Seneca College RED 2019 - 28

Home is where the
caring heart is
Waheeda Ali pursues lifelong dream of social advocacy

the 52-year-old
Waheeda Ali quietly says," but I never expected to
graduate with high honours or win the Seneca Cup!"
Born in the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the
2018 grad of the Social Service Worker program grew
up at a time when cultural and religious factors meant
that education for girls wasn't always a priority.
"Growing up, my family and friends always came to
me for support," she says. "But it just wasn't the right
time for me to go to college."
Despite having an aptitude for a career in community services, Ali got married and had her first child
shortly after graduating from high school.
However, she would soon find herself - in addition
to her responsibilities as a mother - trying to cope
with her father falling seriously ill and her husband
struggling with alcohol addiction.
The problems were exacerbated by the Trinidadian
health-care system, which lacked proper supports for
treating mental health and addiction issues.
Life took a toll on Ali, and there were nights when

Growing up, my
family and friends
always came to
me for support.

PHOTO: JOANNE RATAJCZAK

"I KNEW I COULD DO WELL IN SCHOOL,"

the devout Muslim felt overwhelmed.
"I wasn't a stranger to looking after others, but my
mental health suffered for years," she acknowledges,
her voice quivering. "I prayed a lot."
Luckily, life gradually improved and, together with
her husband and their four children, Ali immigrated to
Canada in 2005. She spent years working as a logistics
associate at a shipping and receiving company; however, she lost her job when the company relocated.
Unemployed, Ali visited a job skills centre in
Newmarket. "I learned from a Seneca representative
at the event that I could qualify as a Second Career
applicant," she says. "Finally, I felt it was time."
She applied to the program and was accepted
for September 2016. Despite her status as a
mature student, Ali's apprehensions about her age
quickly dissipated.
"Throughout the program, everyone welcomed me
with open arms," she remembers. "I met great people,
and never felt I was being judged by my age. My time in
the program equipped me with the skills and the theoretical knowledge I have been using as a support services co-ordinator at the AIDS Committee of York
Region. It also taught me to be a more strategic thinker
and allowed me to help develop the Red Dot Project."
Founded in 2017 by Seneca Professor Phillip Jang,
Ali and two other students, the Red Dot Project is an
award-winning, Toronto-based organization that provides people who experience homelessness in Toronto
with access to menstrual products.
"As someone wanting to make a difference, I've
had two families that supported me on this journey,"
Ali says. "My own and my Seneca family."

28

RED

2019



Seneca College RED 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Seneca College RED 2019

Table of Contents
Seneca College RED 2019 - Cover1
Seneca College RED 2019 - Cover2
Seneca College RED 2019 - Table of Contents
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