“As I went through the application for the Rhodes scholarship in 2009, it provided a huge opportunity to reflect on what defines me as a person today and how my presence will make a difference in this world. I was amazed at how strongly my childhood upbringing in Indian villages and Kuwait affected my values, ethics and outlook on life.
I am certain with every fibre of my being that the privilege of applying for the Rhodes scholarship would not have been possible if I was still living in India or Kuwait, due to gender and other cultural barriers. Therefore, I am extremely grateful for the freedom and opportunity that coming to Canada has offered me.”
Jemy Mary Joseph was 14 when she came to Toronto in 2000. That Fall she enrolled in Grade 9 at Francis Libermann Catholic High School, where, despite her exceptional academic achievements, she experienced bullying and ongoing verbal abuse from her classmates. Jemy writes: “There came a point where I was petrified of going to school for fear of being harmed, and had I known about the word, 'drop-out' at that point, I may have strongly considered that.”
In addition to challenges at school, Jemy had to deal with strains at home. Since they could not find jobs in Canada right away. Jemy's parents went back to Kuwait, leaving her and her sibling with her aunt. Eventually her father returned to Canada and Jemy assisted in household duties such as cooking, cleaning and laundry. In Grade 10, she was lucky to get four or five hours of sleep a night.
Amidst trying times, Jemy held the highest grades in high school. In 2004, she graduated as valedictorian and won the most academic scholarships and recognitions for merit and public speaking. Accepted to University of Toronto at Scarborough (UTSC), she completed her Honours Bachelor of Science with High Distinction in 2008 and is currently pursuing a Master's degree in Cardiovascular Sciences, studying heart transplantation immunology at University of Toronto.
The recipient of many awards, scholarships and honours, Jemy has been involved in extensive extra-curricular activities and played an active role in student organizations and university governance.
Jemy is also a successful social activist. She was instrumental in persuading the Toronto Catholic District School Board and eventually lobbied the City of Toronto to adopt policies against producing school uniforms in sweatshops. In 2004, Jemy co-led a charitable mission organization called Reaching With Compassion (RWC), which, in collaboration with 96 churches in India, has introduced many projects, some of which target empowerment of women by enabling them to make a living and to fund students to get secondary and post-secondary educations.
Today, Jemy takes every opportunity she can to translate her experiences for the better. In recent years, this has mainly come in the form of public speaking, when she addresses the barriers faced by new immigrants in this country, especially the struggles faced by children and youth. She also actively engages young immigrants in her ethnic group, ensuring that they are aware of basic resources to help with adjustment and that they have a social circle and community with whom to interact.