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A Cape Breton University student from India who lost her rent money says she’ll be forever grateful to a local woman who returned it to her.
On Saturday, Rose Mathew was getting out of a friend’s car on Whitney Avenue when the small, black backpack she was carrying slipped off her shoulder as she climbed over a snowbank. Unaware that she’d just lost the bag containing $800 in cash, she went into the southend Sydney apartment she shares with nine other international students.
“I was wearing the winter jacket, so I didn’t feel that I did lose the bag,” explained Mathew, 28, a second-year supply chain management student from Kerala, India.
A short time later, Jean Grisdale was driving home from a hair appointment. She was stopped at the intersection of Whitney Avenue and High Street when she noticed the backpack.
“I had to take snow off my window because it had come down over the roof of the car and I saw a backpack there,” she said. “So I picked it up and I put it in the car and I kept going because another car was coming behind me and I didn’t want to keep him waiting.”
'We were fully worried'
Meanwhile, Mathew was in a panic after realizing the backpack — and the money she and her roommates had saved to pay their landlord — was missing. She called her friend Akhil Satheesan, who is also a CBU student from Kerala, to see if she’d left it in his car.
“I was a little scared to tell him I have this money inside because everyone going to shout, ‘Why didn’t you be careful on that?’” said Mathew, who works at a cleaning company and a pizza shop in addition to her grocery store job and figures it would take her about two months to earn $800.
The pair scoured the sidewalks and even knocked on doors to find out if someone had found the bag.
“We were fully worried and we don’t know what to do,” said Satheesan. “It was like horrible. When she told there is this much money it was ‘Oh, what to do?’ I called the cops and the cops just asked me where I lost it.”
Sleuth for a day
For Grisdale, it was the beginning of a mystery. She’d returned to the Howie Centre home she shares with her husband Ed Grisdale and looked inside the backpack. She discovered the money but no way to identify the owner. Then she found a name tag.
“At the bottom of the purse we found a little pin because she works at No Frills (grocery store), I guess, and her name was on it: Rose. So, I called No Frills and a man answered and he said they have an international lady named Rose who works there.”
The manager phoned Mathew, who then contacted Grisdale.
“Even she was ready to come to my home where I was but I don’t want to trouble her more,” said Mathew, who went with Satheesan to get the backpack.
“They came here, and she was a lovely girl. I said ‘I’m very, very sorry I had to root through your purse.’ I said there’s quite a lot of money — $800 or $900 at least — and she said, ‘Oh, this is my landlord money,’” said Grisdale, adding that Mathew was still clearly shaken up.
“I think she was so scared because she had lost the money and she was so happy to have it retrieved. She just kept giving me hugs and holding my hand saying, ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.’”
Act of kindness
"There are a lot of broke people out there right now — somebody else could have came along, got it and just took the money."
- Rose Mathew
Mathew said she plans to visit Grisdale to thank her again.
“She’s such a kind lady and I’m so thankful to her. I didn’t have a good talk with her on that day. Even though I got my backpack back, even then I was scary worried — it‘s not that easy to get back from that I lose my bag and I found it. I said thank you. Even she realized I’m not in the right attitude and she was hugging me. When she hugged me I was like crying. She told me we can meet again at No Frills but we are planning to go back to her again one day at her home just to give her gratitude.”
Grisdale said she was just happy to help and would love to see Mathew again.
“It was right after Christmas. There are a lot of broke people out there right now — somebody else could have came along, got it and just took the money,” she said.
“I was just super happy that I found it for her.”
Mathew said having her money returned is just the latest act of kindness she’s experienced since coming to Cape Breton.
A No Frills customer brought her several winter coats and warm blankets that she distributed to fellow students.
“There was very good bedspreads, the quilts. There were like 10 or 12 jackets. They were all in good condition. They bought that for us. They were really good new ones. We gave them to the new students who came — even the bedspreads and everything.”
She and her friends also regularly attend mass at St. Marguerite Bourgoeys church and have been embraced by the parishioners, who collected furniture and even delivered it to international students from India. One woman even invited them to her home on Christmas Eve where they had a turkey.
“The woman there, she also has some Korean guests at her home — international students — and along with them she called us as well and we made some food and went there and had a good Christmas Eve. And we had so many games and all and that was a nice eve,” said Mathew, who cooked some Indian food to serve alongside the turkey dinner. “We brought some mild spicy cutlet — it’s a very snacky thing. We are not sure. Canadians are not good with spices and all, so it’s a kind of mild thing and we made that.”
While she misses her family in India, Mathew said Cape Breton is now her second home and she’d like to stay here if there’s an opportunity after she graduates.
“Here everywhere is a smiling face,” she said.