Anderson is a Food Services team member at Sherbourne Apartments, where he works to serve nutritious meals to our many residents. Anderson is not only a dedicated community worker; he also arrived as a newcomer 4 years ago. He has been outspoken about his journey so far in Canada, how he has developed while working at Fife House, and his concerns about the stigma and discrimination that still exists today in HIV-affected LGBTQ2S+ communities. Working at Fife House, Anderson is returning to school with the skills he has gained since arriving. He says, “Without the support I had here from everybody, it wouldn’t have happened.” Anderson hopes his story will demonstrate that supporting others, community work, and sharing skills and ideas are essential for everyone to thrive.
I arrived in Canada in 2018. Leaving Brazil due to the Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment and HIV stigma rising. As a person living with HIV, I felt the need to escape to a safer place. Fleeing home due to the social and political realities of the time wasn’t easy. The story of my travel contradicted a major belief, people living with HIV can travel safely even though the journey has not been easy. Back home, I studied communications and advertising. With my education, I was involved in developing community projects such as Música Clássica na Favela, a social initiative that brought classical music to Rio de Janeiro’s Favelas. This project focused on helping communities build social bonds through access to art and culture.
Once in Canada, I sought help from various community agencies and decided to volunteer. During this time, I had the opportunity to connect with the community at large by meeting new peers and hearing their stories of hope and optimism. As a result, I began to feel safe, connected and welcomed in Canada. From these experiences and interactions, I was able to join Fife House with open arms.
When I first started at Fife House’s Huntley location, meeting other wonderful peers, such as Glen Hart, one of Fife House’s Housing Stabilization workers. As a cook, I had the opportunity to practice my English and gain new skills. Although my education is in Communications and Advertising, I was quickly able to transfer my skills and creativity into supporting and developing simple and easy meals for many of the Fife House clients. As a cook, I’ve learned to be adaptable; for example, not everyone will appreciate what is made in the kitchen. However, we can learn to listen to feedback and accept and introduce change. Additionally, this is how I learned to practice empathy and understand the needs of our clients.
Furthering my journey into making Canada my home, I was able to attend the AIDS 2022 Conference in Montreal, and that was a major milestone. As a team, our presence was made clear as we had the chance to openly discuss and share our experiences along with many of our peers. We talked about Canada’s housing crisis, food insecurity and immigration. In the past, I felt constrained when discussing my HIV experiences. I didn’t feel as welcome or open to sharing.
The experiences at the conference have allowed me to connect back to the world and new people and learn about different agencies. I am truly grateful that Fife House has provided me with the opportunities to feel hopeful. It also reminds me to never forget the importance of MEPA/GIPA.
In this role, I meet people from all over the world, each with their own story, and we make meaningful connections through food. These interactions with people from all walks of life teach me about my peers and myself. For example, I’ve learned the importance of working in the community as a team, standing up for what is right, and being optimistic when challenged by uncertainties.
Additionally, it keeps me thinking about the pressing stigma for LGBTQ2S+ communities living with HIV. It needs more attention and funding as we can reach bigger audiences and tell stories about our realities, and our experience is vital to this work. By doing so, I believe more people will be accepting and informed when they hear it from someone living with HIV. With these hopes, I wish Canadians would be more willing to learn more about U=U, so both scientific and social understanding accepts it. Throughout this journey, I’ve learned to accept and be open to criticisms and limitations of the sector as well as how to push it forward.
Please click the link below to support our Fife House staff and programs. Especially our meal programs, as we feed some of our residents for free while others require a small fee to help offset rising ingredient costs. Learn more about our community food programs by clicking here.