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A Beacon of Hope!

No hard knock could keep Rita down

By Susan Lazaruk Staff Reporter

Kim Stallknecht - The Province To her numerous laurels Rita Rickards has now added the Courage to Come Back award in the economic adversity category. Her proud companion's name is Sasha.

Life for Florence Rita Rickards has always been a struggle.
She grew up as one of six children in a family where abuse was common and poverty was a way of life.
But despite her hardships, Rickards, 54, has managed to educate herself at night school while working full-time and raising a son by herself, earning her the Courage to Come Back award in the social and economic adversity category.

She and five other recipients in various categories will receive their awards at a gala dinner on April 29 hosted by the Coast Mental Health Foundation.

Rickards said life began hard. She suffered from a chronic lung disease for the first six years of her life while growing up in Winnipeg.

“They told me I was dying and I almost did,” she said. “I wasn’t supposed to be here.”

She said her sickness came before medicare was created and the doctor’s bills put a strain on her labourer father’s ability to make ends meet.

“It took him until I was 12 to pay that off,” she said.

She recalls her young life at home as “living in a war zone.” When Rickards was 16, her father moved the family to B.C., where they lived in a chicken coop for three months and the whole family picked berries all day. Her goal of becoming a psychologist ended when her father forced her to get a job.

Continually facing abuse, she left home in the middle of the night by jumping from a third-storey window.
She ran to the only other person she really knew, the cook at the restaurant where she was a waitress. Soon she was pregnant, and he left her when she was three months along despite earlier promises of marriage. Determined to raise her son by herself and get out of poverty, she got a job at a fish stand. “I wanted to give him a better life than I had,” she said. “I didn’t want him to be poor and not to have an education.” Her son, now 36, is enrolling in a teachers’ college this fall.

While she worked full-time, she enrolled in evening courses and earned her welfare aid certificate, the first of many certificates that she would earn over the years.

She eventually earned her masters in business administration and became a life coach and teacher of several different courses, as well as founder of a foundation that helps disadvantaged people.

She has also produced a book, CD and cassette tape outlining her inspirational ideas.

But seven years ago, her career was interrupted by three different car accidents in less than a year in which she injured her foot, back and shoulder.

“They also think I may have hit my head,” she said.

She said the setbacks she had survived gave a colleague the idea to nominate her.

“He says, ‘You’re constantly being knocked down and keep getting up again and again.’ I want people to hear my story and say, ‘If she can come back from all that, I can, too,’” she said.

She encouraged anyone living in poverty to “never, never give up and to always have hope. If you believe, anything is possible.”

Tickets for the Courage to Come Back Awards dinner next Thursday are available by calling the Coast Mental Health Foundation at 604-872-3502 or on the web at:

The awards celebrate people from B.C. who seek to achieve their human potential despite experiencing mental or physical illness, adversity or injury.



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