The room fell silent and you could hear a pin drop as four brave women summoned the strength and courage to recall the physical, verbal and emotional abuse they took from their male partners before being rescued by Dr. Roz’s Healing Place, which provides emergency housing, support services and referrals to assaulted women and children.
Still scarred by the cruelty inflicted by their tormentors, the women fought back tears as they recounted their pain and sense of hopelessness and helplessness.
A few are still living in fear because their oppressors are aggressively pursuing them. But Guinea-born Salay Kabba, who recently graduated from Centennial College with a Social Work diploma, is relieved that her husband paid for his indiscretions with deportation to Sierra Leone.
The survivors were recognized with Women of Triumph Awards at the fourth annual Dr. Roz’s Healing Place fundraiser last Friday night in Scarborough.
“I will never forget the first night I slept at the Healing Place,” said one of the recipients. “That was the first night in years that I enjoyed such a good night’s sleep. I swear I slept with a smile on my face.”
Eight years ago, Dr. Roz Roach launched Dr. Roz’s Healing Place, which gives women, children and youth emerging from abusive relationships access to a safe living environment conducive to healing and wellness.
“On this special night, we are celebrating women who have overcome adversity and have moved forward to lead successful lives of independence, strength and courage,” said Roach, who grew up in Montreal. “These precious gems have reinvented themselves by overcoming violence they have experienced in their lives.”
Roach raised nearly $4 million to transform the Emily Stowe Shelter for Women to Dr. Roz’s Healing Place. Stowe, mother of Scarborough Southwest Member of Parliament, Dan Harris, was a client of the shelter which was established in 1993.
“My mother experienced abuse by her partners and she was in that shelter on two occasions,” he said. “It’s very hard when you work to help people on a daily basis and you are not able to help some of the people that mean the most to you. That’s challenging and difficult.”
The inaugural Jack Layton Award for Community Service for the Advancement of Women was presented to dedicated health care practitioner, Shirley Drayton. Born in Barbados, she spent five years in England studying nursing before coming to Canada in 1971.
Drayton has worked at Providence Healthcare in Scarborough and Toronto Western, Toronto General, Mount Sinai and Sunnybrook hospitals. She’s the patient care manager at Sunnybrook with responsibility for the nephrology unit, kidney clinic, home dialysis program and vascular access.
Planning to become a teacher, Drayton switched careers in her last year in high school.
“One morning, I heard on the radio that there was this lady by the name of June Griffith who was coming to Barbados from England to recruit nurses,” said Drayton. “At that moment, I thought of the planes flying over our home and the fact that I had always wanted to be in one of them. I grasped the opportunity and I have had no regrets. Caring for people and helping them to be the best they can is one of the most rewarding pursuits.”
“So You Think You Can Dance” judge and entrepreneur, Trey Armstrong, was the guest speaker at the event, which was attended by several hundred people, including provincial Minister of Municipal Affairs, Housing & Aboriginal Affairs, Kathleen Wynne; and Member of Parliament Olivia Chow, the widow of former New Democratic Party and Opposition leader Jack Layton, who died last year.
Roach is currently raising funds to build the Changa House that will provide essential life-changing programs for children and youth.