Pushpalatha Mathanalingam

CEO, Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Consulting Corp

I was a young girl when I first saw someone getting buried alive. The Sri Lankan army had dug pits about half a kilometre away from my house in plain sight. Every so often, I would hear the blood-curdling screams of men, women, and even little children being dragged out to the pits. I could only listen helplessly as the muffled cries of the buried victims were lost into the night. The 30-year civil war in Sri Lanka had birthed many dreadful moments but it’s these types of moments that gradually built the mindset and resilience to overcome any challenge inside of me.

I came to Canada about 20 years later as a war-refugee and sole-support parent. This meant that I was in charge of raising my children, paying the bills and putting food on the table in a new country all by myself. I was also responsible for taking care of my sick parents. My father is a type two diabetic with Alzheimer’s disease and my mother suffers from depression. On too many occasions, I would return from a long day at work or school only to find out that one of my parents needed to be rushed to the hospital. There were definitely moments when the financial and emotional burdens felt too heavy, but whenever this happened I always kept coming back to the same belief; I didn’t come this far to only come this far. I fought my way out of hell-like conditions in SriLanka and I couldn’t put all that blood, sweat, and tears to waste.

After years of all-nighters and relentless working, I eventually graduated from Ryerson University but even after acquiring a degree, struggled to find work and bounced around low-paying jobs for years. At this point, I could barely afford basic groceries such as milk and bread so providing for my ill parents and young children by myself seemed like an impossible task. After getting laid off as a cashier in a supermarket, I decided that I didn’t want my paycheck coming from anyone else’s hands anymore. That’s when I decided to become an entrepreneur and start my own safety business. For years, I’ve built my business up and am now finally able to live life comfortably on my own terms. Through my business, I’ve been able to provide freedom and stability to my family for the first time in our lives. My name is Pushpa and this was the story of how entrepreneurship, the safety industry, and dog-like perseverance changed my life for the better.