Our Journey to Canada
Meet Kawmadi Abeytunge, a proud Sri Lankan-Canadian. She is entering her 2nd year of Medical School at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry - Western University (Windsor campus). Kawmadi is the local officer of Global health education for the CFMS, is a member of the Schulich political advocacy committee and an executive for the Teddy Bear Hospital. Kawmadi also participated in an outreach trip to Guatemala with Uwindsor's SOS. When reflecting on her family's immigration story this is what she had to say:
The greatest gift my parents gave to me was in 1999, when they left their life in Sri Lanka to bring our family to Canada. It couldn't have been an easy life to leave behind. My dad was living his dream as a criminal lawyer and my mom worked at the country’s Central Bank. My parents had just built a house, had worked their way up from tough childhoods to the top of their careers, and were surrounded by family.
Sri Lanka was their home; but it was also home to a civil war. After a bomb hit my mom’s bank, they knew it was time to leave and bring us to a place where my brother and I could live safely and attain a quality education. My parents have always stressed the importance of education, so they said goodbye and moved our family to Ottawa. Moving to Canada began a lifelong cycle of rebuilding, and redefining.
My dad effectively gave up his career in law, as my mom took on a new job as a computer programmer in Windsor. But after 10 years at the job, my mom’s company closed down during the recession. Instead of going back into her field, she decided to go back to the University of Windsor in 2010 to pursue a career she was truly passionate about. She went to University to study nursing while raising three children (two of whom went to University alongside her), working part-time, and taking care of a home.
I know it wasn’t easy but it was surely worth it-- getting to fulfill her desire to care for others as an RN. Also choosing to chase dreams, my dad followed suit and decided to revisit the aspirations he had left behind in Sri Lanka. After going back to school to get a second degree in computer science, and working as a programmer for 14 years in Mississauga, it was time to go back to what he loved. So, while juggling a full-time career, an additional part-time job, and still commuting home on weekends to visit our family, my dad went through the process of re-attaining his license to do law.
After years of studying Canadian legislature and sitting for numerous qualifying exams, he passed the Bar in November of 2017. After nearly 20 years away from his initial career, I am so proud to say that my dad will be called to the Bar this June! My parents have shown me the importance of following your passions, of determination, and resiliency. As I go forth into my own journey through medical school, I stand reminded of the sacrifices they’ve made so that I could be here today pursuing my own dreams, and of the endless support they've given me. And for that, I’ll always be grateful.