Women say Community Cares changed their lives
‘I knew there had to be a better life’
Fawn Burton started doing drugs at the tender age of 13.
“I was a bad drug addict — I wasn’t living on the streets because my parents put up with me somehow. I never touched a needle in my life, but anything else I’ve done.”
Over the years she lost 10 close friends to drugs.
“We were really close because no one wanted anything to do with us, but eventually I knew I had to make a change. I knew there had to be a better life.
“I quit drugs when I was 24 and moved to Halifax.”
Determined to stay clean, Burton said leaving the area and distancing herself from the people she was hanging out with at the time made quitting possible.
“There was temptation around every corner, so I knew I couldn’t stay. It was that, the support of family and God that got me through, and I haven’t looked back.”
For Rhonda Playford, who grew up in a rural community, it wasn’t drugs or alcohol that was the problem, but a lack of direction in her life.
“I dropped out of school in Grade 10. I was low on life. I couldn’t take going to school, and I didn’t see any future for me.”
In June, Burton, 30, graduated from the Cape Breton Business College and Playford, 29, graduated from the Nova Scotia Community College Marconi campus.
Both women are quick to heap praise on Community Cares Youth Outreach and executive director Dorothy Halliday and her staff.
“Honestly, when I first started with Community Cares, it was just a job, a way to make money, I was just putting in time and I was still doing drugs, off and on,” Burton said. “Being involved with Community Cares changed everything. It provided a support system, it made me feel I was capable of being more than a drug addict. Dorothy, Eileen (MacNeil) and Ermie (LeBlanc), they never gave up on me. I took courses I would never have gotten, or even pushed myself to get if it wasn’t for Community Cares.”
Even after she finished her courses and left the area, staff kept tabs on Burton’s progress, included her in events and made her feel useful.
“The birth of my four-yearold son Kaleb has also given me purpose and the desire to give him a good life,” she said. “I’m looking for work now, and the future looks bright. I hope to be able to stay in Cape Breton.”
Playford’s eyes well up with tears when she talks about her life now, compared what it could be if she had stayed on the same path.
“I grew up in a very low-income house, so money was always an issue. But my mother Roseanne, who passed away nine years ago, was always there to support me. Since then it’s been a struggle, her death had a huge impact on my life.”
Playford quit high school at 16 and started working in the woods as a treecutter.
“I drove tractors, hauled trees, worked on cars — at that time I did a lot of manual labour,” she said. “That was hard. Eventually I worked in my mom’s canteen and from there had numerous jobs in retail.”
Stuck in a rut, Playford felt there had to be something better.
“A friend showed me a writeup in the Cape Breton Post on Community Cares and I called Dorothy. I remember being super nervous, but I thank God I was in this program. It’s given me the knowledge and skills to further my education. It made me feel like I was somebody and got me out of that rut.”
For four years Playford travelled from Grand Narrows to Marconi campus in Sydney. She spent the first two years in Marconi’s adult learning program getting her high school diploma. It was another two years to get her early childhood development diploma.
Playford, who has two children, wants to be able to provide for her family.
“I’m very proud of myself for pushing my way through. I was putting my early childhood diploma in my portfolio and I literally started crying because I couldn’t believe what I’ve accomplished,” she said. “I want to work with children. My own kids have seen the struggles and how important it is to never give up. Community Cares helped me focus on my own abilities and realize that if you work hard, you can have a better life.”
Playford, a member of the Community Cares Youth Outreach board, lights up when she talks about being able to give back.
“I want Community Cares to survive, it really helped me to see that my life does have meaning — it saved me. My life could be totally different had it not been for community Cares. Now I’m thriving — I’m shining.”
“I want to work with children. My own kids have seen the struggles and how important it is to never give up.”
Fawn Burton, left, a volunteer at Community Cares, and board member Rhonda Playford sort through items for an upcoming yard sale Saturday in support of youth outreach programs.