On April 2015, the sixth group of participants graduated from the Women on the Move (WOTM) leadership program. Mary (name has been changed) was one of eight women who graduated and delivered the following graduate speech to peers, families, funders, and other program supporters in attendance:
Good afternoon everyone,
My name is Mary*, I am a ‘Women on the Move’ graduate. Today I am going to share my journey throughout this program. I was in an abusive relationship of more than 8 years. Although I tried to make the relationship work in hopes of my family to staying together but living in a domestic violence was extremely challenging for me. Particularly when my ex fixed a date to take my three-year-old daughter away from me to Bangladesh and not allow her return to Canada to me until she is old enough to travel by herself. This caused great concern for me and I became very fearful for both myself and my daughter, and I felt the home was no longer safe for me and my daughter to remain. At time drew closer to that date I left such an unhealthy environment and moved at the Redwood shelter. I became a single parent. I was not sure how can I make a life of my own. I was feeling isolated. My case manager to The Redwood referred me to the Women on the Move program. I decided to join the program because I wanted to take a chance and try something new. I met other single moms who are going through challenges like me, which helped me realize I am not alone! During the Women on the Move sessions, we were able to share our dreams, goals and achievements. We inspired each other.
My past life experience negatively affected my self-esteem. The WOTM program offered valuable knowledge on developing self-esteem, life skills lessons in various areas of life, and employability skills. We had fun doing community activities while gaining valuable knowledge to enhance our personal and professional skills.
Now I want to share with you how I gained confidence and developed a positive self-image from this program. We have learned how important it is to stay positive. I have instilled these scripts in my mind. ‘I can succeed’, ‘I am worthy of having a fantastic life’, ‘I can accomplish great things’. I posted those notes on my bedroom wall. I believe with hard work and effort we can achieve anything.
Another life lesson is the importance of gratitude. From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate everything. At times there are things that go wrong in my life, but I remind myself to focus on what things are going right. I do not have lots of money but I came to know that I won’t bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance. I am free to express my values and interests. No one owns me. I can dream anything and I can be anything! I have the freedom to choose my destiny. That is priceless. I am constantly grateful and positive. ‘When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.’ ‘The life you imagine most is the life that will be presented to you.’ Success comes from thinking and believing success is possible. Once you have mentally decided to gain success your next step is to work towards your dream.
I have learned how to set goals and make plans to achieve them. Sharing goals with trusted friends is a good way to keep motivated. I met Stephanie, who is one of the Community Outreach Counsellors of the program for a one-on-one session. The meeting with her helped me to discover my dreams and purpose in my life. I told her I wanted to go back to school. In our first meeting, I was only thinking about barriers such as my age, high tuition fees, childcare support etc. She informed me about WoodGreen’s Homeward Bound program that was just perfect for my specific needs. She helped me in the application process, resume and cover letter. Then I attended the info session. Then came a math and English test, which I did a good job. Throughout the whole time, I was constantly in touch with Stephanie. She motivated me and at the same time, I felt accountable to accomplish my goals. I got the opportunity for interviews. I passed three interviews and was accepted into the Homeward Bound program.
Throughout this process, I realized how badly I needed a mentor. Without Stephanie’s constant support and positive feedback, I could have gone back to my old ways of thinking of myself as a loser. I will be starting college in September 2016 to achieve my goal of becoming a financial planner. I am committed to improving my life and the life of my daughter. I want to strengthen my community and create more opportunities for others to gain financial stability. I want to be a role model for future generations.
The WOTM program gave me a new life. Every part of my life has changed, from my eating and sleeping habits, to the amount of productivity in each day. My forms of entertainment, value of time, self-respect and knowledge of my role in the community have been positively impacted. WOTM is truly a means to the goal. I would call this program a dream project, which helps vulnerable women accomplish their dreams! I am grateful to the WOTM program’s fantastic donors and staff for their help and support throughout my journey.
Mary Group 6
We would like to extend sincere appreciation to The Bras Family Foundation for the generosity and support we have received, so we can continue to impact the lives of the women.