Hyacinth Harewood is a civil servant with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) working from home, former college professor, former businessperson, former volunteer and mother of five living in Toronto, Canada. She worked as a sessional lecturer with Carleton University in Ottawa, as a professor with Algonquin College in Ottawa for 16 years, has been working with CRA since the late 1980s, and once had her own sole-proprietorship business focusing on communications and written work. This consummate professional used to get up at 3:00 a.m. to work on her business, and then take care of five children to get them ready for school. She would continue working on her business while her children were at school and tend to their needs once they were home. She played the role of a superwoman well. This impressive woman who was educated at the University of Western Ontario where she studied French and Spanish, then received her master’s degree at the University of Ottawa in applied linguistics managed to juggle a life of work, family and children. She has been a terrific role model for her five children.
Harewood was born in Antigua, West Indies on October 15, 1946. She is the eighth out of a family of 10. Her parents were active in politics in Antigua. She spent a lot of time listening to them and observing them. She says she was an ambitious student that aimed to come out on the top of the heap.
“When I was young it was books, books, books and competing, competing and competing and leaving the competition in the dust,” says Harewood. “In high school I was the only person in school who actually passed the [high school certificate the year I graduated] exam. I passed it the same time. I came out first class. I moved up with an attitude of being the best, leave the competition in the dust. We do say that a lot to our young people, it is a very elitist kind of position. For the people who do not come out on top, what happens to them?
“I do feel I have a responsibility to everybody,” Harewood continues. “The idea of always being the best, the only one left sitting on the top of the heap, I do not believe in that approach anymore. I believe in a more balanced approach, not in mediocrity.”
Harewood came to Canada at the age of 17 to attend the University of Western Ontario. Her children tease her that she was actually 18 because she turned that age shortly in October (a month after school started). She studied French and Spanish, including the literature of these languages. She also took German. This knowledge of languages has added to Harewood’s international flair. After graduation, she got married and moved to Ottawa, Canada and attended the University of Ottawa to study applied linguistics in a master’s program. She was still working on her master’s thesis and she taught for a year at Carleton University as a sessional lecturer teaching a first-year general linguistics course. At that time, her oldest child, son Adrian Harewood, was attending the daycare at Carleton University. Adrian Harewood is the host of a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) afternoon show in Ottawa called “All in a Day.” He is considered one of the best broadcasters in the Ottawa region and with a mother like Hyacinth Harewood it is easy to understand.
Needing to make more money, Harewood joined Algonquin College in 1972 as a “teaching master,” however now the position is known as a professor. She worked at Algonquin for 16 years until 1988. Her experience in teaching has fortunately touched the lives of thousands of people who had the pleasure in knowing Harewood. She taught communications, technical writing, science fiction as elective courses and technology and social issues, as well as English as a Second Language courses. She left Algonquin to own her own business as a sole-proprietor for about two years. She recalls the contracts she would receive doing writing and communications work (writing, editing and developing brochures) for such places as the government and other businesses. She would be going out to lunches, “schmoozing,” trying to drum up more work. In the end, she left that work because she needed to make more money.
That is when she joined the federal government in the late 1980s where she currently works now. She works in human resources and although she has mainly worked in Ottawa over the years, she now works in Toronto with CRA doing tele-commuting in both official languages of Canada, English and French. She has done a lot of training working with the federal government, as well she has taken business courses that did not lead towards a degree. She says if she knew then what she knows now about business, her sole-proprietorship would have been a greater success. It is a shame that Harewood did not continue with her own business efforts, to which she would be perfectly suited for.
While in Ottawa, Harewood did volunteer work with Centrepointe Theatre in communications. She would help to edit their newsletter. She also used to be a columnist with a community newspaper called Contrast. She writes poetry and has co-edited a collection of poetry. Harewood has been continually living a life of perfect balance – giving back to the community, as well as providing for those she loves.
Harewood says working from home is not for everyone. Some people really like being able to look over at the other cubicle and ask a colleague out to lunch. She says you really need to enjoy your own company – which she does. She will often make the best use of her lunch break by getting out of the house every day – rain, sleet or shine. She will visit the library, walk and run errands. She also does crafts and handiwork, not as a side business, however as gifts for friends and family.
Harewood dreams of the ideal retirement.
“My concept of retirement is not to start working in a different way,” says Harewood. “These people who had retired and had not retired, that is not what I dream of as retirement. It is true you need to continue making a living. There are a lot of people I know who have retired who need additional income and need other kind of work. I’m dreaming of retirement, but the ideal kind of retirement.”
Harewood has spent most of her life juggling the demands of work, as well as raising five children. The proof she has done both well are displayed in how her children have turned out. Adrian is a radio broadcaster for CBC and hosts “All in a Day.” Pat is a lawyer with the Department of Justice and working with the Public Service Alliance of Canada. Anne is a criminologist. She teaches part-time hours at the State College in Antigua. She did a master’s degree with a thesis at the University of Ottawa. Harewood also has twins: Joy who is several minutes older is doing optometry and is in her third-year at the University of California at Berkeley. June is doing dentistry at Columbia University in New York. This is a tremendous achievement when so many young people face problems in societies around the world. Her children appear to be extremely well-adjusted and most definitely accomplished.
“I was sort of thinking and saying to myself that the point is I try not to get boxed into one image. I look over the things I have done and I am not exactly a rolling stone that gathers no moss,” says Harewood. “I do like to move onto different things and reinvent myself.”
Donna Kakonge is a professor, author and journalist living in Toronto, Canada. Her books can bought through her online store at: http://stores.lulu.com/kakonged. She also has her own online multimedia magazine at: https://kakonged.wordpress.com. Her official website is: www.donnakakonge.com.