"Paying my dues to elderly and vulnerable folks"

SEIU Healthcare member Handel Dockery grew up in Jamaica in a family of 10 children and no father. He is now a 65-year-old Canadian, a father with 7 kids of his own, and working as a community care personal support worker (PSW) in Burlington. He is a strong man, but like all of us, he had some help getting to where he is today.

Handel Dockery

"I’ve done many things in my life. I decided I would become a PSW when I really understood what the work was. The people we were serving were working their jobs and paying their taxes and helped me when I was in need. I feel very happy about what I’m doing because I’m paying my dues to society that those older and vulnerable folks deserve to have from me."

The encouragement of friends recently inspired Handel to write a book about his life.

He has seen many things in between his childhood in Jamaica and the life he lives in Ontario now – working without papers as a farmer in the United States, coming to Canada on the run, starting a construction business, losing much of its possessions in a fire. But he persevered with writing his life’s story in Handel: My Journey to a Better Life. To find out more details, you’ll have to order it, or go see Handel in person at his first book signing at the Hamilton Indigo store on Saturday, September 5, 12-5 p.m.

As a young immigrant to Canada in the 1970s, Handel says he was given many opportunities to further his education in the form of government grants and loans. He has been forever grateful for that assistance and to the people who paid into the social safety net that benefited him at the time.

He's been working as a PSW for 20 years. The downside of the job, Handel says, is that PSWs don't get paid enough for what they do.

But here's the upside:

"There’s a great satisfaction in knowing that you are helping those that are vulnerable and really need your service."

The helpfulness genes seem to run in the family. One of his kids is a teacher, another a social worker. Handel says of them all: "I’m very proud of them." You might say this story has a happy ending.

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