Like most immigrants, Michelle Sutherland made the decision 12 years ago to come to Canada to seek a higher standard of living for her family.
Two years into a marriage and with a two-year-old son who accompanied her from Jamaica, the arrangement was that her spouse would join the rest of the family in their new environment. Unfortunately, the script did not go as planned.
The niece with whom Sutherland and her son were staying moved to the United States, forcing the newcomer – who had no other family members in Canada – to seek her own accommodation without a job. To compound matters, Sutherland’s husband chose to remain in Jamaica and her mother passed away.
“That perhaps was the darkest moment in my life,” recalled Sutherland. “Adapting to a new country with a young child and no family members around to support you was tough. But when the reality sunk in that my best friend and the person I really loved wasn’t coming and the marriage was about to disintegrate, that was a hard pill to swallow. That was an extremely traumatic period in life.”
Despite the challenges, Sutherland refused to be overcome by self-pity. She was ambitious and had the will to succeed.
A graduate of Dinthill Technical High School and the University of Technology where she completed her undergraduate degree in computer science and management studies, Sutherland worked for seven years as a computer programmer/analyst in the public and private sector before migrating.
In Canada, she found work as a customer service representative with several companies and as a computer programmer/analyst with World Vision Canada before being laid off. It was at that point she decided to return to the classroom. That plan was however put on hold when she became pregnant with her second child.
After briefly contemplating law school, Sutherland chose teaching as a career option and in 2009 enrolled at the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. She graduated with her Bachelor of Education degree in the summer of 2010 and her Masters last June.
While going to school and caring for her children, Sutherland penned a book – Set Free to Soar – that’s filled with poems and reflective anecdotes of her lived experiences. It was released last month.
“I just wanted to share with people that there is hope for them even though they may be in situations that appear to be hopeless,” said Sutherland who is volunteering at Calderstone Middle School while pursuing her doctorate in Education. “This book is meant to uplift and inspire.”
Dr. Wane Njoki, a professor in the Department of Sociology & Equity Studies in Education at OISE, said the book is a must read for anyone searching for answers beyond the material.
“For those of us whose lived experiences have been grounded in spiritual ontology, prayer has never ceased to be useful in our individual and collective well-being,” said Njoki. “Sutherland’s work reminds us of the relevance of balancing the material with the spiritual as humanity searches for answers to complex and sophisticated questions facing us in the 21st century.”
By RON FANFAIR