Customer Service Spotlight: Rita Essien-Ita, PCP

Rita EssIen-Ita, PCP
At Chartwell since 2015
Chartwell Queens Garden Long Term Care

Although Rita Essien-Ita has only been working at Chartwell Queens Garden Long Term Care for 11 months, she’s already made a huge impact on her residents and staff team. A Personal Care Provider, Rita came to Canada in 2002 as an international student from South Africa looking for a better life. However, shortly after she arrived, she began feeling ill, chalking it up to the stress of moving from one country to another. After rounds of tests and exams, Rita eventually received a shocking diagnosis: leukemia. “I remember feeling so scared and nervous about what that meant for my future,” she recalls.

Remaining hopeful, Rita battled her illness with grit and determination. Her mother travelled to Canada to be by her side, and was the perfect match for a bone marrow transplant she required—a procedure that proved to be successful. Today, Rita has been in remission for seven years, and is thankful for the exceptional care she received in Canada.

As a cancer survivor, Rita felt compelled to give back to her community. After thinking about ways that she could help out, she recalled a skill that she learned from her grandmother while growing up in Africa. “While my mother made wedding dresses, my grandmother was always hard at work weaving wigs for the mannequins,” she explains. “She taught me the ins-and-outs of weaving wigs with synthetic and real hair.” Deciding to start a wig-weaving business, Rita went on to complete her first wig for a seven year old girl fighting cancer. “The feeling I experienced knowing that I made a difference in her life was extraordinary,” she says. Today, her business has donated several wigs to special children battling cancer. “I hope I can give them the hope that I had when I was fighting for my life.”

Now married with two small children, Rita finds her career as a Personal Care Provider very fulfilling. Quick to comfort those around her, she strongly believes that putting residents and their family members first is a cornerstone of service excellence. In her spare time, Rita continues to weave wigs for young cancer victims: “Coming to Canada means I had access to treatment. This is why I pay it forward: I want to share the hope I was given back then,” she says. “I was told that I could and would fight the disease, and I ended up winning the battle.”

What Rita especially appreciates about working at Chartwell Queens Garden Long Term Care is meeting new residents and employees and getting to know their cultural background and interests. “I love hearing the life stories of those that are eager to share it with me,” she says. “I was very close with my own grandmother, and now I feel privileged to have a relationship with so many residents I meet here.”