On the occasion of their 30 Anniversary of becoming “Sisters”, Janet and Anisha went to see Clara’s Dream at the Jubilee. Anisha felt like she was 9 years old again, experiencing the first thrill of live theatre with The Nutcracker Suite and her new Big Sister.
At 7, Anisha and her three younger brothers experienced the heartbreak of divorce. In a one bedroom apartment, she became a substitute mother in the family dynamic, fiercely loyal and protective of her charges. But she was absent the support a young girl needed and when the family’s social workers suggested Dad enrol her in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, he agreed. When she was 9, she met Janet, and both of their lives changed forever.
As a young woman without any children of her own, Janet knew she had room in her life and love to give. Big Brothers Big Sisters seemed an excellent opportunity to get involved with kids. Janet remembers a young Anisha dressing in her best dress whenever they got together. At first shy and reserved, Anisha quickly began coming out of her shell as the pair joined a reading club, went to the ballet or shared secrets at their favourite spot, The Old Spaghetti Factory.
Life changed again for Anisha when she turned 12 and the decision was made she would go live with her Mother and Step-Dad. In a household with domestic violence, abuse and poverty where the idea of hope of a brighter future seemed impossible, Anisha found comfort in her friendship with Janet and in the coping tools she had begun to learn.
At the age of 16, Anisha got the courage to report her situation to a school counsellor and to seek support. With Janet by her side, she faced her circumstances and began working toward her own goals.
Although she never finished high school, Anisha knew education would be important if she wanted the things Janet showed her were possible in her life. The desire for stability, a family of her own and personal success took her to the U.K. where she worked hard and received an undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science. Time passed and distance kept Anisha and Janet from seeing each other often but they kept in touch and when they did, the connection remained.
When Anisha moved back to Canada and began her family in Edmonton, Janet was by her side as her matron of honour at her wedding. And when Anisha’s first child came along, Janet joined in with Anisha’s husband, brothers and Mom through ultrasounds, Lamaze and labour.
Now a successful executive in the medical industry, Anisha and her husband are happily raising their 2 year old son with Auntie Janet an ever present and treasured part of their family. Both women describe their friendship as true sisterhood and their rapport and respect for each other is evident.
In sharing their story, Janet and Anisha are spreading a message of hope and resiliency in the face of overwhelming obstacles. When a child has a positive caring adult role model and friend, the results can be life-changing. With the support of our community, thousands of children have the opportunity to experience something many of us take for granted.
The day after their 30th Anniversary, Anisha wrote the following.
“Thirty years ago I was a heartbroken little girl, my parents had divorced and I was living with my father and three brothers. God decided to bring me an amazing woman into my life. She has guided me, shown me how amazing life can be, through her love, guidance and wisdom. She has given me strength and hope and has given me the most wonderful childhood memories when I lived in what felt like a dark cloud. You have been the rainbow in my life and I thank you with all my heart. I love u my big sister and can’t wait to make 30 more years of memories together.”