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Innovative program changes lives through "whole-life" support

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Community

Alisha* lived in the same home with her husband and three daughters for 15 years, but just a year ago she would not have been able to find her own way around the neighborhood. 

“Every day was the same,” says Alisha, who moved to Vancouver from Afghanistan with her husband 16 years ago. “[My husband] took me every three weeks to get groceries, but otherwise I was home. I had my kids and that’s all. I didn’t have friends; I didn’t know the streets or addresses in the area where we live.

“It’s really hard to live that way. It’s like living in a cage.” 

After years of abuse and isolation, Alisha found the courage to take her daughters and leave. 

“When we left, my daughter said, ‘Mom, are we going to live on the street?’ I wanted to tell her yes because I have nothing to support myself and my kids. For such a long time I never even held a pen. It was overwhelming.”

With help from the YWCA and other community supports, Alisha began to rebuild her life. Today, she lives in YWCA housing with her daughters and is working towards her Grade 12 Canadian education equivalency.

She is also participating in YWCA Futures in Focus, an innovative new program that supports single mothers on their path towards sustainable employment.

Helping single mothers with "whole-life support"

“Ultimately, we want to affect the life of the child by supporting the mother,” says Jesselin T’Kenye, Career Advisor with Futures in Focus. “And so the objective is whole-life support to navigate all the systems that single moms have to in order to get to a long-term, financially viable existence.” 

Jesselin says Futures in Focus does this by offering 20-months of one-to-one and group support with a focus on employment and life-skills development, advocacy, group workshops and mentoring. 

Participants work with their career advisors to create individual action plans. Career advisors then use everything at their disposal, including other YWCA programs and services, and their expert knowledge of government and community supports, to help participants achieve their short and long-term goals. The single moms also receive child minding, bus tickets, food stipends and training dollars. 

“Most single moms can’t do all of this on their own, plus work or go to school, parent their children and pay the rent,” says Nahid Sohrabi, Career Advisor with the program. 

Looking forward to the future

Alisha’s goals include finishing school and moving on to further training to work as an ultrasound technician. She has also rediscovered her love of art and hopes to volunteer at the Vancouver Art Gallery. 

“This is what I’ve wanted all my life.” says Alisha. “I wanted to go to school, to study, to work and not to depend on somebody else. But I never had the chance. I’m so thankful to the YWCA for making this happen for me.”

Alisha is excited for her own future, but says that ultimately, everything she does is for her daughters.

“My mom had the same situation. My father is abusive. It was normal for me, and I don’t want this to be normal for my kids. I don’t want them to live the same life I lived.”

 

YWCA Futures in Focus is operated entirely on funds contributed by our generous donors. If you would like to help support this innovative program for single mothers in need, please contact Brenda Ulmer at 604 895 5764 / bulmer@ywcavan.org

*Name changed.

 

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