When a campus community becomes a Canadian home

When Lannois Carroll-Woolery (BASc ’97) left Jamaica to come to the University of Waterloo, he spent his first year making friends in the Association of Caribbean Students – bonding over soccer, dominoes and calypso music.

A year later, Anandi Carroll-Woolery (BMath ’02) came to Waterloo from Trinidad and joined the same student group. She still remembers the first time she met Lannois: “I saw him from across the Student Life Centre. He was playing dominoes.”

Lannois and Anandi got married while they were still in school and moved into a residence for married students — an apartment complex across from campus, now called University of Waterloo Place, where they started a family and built their home.

Families from Peru to India and Iran

“In the residence, we were introduced to other parents with small children, and we had quite a bit in common,” says Lannois, now a staff member at the University. “It just seemed that most of the families in the nine apartments were international students. So, we made friends from Peru, Grenada, Brazil, India, Iran – all over the world.”

At first, their neighbours seemed very different. But over time, those differences faded – they would see each other in the laundry room, on family walks in Waterloo Park or picking up their kids from school. Then, they started playing soccer together.

Lannois and Anandi pose with other families from residence

“Soccer really is an international game,” says Lannois. “When you’re playing soccer, language barriers go away because you all know the rules.”

Lannois and Anandi spent seven years in residence while they finished their degrees and raised their children. “It was wonderful,” says Anandi. “I took some time away from school to be a mother, and there were other stay-at-home parents in the apartments. Some of the other mothers were also in school or had degrees, and it was a real blessing to be with like-minded people – where education was very important, family was important and culture was important.”

Scholarships for volunteers in African, Caribbean and Black communities

Today, they still call Waterloo home. They’re active members of the Caribbean Canadian Association of Waterloo Region and generous donors to University of Waterloo students. When their fellow alumnus Michael Robson (BA ’13) created the Collective Movement Award, Lannois and Anandi were some of the first donors to contribute. The award recognizes students who volunteer with African, Caribbean and Black communities, and who build a compassionate culture at Waterloo.

“When Michael told us how the Association of Caribbean, African and Black Students helped him create a home away from home, and how he wanted to pay it forward, we knew we wanted to contribute,” says Lannois. “We were happy and excited members of the same community when we were students. It was an easy ‘yes’ to support the positive social fabric that we experienced at the University.”

Community connections and COVID-19

As their local community retreated into isolation, Lannois and Anandi found new ways to stay connected and support those in need. They continued to connect with the local Caribbean Canadian Association through the website and social media channels, posting photos from past events, sharing information from provincial and municipal authorities and providing emotional support for members who have experienced loss and stress during the pandemic.

“Zoom has been a godsend,” says Anandi. “Board meetings, support groups, Toastmasters and even Zumba are all happening online.”

In the past few months, they’ve also found ways to support their neighbours. When an elderly couple expressed concerns about exposure at the grocery store, Lannois and Anandi stepped in to do the shopping.

On top of all this, Anandi has continued her volunteer position with the local Rogers tv network, where she now hosts the bi-weekly COVID-19 Update. The program airs on Wednesday and Friday evenings.