Ebony Abe is determined to succeed in life because of her mother’s hard work and sacrifice. “On my mom’s side, females were expected to stay home and care for the children. My mom really branched out and inspired me,” says Ebony, explaining that after high school in the Philippines, her mother worked three jobs so she could study midwifery.
She moved to Canada to work as a personal-care worker until she could sponsor her husband. He worked in a department store and once their two children were in school, she enrolled at Nova Scotia Community College to become a Continuing Care Assistant. “I remember her leaving really early in the mornings when I was in grade six,” recalls Ebony. “She was really excited but nervous as she had a job interview. We told her she could do it, and she ended up getting the job. She was so excited!”
My mom really branched out and inspired me.
Ebony’s household was religious and focused around Filipino friends and culture. The parents eventually separated. “My mother was a stereotypical Asian mother; she was strict growing up. I wasn’t allowed sleepovers. She always needs to know where I am and if I’m eating well.” Although her schools’ population was diverse, Ebony and her brother Jerecho were two of few Asians, something she feels made them popular. “We were known to have the coolest lunches. My mom would make us rice and ethnic food. Sometimes, I would trade my lunches so I could have Canadian food or junk food.”
Ebony visited the Philippines at seven, and feels strong about her Filipino heritage. She is frequently asked her identity; she says, Canadian. “And they’d say no, what ARE you?” Laughing, Ebony says she then offers the details: “My dad is one-tenth-Japanese, the rest Filipino. My mom is one-third Chinese, one-third Spanish and one-third Filipino.”
In awe of aviation, Ebony and Jerecho joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadets, a program to which Ebony attributes her personal growth. “I was very introverted and broke out of my shell.” Although only 13, she quickly moved into leadership roles, encouraging others to volunteer in their community. “I found I loved teaching and assisting the younger kids. I worked with youth with backgrounds similar to mine. It makes me reflect and work around their differences to make them feel supported and included.” She received the Lord Strathcona Medal, awarded to a Cadet showing exceptional performance in physical and military training. Ebony was also sworn into the Cadet Instructors Cadre, becoming an officer, and has worked as a flight commander at CFB Greenwood.
Jerecho graduated in criminology from Saint Mary’s University, while Ebony is in her fourth year of applied human nutrition at Mt. St. Vincent. Interested in industry and policy, she hopes to work with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Her mother’s struggle stays with her. “She’s always wanted the best for us. Throughout school she really supported us making sure we’re doing well with the main goal of doing equivalent to what she’s done, or past it.”