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Life was a struggle in Zimbabwe. Moving to Nunavut gave me hope

Life was a struggle in Zimbabwe. Moving to Nunavut gave me hope

Francisca Mandeya

May 15, 2023 at 6:00:00 a.m.

I've come to be grateful for my new home in the Canadian Arctic

I had never considered the possibility of ever leaving Zimbabwe and my children to settle in Nunavut. But eight years ago I did just that — and I am grateful for the life I found here.

I was a die-hard Zimbabwean — a daughter of the soil — but I landed in frozen Iqaluit on Dec. 24, 2014. I had nothing but two suitcases and my mbira [an African folk instrument].

Nelson Mandela once said, "it is always impossible until it is done."

The backstory of how an African woman got to be in the Canadian Arctic is a cocktail of political, social and economic circumstances that led to serious mental health challenges.

In Zimbabwe, every day was a struggle fending for my family as a single mother. I was traumatized, always wondering when the Central Intelligence Organisation operative that had harassed and threatened to "disappear" me would pounce. The mental and emotional burden I carried plunged me into acute depression. To add insult to injury, an abrupt break up with a man I had trusted increased my vulnerability.

My sisters Tina and Jo worried that I might have chosen to die by suicide. I think they were right.

Tina had moved to Canada 21 years ago and bought me a ticket to Nunavut where she was living.

"That is it. you are coming," Tina had told me over the phone from Iqaluit one day. "I am done hearing your stories and worrying I will lose you to one thing or another."

My family gave me hope for a new life.

As a Catholic, I was excited to arrive in Iqaluit in time for Christmas Eve mass. Heading to church with my sister, I reached for the car door, and in a flash I found myself lying on a bed of ice. That was my first of many falls. I learned that the nice suede boots I wore did not have a firm grip and that when it comes to outdoor footwear, being safe is more important than looking good.

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