Anaejah attended her first CityKidz Saturday program mere days after moving to Hamilton from Jamaica. Her step-mother, Ruth, whose own children, now grown, had attended CityKidz, got Anaejah and her sister, Kimone, registered before they even got on the plane.
Coming to Canada was an adjustment for Anaejah and her sister. They had left their family, friends and community behind. Arriving to the dreary slush of March did not make the best first impression on the beach-loving girls from the Caribbean.
CityKidz Saturday, on the other hand, was a warm and welcoming opportunity to get out, meet new people and start to rebuild their sense of belonging.
Things were starting to look up for the girls. Until they didn’t. Less than a year after their arrival in Hamilton, their father passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. The pandemic and its isolation hit shortly thereafter. It was not an easy time.
When 2022 finally rolled around and we were ready to carefully resume our in-person youth mentorship program, Anaejah was all too eager to get out and join in. CityYouth was an opportunity for her to meet new people her own age and connect with adults who were truly invested in her wellbeing and success.
Around the time that CityYouth relaunched, our Home Visit team for Anaejah’s neighbourhood found themselves in desperate need of a helping and well-organized hand to help with the administrative side of the visits. Anaejah graciously offered her Friday afternoons to help out.
From the start, she was an invaluable addition to the team. She kept flyers and forms organized and ready to hand out as needed. She had a phenomenal memory for details from previous visits: where kids went to celebrate their birthdays, what families needed new forms, which unit a mother said we should visit in order to register her friend’s kids, what time the bus would be coming on Saturday. She wasn’t responsible for knowing any of these details, but she took on the responsibility nonetheless.
But that’s Anaejah: attentive and reliable. She’s also smart, incredibly hard-working and disarmingly earnest.
“I’m a bit disappointed,” Anaejah once responded when asked about a recent math test.
Based on her glum answer, you might assume that perhaps she had barely scraped a pass.
“I got 98%,” she continued, in a tone more fit for confession than announcing a near-perfect score. “I was so close but I got a question wrong that I shouldn’t have.”
This isn’t false modesty. Anaejah works hard and is proud of the high marks she consistently earns. But she can be similarly hard on herself when she makes mistakes. She has big ambitions that leave little room for even small missteps.
“I want to be a surgeon,” says Anaejah, “or work in medical research. I want to help people.”
It’s a noble pursuit, and Anaejah isn’t naïve to think she can do it alone. She’s quick to express her gratitude to those around her and, above all, to God, for her gifts and the opportunities ahead of her. She sees a career in healthcare as an opportunity to use her time, energy and talents in service of her faith.
“When I’m in the hospital,” she says, imagining her future, “I want to embrace God, I want to be His hands.”
Wherever Anaejah puts her hands and her heart, we know that she will be paying forward the faith, hope and love that has been poured into her own life and into the lives of others. We know she will be transforming lives as God has transformed her own.