|PHOTO: SPENCER WYNN|
Monday, May 11, 2015
SIXTH IN A SERIES from *Working For Change.
At the age of four, Dawnmarie arrived in Canada from Jamaica. As a child she retreated into the fantastic worlds of Narnia and Nancy Drew. After reading through everything, she turned her voracious literary appetite to the encyclopedia or the Bible. These were safe places for young Dawnmarie.
At 20, Dawnmarie held a job at a call centre in Toronto, had a car and was making decent money – she was blossoming. But at the same time, her personal life began to unravel. Men in her life turned aggressive and took advantage of her. It was difficult to handle – defending herself only made matters worse and her son was taken away as well as the only bit of freedom she had to herself – her car.
The Children’s Aid Society and social assistance seemed to be at odds with each other and made things worse. “They need to work together to ensure a person’s success in their community,” she says. “It’s not that we are not intelligent or not trying enough get ahead.”
Enrolled in *Working For Change’s programme, Voices From The Street, she found the encouragement she never had when she was young. “With education we learned that these were systemic problems, not just our own lives, and we saw that, we became empowered to make change.”
Dawnmarie gave speeches at shelters, focusing on violence, and to policy makers – about the catch-22 she had to endure in regaining custody. Dawnmarie’s work has been one of stability and growth. She is now the coordinator of Voices From The Street.
“I am happy now. My children are educated and moving forward. I have a career that I love and can be proud of and where I can use my past to support others on their journey.” Her daughter is in her last year of university and her son is about to start college. “I feel I’ve made it.”
DAWN MARIE FUN FACT: She loves music. She belts it out load while driving to and from work. She’s a one-woman party!
*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.