Our Moms…the original Women of Distinction

In celebration of Mother’s Day, some of our staff talk about why their mom is the original Woman of Distinction.

No gender roles for Ivy

Ivy and Melanie

As I write this my 82 year old mom is somewhere on the Asian continent travelling the historic trade route known as the Silk Road. Sometimes I get to travel with her. On a harbour tour in Kerala, India, she began to reminisce about growing up in Georgetown Guyana. Her father was very clear that education was for the boys because they would carry his name. She sat on the seawall dreaming of being more and doing more and travelling to faraway places despite the fact that those closest to her said that this was not for women.

Ivy did what she could. She was a renowned cook, baker, and roti-maker. She could decorate cakes, sew dresses, take shorthand, and she could type. Wow could she type! She won a national competition. She parlayed this into an administrative position for the Chief Justice of Guyana. She was just 18 at the time. This gave way to more jobs until she took all of that knowledge and along with my father, opened a highly successful secretarial school. To this day, her former students greet her fondly. And yet, despite tremendous economic success, she urged my father to give it up and to come to Canada because their children would be able to do more and be more here.

At 42 she came to Canada and began again. She started as a temp, typing again. Eventually she gained a foothold in a reinsurance firm as a secretary. She took her business degree at night, she rolled roti in my father’s restaurant, she found time to cook every night after work.

Perhaps it was honed by the limits placed on her by the gender roles of her childhood but Ivy has a way of encouraging people to be their best. When she retired from that company where she began as a secretary, she did so as Executive Vice-President.

I don’t have room to tell you about my mom’s next careers as publisher, politician or author…. I can tell you she’s travelled to every continent and she’s writing a book about her life. For her abject refusal to conform to gender roles, my mom is a Woman of Distinction.

Melanie Persaud is the former Part-time Senior Communications Officer.

My Mom Rosamund–A woman of distinction

Rosamund and Aziza

At the age of 21, my mother left the ‘one room shack’ that she shared with her mother and siblings for the opportunity for a better life in Canada. Arriving in 1979 to what she still refers to today as one of the coldest winters ever, my mother arrived in Montreal from the tiny Caribbean island of Dominica. She later settled in Toronto and put her plan into action.

With life throwing its curve balls, by the age of 28 my mother was a single mother with two babies pursuing a Bachelor of Arts Degree at University of Toronto through the OISE. In my eyes, completing her degree and raising two children on her own has always remained one her many accomplishments that I have truly admired; it speaks to her strong will and drive to provide a life for her children that she did could not have. She also went on to becoming a prolific author for Women’s Press during the eighties and nineties.

My mother is my Woman of Distinction because I talk to her about six times a day. She is someone who is truly not only my mother but also my friend. She is strong, inspiring, knowledgeable, and extremely funny. I can talk to her about anything. Even with a great support system and extended family, all credit goes to my mother for raising me into the strong, independent young woman I am today.

Aziza Elwin is the Assistant to the Director of Housing, Support and Development.

How to be a good person

Little Vanessa and her Mom

It was not until I reached adulthood that I truly realized what an amazing person my mother is. As I write this piece, I am overcome with emotion about how fortunate I feel to have been blessed with such a wonderful woman in my life to guide me from childhood to adulthood. While the list of my mother’s endearing qualities is endless, here are a few reasons why she is deserving of the title “Woman of Distinction”:

My mother is one of the most positive people I know. Throughout her life, the glass has remained “half full,” regardless of the pain and hardships life has thrown her way. After losing a loved one at an early age, she learned a big life lesson which she imparted to me – do not take life for granted. Mom, thank you for teaching me to live each day to the fullest and to not take life (or myself for that matter) too seriously. I’ve learned that hope goes a long way and that there’s a silver lining to every experience if you’re open to discovering it.

My mother is one of the most selfless people I know. She has sacrificed so much for her children, at times at the expense of her own happiness. Mom, your sacrifices have not gone unnoticed. I know I could never repay you for everything you’ve done for me, but I will certainly do my best to try. Thank you for teaching me that doing the right thing is not always the easiest path to take but it’s the most fulfilling in the end. Also, thank you for teaching me that helping a fellow human and giving back to the community is what truly gives life meaning.

My mother has bestowed upon me a most priceless gift: unconditional love. No matter what choices her children have made in life, she has always been there to offer a warm hug and support. Her motto of “do what makes you happy, I’ll always love you” has been a source of comfort and strength throughout my life. Mom, thank you for your unconditional love. You’ve raised two children who live by the Golden Rule and treat everyone with dignity and respect. You taught me that how you treat those around you is the true measure of a person’s worth.

Vanessa Flores is the Annual Giving Officer.

Ahead of her time

When I was a little girl, I remember thinking my mom wasn’t anything like the moms I saw in ads or TV shows. My mom didn’t think about a new washing machine or how to make our glasses sparkle. My mom was far more likely to be surrounded by books and papers than pots and pans. My mom didn’t drive us to a soccer game; she drove us to a pond to collect water, which we then examined under the microscope she bought so we could identify minute creatures by referring to a text book she propped up on the toaster.

My mom had a career, despite being told by the neighbours that she was ‘demeaning’ that hard working husband of hers. As an acute observer of people, her career as a special education teacher for disabled children was a very good fit. She devised outside-of-the-box techniques for teaching that meant every child under her wing ended up following my mom into her magical world of learning.

She’s taught me the best lessons I’ve learned. She taught me to believe that a girl deserves to be taken seriously. She taught me the freedom of financial independence and my right to self determination. She taught me that a woman doesn’t need to shave, pluck or curl, that we’re fine just the way we are. And she taught me to take risks – but only if it meant I’d learn something from it! That’s why my mom is a Woman of Distinction.

Lise Schofield is the Manager of Marketing and Communications.

One Comment

  1. Rosamund
    10 years ago

    Not every parent get to hear what their children think of them and their parenting. Its a career that has no evaluation, no raise in pay status, perks or prestige. It touches me to read the blogs of these three young women. Thank you. Bringing another life in the form of a girl to a woman, watching that life take shape and touch other people, sometimes recreating itself is magical, sometimes surreal. I feel very blessed to have had my daughter , I pray for her success and happiness and hope she will create memories that one day she can look back and be entertained and feel fulfilled by her life journey. Too all all the young women, choose good friends, have fun, love and if possible travel.