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"My step mother became a barrier between my father and me, and I don’t know why he never saw it.”

Staceyan Sterling's life started in Jamaica. With a large family, and her own mother gone too soon, her memories of growing up are a mixture of happiness and sadness, of laughter and tears. Her solace is knowing that her mother resides in her as her inner voice. “Always be kind to people Staceyan, no matter what. You never know who may need your kindness,” is what she hears over and over again. “She was and will always be my guiding star,” says Staceyan.

One among many siblings, growing up in a family where money was scarce and too many mouths to be fed, Staceyan’s father being the only earning member of the family had a lot of responsibility and very little time. Her last hope in finding confidence and an inner strength could have been her step mother but that too dwindled as she failed to build the mother-daughter relationship. “To her, the family was him, her, and her own children.”

“I never found the emotional security at home. But since finishing high school, I harboured another dream. I had wanted to become a nurse one day. But that meant money. So I asked my father to help me out with my dreams.”

“No” was all he had to say to her after her step mother guided him so.

“As a young girl, straight out of school, everything in life can be confusing. I badly needed that love, support and guidance. I felt lost without my mother at every step. I will never really know why my father didn’t help out.”

“But you know,” Staceyan continues to say, “My regret today is not so much that my father did not help me out. My regret today is that I gave up too easily.”

One can only sense the maturity in Staceyan’s voice, as her pent up hurt, resentment and anger over time gives way to forgiveness. “I know that at the time and under the circumstances, my father did what he thought was the right thing to do, and he did the best he could.”

But instead of letting fate take its course, Staceyan decided to make a difference.

“Everyone needs someone at some point of their lives. That is what I have learnt in my life.”

She could not become the nurse she had once wanted to, but today she stands as a mother for those who need her the most. As a coordinator of a program that teaches life skills to the physically and mentally handicapped youth in her community in her new home in Mississauga, Staceyan is a hero to a group she believes most vulnerable to a loss of confidence and a sense of identity, especially right after high school.

“Able bodied youth, who are both mentally and physically strong face challenges coming out of school. Confusion, decisions and the stress to create an identity for oneself all lead to immense pressure. Imagine then, what the physically and mentally challenged youth face once they complete school.” Staceyan has made it her mission to teach independence and soft skills to individuals with disabilities. “I want to be the mother and the guide for these young individuals. I know how it feels not to have support at such a crucial age.”

As part of the L.I.F.E program run by the March Of Dimes, Canada, Staceyan conducts various courses and classes for her students. She imparts vocational skills, basic first aid, involves them in various indoor and outdoor activities and gives them the confidence to think for themselves. But most of all Staceyan nurtures and fills a void.

Jamie Hutchins, one of the volunteers working at the same place as Staceyan, says, “Most people tend to spoon feed the handicapped. But they do not need that. They need to be told they can do everything and then taught how to do it. That I think is the biggest difference Staceyan has brought in the lives of the people she cares for. She teaches those who are dependent to be independent.”

Brian, one of her students speaks out excitedly, “If there is a hero amongst us, then it is Staceyan.”

One look at Staceyan, surrounded by her students, and one will see the calm in her. Whatever angst she may have had with her dad, it has been replaced by love for those in her care.

“These are my children and there’s no way I will ever stop supporting them. They do not need much. All it takes is a little push. I will never stop being the person who tells them there’s nothing you can’t do.”

“I realize now, my dad saying no shouldn’t have stopped me. I should have found another way. There is always a way. I want my kids to know that. I make sure I tell them that every day. I keep telling them, you are here for a reason. There isn’t and there will never be anyone else like you. There is a purpose to your life. You just need to find it.”

Staceyan has a proud disposition as she talks about her wards. Her reward? When they say, “Oh! I never thought about it like that.”

“I was not sure I could go to college, I never thought it would be possible, with my condition,” says one of her students strapped to his wheelchair, with words coming out after a lot of effort. Physically helping with him with all his forms, speaking to college admissions back and forth, and doing all the ground work may have got him a spot at college that he started this Fall.

But what will get him and all of Staceyan’s students through college and life is the self-confidence she has instilled in them.

As many of our HPR Heroes, Staceyan echoes some of the same sentiments.

“I know I can’t change the world on my own. But at least I know I’m doing my bit. We must always be there, with a kind word for all, for you never know who might need that act of kindness and support.”

Staceyan’s mother’s voice speaks through her till today, as she helps her students finish their walk through the path shouting “You can do it, you know you can!”

That’s all any of us can do. Our bit.

Staceyan, you are the Hope Amidst Losses Directing Alternate Roads. You are an HPR HERO in every way, having emerged from your own sense of hopelessness to giving others hope. We salute you!

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