On the eve of her 26th birthday, Kris-Ann Stewart moved into her own house – a dream that once seemed far-fetched for the Jamaican native, who migrated to Canada at age 16.
The acquisition of the home belies the struggle, which Kris-Ann endured regarding housing.
She recalled living with her father for her first eight months in Canada. She later lived with a family friend for a year, and subsequently with a family from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Kris-Ann eventually returned to her father’s house, where she spent a few months before renting a basement apartment for four years.
The bad experiences at some of the locations mentioned were eye-opening for Kris-Ann, who, since August 2019, set out on an incredible journey to acquire her first home.
“I really cut back on my budget. I started to double up on my shifts [at work]; I don’t take day off; I don’t take holidays; I work two jobs…” said the native of Linstead, St. Catherine.
She added that she saved a relatively large amount of funds in a short period of time for the house.
Kris-Ann further told The Beacon that the acquisition of her Ontario house still feels surreal.
“It hasn’t hit me as yet that I would say I am a homeowner; it is a good feeling to know that I made everyone proud,” Kris-Ann said.
She worked long hours on various jobs in order to eventually qualify for a mortgage.
Kris-Ann explained that, while she was still in high school, she got her first job at McDonald’s, where she spent seven years.
“When I started McDonald’s, sometimes I didn’t have bus fare; I had to borrow money from McDonald’s and give it back to them when I got my pay,” she told The Beacon.
She recalled that, at one point, she ended up collecting only CA$60 for a fortnight pay.
“I didn’t know struggle back in Jamaica; my mommy was the one struggling,” Kris-Ann posited. “I came to Canada and that’s when everything got rough and I struggled.”
Despite the struggles she faced, the Jamaican native never missed an opportunity to bolster her academic credentials.
She enrolled at Humber College, where she became qualified as a pharmacy technician.
While attending college, Kris-Ann was juggling three jobs – the one at McDonald’s, another at the college, and the other as a pharmacy assistant at Shoppers Drug Mart.
“I was juggling three jobs and I managed to maintain my grades in college. I was on the honour roll all four semesters…” said Kris-Ann, who also is a past student of Ewarton Primary School and Charlemont High in St. Catherine.
Kris-Ann still works at Humber College, and is also employed as a pharmacy technician.
She noted that, whenever Jamaicans visit the pharmacy to do business, they usually shower her with praise.
“I am the only black person in the pharmacy right now, and I am the only registered technician there. Every time they (Jamaicans) see me, they would give me praises,” Kris-Ann said.
Her mother, Dorrette Douglas, who still lives at Linstead in St. Catherine, is proud of what her daughter – with family support – has managed to accomplish.
“I am overwhelmed…,” she declared. “Young women like my daughter are good role models for other Jamaican women.”
In the meantime, Kris-Ann wants the acquisition of her house, along with her academic accomplishments, to inspire other young people – especially women – to work towards their goals even if they must do it alone.
“As long as you set your mind to something, you can achieve it,” said Kris-Ann, who intends to eventually become an entrepreneur.
She also wants to own more houses.
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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