Women say Com­mu­nity Cares changed their lives

‘I knew there had to be a bet­ter life’

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY JULIE COLLINS SYD­NEY MINES

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.”

Rhonda Play­ford

JULIE COLLINS/CAPE BRE­TON POST

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.

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