Finishing Strong

Joy Ebenezer-Alawode


Due to a change in financial circumstances, Joy Ebenezer-Alawode must adjust her educational dreams. The transition from Calgary to Nigeria, and the job hunt, is difficult but maybe she can find inspiration in an 8-year-old pair of flat black shoes.


I had a beautiful childhood in Nigeria. I had everything I wanted until, shortly after I finished secondary school, my dad had to resign from Shell to take care of his ill mother. This meant that my mom’s teaching salary became our only source of income. When I finished college, I wanted to get a degree in aviation, but I had to work to pay my tuition and support my parents.  I went to work from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then to school to study from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. My dad sold three of his cars, and my mother sold some of her expensive wrappers (wrappers are lovely fabrics decorated with beads and crystals), so they could help my siblings and me.

When I graduated from college at 18, my mom bought me a pair of flat black shoes with gem-like stones. I cherished them. I wore them in all seasons, although I realized that the wet season was spoiling them as the soles weren’t thick enough to withstand the rainfall. 

I wore them for eight years, including when I graduated with a 4-year diploma in Electrical Electronics Engineering. After graduation, I was still living at home, and I went on a job search every day in those shoes.  One day, I realized that the sole of one was in rough shape, and I decided to fix it. I locked myself up in my bedroom and sobbed as I mended it with black thread, a needle and glue. My mom saw me through my window and felt bad. She insisted that I didn’t need to mend them that she could still afford to get me some new shoes. But I didn’t want that because I had four siblings in school then, and they also needed support. 

My job search led to a three-month federal skills training program.  I was one of the best students and got a job at an IT company.  I could afford to buy shoes and to help my family. But I still looked for better opportunities outside Nigeria. In 2013, my husband and I decided to emigrate to Canada. 

On July 13, 2014, while my Canadian documents were in progress, my dad had a stroke and lost his speech. None of us heard his voice again. Most of our income went to his treatment. As I prepared to leave for Canada, my dad had been bedridden for a year, and I told him I’d get a good job and bring him over for medical treatment. On August 3, 2015, I landed in Canada with my family and started a job search. With my husband’s 12 years of service as an instrumentation engineer and my ten years of accumulated career experience, we thought fitting into the Canadian economy would be easy.  We go through lots of interviews, apply for lots of jobs, and edit our resumes constantly, but we haven’t found employment yet.

I couldn’t help my dad as I wished. He died in Nigeria only seven weeks after I arrived. My mother now has some health challenges, and getting a good job would help me take care of her expenses. Being unemployed is frustrating.

However, I am independent and resourceful. I think back on the fortitude it took to mend my shoes in Nigeria and carry on until I got a job. Now I have good shoes, but I am stitching together a successful life in Canada. I know I will find a job and, once again, I will “finish strong.”

JOY EBENEZER-ALAWODE landed in Calgary from Nigeria in August 2015 with her husband and 17-month-old son. She had a beautiful baby girl in May 2016 before graduating from Robertson College.

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