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'There’s someone to take care of us like a parent'
Kathy Timmons had a house full of family for her Thanksgiving dinner.
But unlike many Cape Bretoners hosting family get-togethers over the holiday weekend, Timmons has only known this family for six months because they are Cape Breton University international students from India.
It was the first Canadian Thanksgiving for the men, who are all from Kerala state in southern India and live together in a rental unit in Sydney, so Timmons went all out.
Serving them a traditional roast turkey dinner with all the fixings, Timmons spent the week preparing and made homemade rolls, double chocolate cake and apple pie. Timmons made sure to make the pie crust from scratch because none of the students had had it before.
The students live close to Triple B Recycling, where Timmons works, and they met because they would come in daily to drop off resumés. Unable to hire them, Timmons started helping them with their job search and life in Cape Breton.
Now they call her their “Canadian mother” and as they sit in the living room of her Grand Lake Road home talking about how Timmons has helped them, their gratitude is obvious.
“She cared about us,” said 23-year-old Eron George who is studying electronics. “I got a winter jacket from her. She gave it to me and said, 'Winter is coming. You need to be prepared.'"
“While going to university or returning home, she’ll have a big smile on her face and will wave at us,” said Athul Babu Pinnanath, 23, who is studying public health.
Thanks to Timmons’ help, all of the students have found jobs and each has been warned about how cold Cape Breton winters can be. Kerala is located along the Arabian Sea and the coldest temperatures are around 27 C.
Although it is their first Canadian Thanksgiving, the students said there is a similar autumn harvest festival in India called Oram. Traditionally a Hindu celebration, the 10-day festival is now celebrated across the country by all religions and includes feasts with 18 different curries, pillow fights and making flower carpets called pookalam.
Their desire to experience a traditional Canadian Thanksgiving was only part of the reason the students said yes to Timmons’ invite.
“We cannot say no to her,” said 24-year-old Arun Raj, a petroleum engineering student, as the six men, Timmons and her husband laughed.
“And she said she’d make apple pie,” added Sreejith GS, 24, who is studying environmental science. “For us it feels like home here in Kathy’s house.”
Knowing they have a place that feels like home and a “Canadian mother” looking out for them has been good news for the students’ families in India.
“It makes them assured there’s someone to take care of us like a parent,” said 24-year-old public health student Samuel Ninan. “It eases them so much.”
Petroleum engineering student Ajil Mathew George (no relation to Eron George), 24, added, “We feel so lucky she helped us find jobs.”
Timmons seemed shy as she listened to her new family praise her while rushing around the kitchen, getting dinner on the table.
“You guys are going to make me cry,” she said, noting she feels as lucky to have met them as they are to have met her.