When people come here they think they can get the same job, but you have to begin again – start from scratch. We came here in 2000, didn't know anyone. My wife and I stayed in a hotel for two months; all my money went to the hotel. No one would give us an apartment because they wanted references.
The newspapers were dumped off. I had to sort them, alone, didn't know where to deliver them. I said, "I will never survive here." My wife worked at Wendy's, 6 a.m. to late. In Sri Lanka, she was in banking for 10 years, nearly an executive. It took me almost a year to get a job. A contact suggested a place; I offered to work free for a month, and if they liked my services they could hire me. With my computer and software experience, I made a good system, so they hired me.
We had a little exposure because my wife has Christians in her background. I was Buddhist, a teacher, raised in a temple. My family, history – all Buddhist. I didn't know what to do so I looked around, saw a nice picture of a man wearing a robe carrying children.
We had [been trying] to have a child for 10 years. I made a vow [then that] if we got a baby, I would give back to Him. I didn't tell anyone, not even my wife. Weeks later, she was pregnant. I told her what I vowed in the church – she said she did the same.
It didn't have electricity, just kerosene. With an agronomist, I built a simple biogas generator, piped to the kitchen for cooking, powered the dormitories. I was not scared – I know Buddhists, I know Christians – but in 2013, Buddhist militants had the orphanage shut. It has [since] re-opened, and we are going back [soon].
My first question was, "What's a greenhouse?" I stepped into one [in Wainfleet] with English cucumbers, 5,000 plants; it was so big! They were farmers since childhood, generations; I knew nothing. But the greenhouse was on Zion Road, the promised land, so we bought it. We did everything – picking, planting, transporting – working 7 a.m. to dark.
After one year of difficult times, the judge said to give it to me. The penalties I agreed to would be for generations. I remortgaged everything. My cross was heavy. I was short $95,000 the day before [the closing date].
That night, I told my wife and child, "I don't think I will survive tomorrow, you will have to leave the house. I'll be in jail." The next morning, a guy knocked at my door [to buy in] and wrote a cheque. I ran to the bank. Now I needed seeds, plants, $250,000 for irrigation. Hydro and natural gas were to be cut off the day we harvested our first box.
I also have six acres of peaches and pears and two houses, one an eight-bedroom with swimming pool [which is rented out]. I am not interested in that; I stay in the small house.
This interview has been edited and condensed.