Cidalia Campos: gratitude galore
Cidalia Campos is a dedicated gratitude tracker, wholeheartedly tallying the goodness in her life in a journal she tends to daily. Wellspring, she says, is high on her list.
“It means the world to me to be a volunteer at Wellspring. It gives meaning to my life. I am so lucky and happy that I can give people the help that I did not have available to me 20 years ago when my husband had cancer,” she said.
Cidalia lost her husband Jose to metastatic colon cancer at the age of 62. Originally from Mozambique, the pair were living in Brazil at the time of Jose’s untimely death.
“He underwent several surgeries and had all kinds of treatment. He lived for two and a half years, but they couldn’t save him,” Cidalia said. She explains that though she had a strong network of church, family and friends to support her, there was nothing quite like Wellspring to help the family through the difficult journey and eventual loss.
“It was very hard losing Jose. But my strong religion, my wonderful kids, and my positive attitude, that’s what has kept me going,” she said. She also notes that she continues to feel Jose’s presence and guidance – a testament to the deep connection they had in their 36 years of marriage.
Cidalia’s story is unusual and incredibly interesting. She and Jose and their two children were originally from Mozambique, back when this small country in southeastern Africa was a Portuguese colony. In 1975, after 30-plus years of war, and just after Mozambique had won its independence from Portugal, the couple and their two kids were among the 250,000 Portuguese settlers who fled the country.
“We went to Brazil where we had family – my husband’s uncle. My husband got work in his field (IT) and I worked as an executive assistant. We stayed there for 10 years,” said Cidalia. “To this day, my son and daughter really identify as Brazilian even though they were both born in Africa and we never became Brazilians.”
Next, the Campos family moved to Mexico City for a three-year work contract, and when that ended, they moved to Florida where Jose was once again scouted for his in-demand computer skills. “When Jose accepted the position in Florida, the move was very much in line with the vision he had for his family.
“We had witnessed the communist government stripping away all the property from our family back in Mozambique, so we had made a decision, we would not save for property, we would save for the children’s education,” she said, adding that the U.S. offered excellent options for their kids’ educational pursuits.
Fast forward five years and with both kids launched and educated, Cidalia and her husband returned to what felt like home to them – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Their son Claudio obtained a master’s degree in international business, married, and settled in the Dominican Republic. Their daughter Luiza achieved a bachelor’s degree in science and eventually laid roots in Calgary.
Then the difficult news of Jose’s cancer.
“We all did the best we could, but it really was very hard,” said Cidalia. “After Jose passed the kids were worried that I might fall into a depression. My son said I should come to the Dominican Republic, but my daughter felt I’d be better off near her in Canada, so that is where I decided to go.”
Two years after she arrived in Calgary, Cidalia, then 61, got a job as an assistant at Momentum, a Calgary-based non-profit organization that offers programs and services for people who are living on low incomes, to increase their ability to manage and save money, train for and maintain good jobs, or start a business.
“I loved my job at Momentum! I worked there until I was 70. I had no intention of retiring – until the Immigrant Access Fund was taken inhouse and we lost the program. That’s when the decision was made – it was time for me to retire,” she said.
After retirement, Cidalia needed a new challenge – a meaningful place to focus her time and efforts. She was volunteering for some programs through her church when Luiza said, “Mom I know this great organization called Wellspring. I’m sure you would love to volunteer there!” So began her new passion – offering support to those living with cancer.
Cidalia started in 2016, volunteering for the Brain Fog program that Wellspring offered in a south Calgary satellite location (Cedarglen Homes) back before Randy O’Dell House was built. “My job was to set up, greet members and then clean up,” she said proudly. “That was back in the day when we could ask people if they wanted a hug, and if they said yes – I was right there to give them one!”
Now she is a permanent fixture at the front desk of Carma House on Thursdays. She loves to greet members who attend inhouse programs, and when there is no virus wreaking havoc with personal space, she looks forward to returning to the Wellspring welcome that includes offering a hug.
“Wellspring is something special – it really is! It offers so much to help so many people in need. All I can say is, I’m so lucky to be one of the people who gets to help others find their way to Wellspring,” said Cidalia. “There’s no other way to put it, Wellspring means the world to me.”