Joyce Valentine works in the dietary department at Gibson Long-Term Care in Toronto, where she also serves as a steward.
Joyce was born in Jamaica, where she lived until her 20s. While she is proud of her Jamaican culture, she has mixed memories of her time there.
“Growing up, I was part of the lower class; my family was poor. After my first year of high school, I moved to live with my aunt, where I was treated like Cinderella at the beginning of her fairy tale. I’d go to school, come home and work around the house. It wasn’t the most exciting time for me.”
Upon moving to Canada, Joyce’s passion for helping others, especially seniors, led her to work in healthcare. She also owns a restaurant in Toronto, which keeps her very busy seven days a week.
Joyce’s union involvement started a little over a year ago when she was encouraged to get more involved by her co-worker and fellow activist, Sophia Bent. Since then, she’s attended the Leadership Academy, participated in Purple Day and attended the International Women’s Day March earlier this month. She gives Sophia a lot of credit for her growth.
“When I came to work at Gibson Long-Term Care, Sophia, who is the chief steward there, really pushed me to get involved. She convinced me that I could do anything I wanted and encouraged me to fight for what I deserved. Before meeting Sophia, I felt that I was weak and couldn’t do things. That’s not who I am anymore, and I give Sophia a lot of credit for that.”
Sophia is not the only union sister that has inspired Joyce. At her first Leadership Academy Assembly, she got to hear Mina Amrith, who is the women’s representative on SEIU Healthcare’s executive board, tell her vision story.
“When I heard Mina speak, wow; I can’t even find the words to explain how she made me feel. I was so moved by her words. That strong woman, she’s been through a lot, and she made it. If she can make it through the obstacles that were put in front of her, then I can do anything. She has really been an inspiration to me.”
As Joyce continues to grow, powered by the inspiration from her two union sisters, she looks forward to one day being a mentor to other women.
“I want others to look at me and say ‘I want to be like Joyce: a proud, powerful woman.’ I am excited to keep growing and moving forward. I won’t be happy until I reach the top of the ladder, and even then, I’ll still believe I can go higher. When I look back at my teenage years, I’ve gone from that Cinderella girl cleaning her aunt’s house to who I am today; I’m proud of where I’ve come and I’m excited for where I’m going.”