillip is passionate about philosophy. He is fascinated by, and reads everything he can about the philosophers of ancient Egypt, Greece and Babylonia. 


PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN

Sunday, May 3, 2015

DHAYA & DHAYA

Born and raised in Durban, South Africa, Dhaya Naidu and Dhaya Naidu (yes, they both have the same names!) met through friends in their late teens. It was pretty much love at first sight. Dhaya still is misty-eyed as he glances over to his wife recalling all the parties and dances.

Married in 1978, they then with two children in tow, moved to Canada in 1992 to give their children a future with greater possibilities and hope. South Africa was still feeling the affects of apartheid and violence was everywhere.

They moved to Canada during a recession and got work doing anything they could find. Dhaya was an electrician in South Africa but found work at a computer recycling plant for $8/hr. (Mrs) Dhaya found work as a receptionist at a college. They worked hard, bought a house, and as time passed (Mrs) Dhaya became Assistant Vice President and manager of finance and operations for Sotheby's Canada. She is now an administrator at CSBI Group, a construction and engineering company. (Mr) Dhaya began working at the Art Gallery of Ontario, where he works today.

Away from work, they share a love of travel and cruising as a way to enjoy down-time and see the world. They also continue to dance!

DHAYA & DHAYA FUN FACT: They both were thrilled to have met Nelson Mandela. (Mr) Dhaya saw him in a hotel and went up to introduce themselves. "He was a very nice man", (Mr) Dhaya recalls.

PHOTO:SPENCER WYNN