From student to teacher to student again, Kaila Beaudry has seen the contrasting sides of socio-economic diversity from her life growing up in Prince Rupert to teaching students sitting on a dirt floor classroom across the world.
At 26, Kaila isn’t sure of her life’s path just yet as she is still learning to navigate through the different directions that decisions have sent her in, but she is on her way with the compass needle pointing forward.
Currently educating herself through online classes in women’s and gender studies through Vancouver Island University the candidate for women’s representative in the student union said she has seen a lot of inequality. Whether the inequity is from her own experiences, the news, people in her classes, or life around her, she said she thinks it is due to lack of education.
“I see a lot of discrimination in areas where there shouldn’t be any discrimination. I just think it’s because people aren’t educated,” Kaila said, citing the example of indigenous women attending hospitals and being asked questions that are not relevant to their reason for attending.
Currently studying indigenous feminism and also a gender class, Kaila said she thinks education is the key to ending discrimination.
“I just think a lot of us a lot of people don’t know about the history in Canada with indigenous people or people of colour,” she said.
“It’s really important for me to diversify and learn from marginalized voices and from voices which need to be heard. (I need) to just be an ally for them.”
“It’s important for me as a non-indigenous person to question what am I doing with my privilege,” she said.
Kaila explained that she doesn’t mean she has a lot of things or that non-indigenous people don’t have a hard time, but just that her race doesn’t give her additional issues or obstacles to overcome. Major issues in 2020 like Wet’suwete’en and Black Lives matter have strongly influenced her to be more pro-active, she said. Her goal in the long is to assist others.
“It made me want to go to school so I could educate myself. With this, I can be an advocate and work in a field where I can help people.”
Kaila spent time as a volunteer English teacher in India and saw first hand the socio-economic diversity contrasting with her middle-class upbringing in Canada.
She taught a class of elementary school children on the outskirts of New Dehli. The children ages six to eleven were undocumented without birth certificates, therefore, could not be registered or attend public school. She taught the 30 students in a brick school classroom with no running water.
“There were chalkboards, but they didn’t have any desks, and they sat on the dirt floor,” she said. “There were not any books in the school so I bought some for the classroom.”
The students would have notebooks and pencils to learn Kaila explained, however, the supply of these items is so scarce that the student would erase everything they had written once the book was full so they could re-use the pages.
She was there for six weeks, being billeted by an Indian family, and the teachers came in on a rotational basis. It was a challenge she said as there was a lot of pollution and garbage. People would burn garbage including all plastics which affected the air quality.
“I learned to be very grateful for what I have,” she said.
“I remember coming back to Canada, especially Prince Rupert, and just breathing,” she said. “I was just conscious of how clean our air is and how bad pollution is. We really need to be really conscious of what we are creating a demand for.”
When she arrived back in Canada, she said experienced ‘reverse culture shock’ because while away she had become immersed in the culture. For example, she said she felt more conservative upon arriving home and felt the need to keep her shoulders covered despite the more open societal norms.
Kaila was raised on the North Coast by her parents who are business owners in the hospitality industry. Her mom manages a restaurant and her dad is a chef. Kaila started working at the age of 14 as a busser in the restaurant, but only after promising her mom that she would not stay in the industry and would broaden her horizons. She took figure skating lessons for years and was interested in drama at high school even participating in a few productions.
Travel on various overseas trips has developed an appreciation of other avenues and ways of life. But Kaila feels at home in Prince Rupert and 12 years after starting in the family business has worked her way up in hospitality to now being a restaurant supervisor.
Keeping to her family instilled values of hard work and effort, during COVID-19 while the restaurant was quieter she relied on the entrepreneurial skills she learned from her parents and has started a home-based business of making and selling hair scrunchies out of sustainable and recycled fabrics.
“You want to choose second-hand first. Most of the time secondhand fabrics haven’t even been used. They are just excess fabric. I order from a recycling fabric company in Vancouver,” she said.
Starting her business at the beginning of the pandemic, which she admits to thinking would not last this long, she started to take sewing lessons, prior to the shutdown, which had to be placed on hold. Originally thinking she could sell her scrunchies at a craft fair, she continued to produce them assembly-line style during the time off work.
“I wanted to make something different. During COVID I kept continuing and then I had all these scrunchies - but no craft fair. So, then I started selling them online through my website and Instagram account.”
Kaila said many people believe in the healing properties of natural crystals for example rose quartz or smokey quartz, so this is a unique element that she adds to inside the hair adornments.
She said while the restaurant has had to shorten hours during the pandemic, the extra income from her business has helped her to get by and she has learned the importance of financial savings because you don’t know when an emergency is going to come.
“Because I have high seniority I never really thought being laid off would ever be an option,” she said. The downtime has taught her the cruciality of needing time at home for self-care away from a busy career serving others.
While she has been working with some of the restaurant staff for more than 12 years, she still relies on the senior staff’s support and wisdom to help her grow and learn. She said every time she speaks to one particular staff member, she always learns something from the pearls of wisdom shared to her that she can appreciate and use in practical terms of everyday life.
“I love the people who I work with. I love my customers. I get to be there for their special occasions — birthdays, engagements, anniversaries. But sometimes I need to not work so much and just find that work-life balance a little bit more. So that was something I learned from COVID,” she said.
K-J Millar | Journalist
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