Carmen Barnwell was born and raised in Jamaica and started her career there as an accountant. When she was 22, she visited Canada, where she met her husband. This led to her permanent move to the country.
“Canada was always somewhere I dreamed of living. If I was going to leave Jamaica, Canada was the only other option for me.”
One of the main motivations for Carmen’s move to Canada was her own upbringing. She grew up poor and did without a lot of the time. It was important that Carmen’s future children would have a better growing-up experience than she did.
Upon her arrival, Carmen worked as a cashier at a hotel. After that, she went back into accounting, but after struggling to find an employer she wanted to stay with, she realized that she no longer wanted to be an accountant.
“As I entered my 40s, I decided to get into healthcare. I wanted a job where I could make a difference and help others. Making people happy and healthy was something I knew would be very rewarding for me.”
Over 20 years later, Carmen continues to work in the healthcare sector as a personal support worker for the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) in Peel Region. She also serves as the chief steward in her workplace.
As a proud Black Canadian, Carmen looks forward to Black History Month each year and the celebrations that come along with it.
“It’s very important that we continue to celebrate Black History Month each year because so many people, especially the younger generations, are not as educated about their history as they should be. Black people invented so many things that we use today, and most people have no idea about that. We need to take pride in our ancestors and show off their achievements.”
While it’s important to Carmen to educate others about Black history, it’s also important for her to bring some of her own history to the 21st century.
“When I was young, I always felt like a princess born into royalty. I didn’t have a lot growing up, but whatever I did have, I displayed it; it was part of who I am and my culture. I still do this today with my clothes and jewelry. I am proud to bring my culture to Canada and show it off.”