Greg’s Story

Lone parent families have historically experienced a higher rate of poverty than any other family structure. Having the right help available is key to keeping a family together. Your donations empower United Way to provide support across numerous platforms helping change the power of poverty.

 

“I am happy. I accept the way things are, and enjoy talking with my wife and kids.”

That may not seem like a giant step, but for Greg, and many others like him, the simple prescription for a good life is not that easy to find.

Although Greg now describes himself as a family man, his marriage, and his family were both in crisis not so long ago. In fact, his wife had initiated a separation. Greg was angry and had turned to alcohol for comfort. But he also knew he had to turn things around, and the first step was his discovery of the Healthy Choices program at Family Counseling Centre of Cambridge and North Dumfries.

“Asking for help is a sign of weakness. You’re supposed to “man up.”

1 out of 5 Canadians will struggle with mental health at some point in their lives. There is, of course, a stigma attached to that and in some cases even more when a man is looking for support. Those negative social attitudes prevent many people from reaching out for the help which is available.

For Greg, the Healthy Choices program was a first step on the path toward recovery. In a group setting, he says, there was no shame, and men struggling with the same issues can share as much….or as little as they want. Program staff listened first, he says, and then provided excellent information on how to overcome his obstacles.

Now he feels like what he was going through has been validated, and he knows how to respond rather than react. He knows how to take time to listen. He knows the only person he can control is himself. And, he’s not as angry as he used to be. Today, Greg is reunited with his family. He is maintaining his sobriety and appreciates the life he is creating, one step at a time.

 

Abresha’s Story

Supporting vulnerable youth while they move towards adulthood is a foundational strategy of United Way.  Through your donations, we are working every day to change the power of poverty, knowing education and support builds stronger lives, and a stronger community.

 

“I saw the doors to the future were open. You can’t understand how that feels.”

You would never know it from her beaming smile, and confident nature, that Abresha has seen more in her young life than anyone should. In 2013, her father was one of thousands who uprooted their families in Kosovo to move to Canada. “There was always another war, and another war, and we would lose everything.

He wanted to go to a place of peace.”

At 16 years of age, Abresha was not only dealing with the challenges of being a teenager. She was dealing with these challenges in a new country, in a new culture, all in a new language. She needed help. United Way supported programs smoothed the path helping Abresha meet people her own age, and adjust to her new surroundings. Other programs helped her family to connect with services which helped them embrace Kitchener-Waterloo.

“You can be anything you want in Canada. You can dream.” Before arriving in 2013, there was no dreaming for Abresha. While education might be possible in Kosovo, the barriers were daunting. Today, Abresha has a dream. She is looking toward post-secondary education, and fulfilling her goal of becoming a social worker. Abresha says the help her family received came from many different places,

and was vital to her family’s success. She wants to pay that forward. She is grateful for the support she has received and the opportunities she now has.

“When you come here, you can believe anything is possible.”

Jodi’s Story

Investing in community programs can have tremendous and sometimes, surprising outcomes. Jodi struggled for years before finding a place which could act as her anchor. Your donations help change the power of poverty.

“At one point, all I wanted to do was make it to tomorrow.”

Bipolar disorder is defined as an illness which causes unusual shifts in mood, energy and activity levels leading to difficulty in completing everyday tasks.

Jodi was diagnosed at the age of 14, and that has meant a lifetime of experiencing tremendous “up” and “down moments”. Classically trained as an opera singer, with a six year old daughter, Jodi spent some time living in a shelter, and not receiving her much needed medication.   She was also trying to get by on income through Ontario Works.

“I would sleep the day away while my daughter was at school.”

Jodi’s life began to change when she connected to her local community center, in the Preston Heights area of Cambridge. She was asked to help out at a garage sale, and that experience led her to volunteering.

At first she didn’t participate in any of the programs offered, but she also didn’t want to stay at home anymore, and eventually increased her involvement. Before long, Jodi’s daughter was participating in summer camps, and youth drop in programs. And Jodi had taken an interest in not only participating, but helping to lead some of those programs.

Jodi is living proof following your heart can lead to wonderful things. She participated in the programs because they were beneficial to her child, and after four years of volunteering, she was hired on to help manage the Preston Heights Centre social media accounts.

She’s grown into a leadership role, delivering talks on mental health, and explaining how she found the support, and courage to be a survivor.

The centre is one thing which has always been there for us…a place where we can share, where we can find comfort and where we found the opportunity to succeed.”

Jodi has come a long way from that time in her life when it seemed like the only goal was to get to the next day. Getting connected to the Preston Heights Community Group has helped her access a support system that she hasn’t had in years.

Today, Jodi is at an important crossroad. She isn’t sure of what’s next, but she sees many more doorways. Although she still has difficult days from time to time just as we all do, she can see a future where she’s contributing to small businesses, maybe by helping them with their social media using the skills she’s gained at the centre.

For the first time in a very long time, Jodi feels like she can live without worry and knows that she and her daughter have the support they need.

Steve’s Story

The path to poverty can begin anywhere. The road back can be considerably less certain. United Way invests your donations in impact strategies aimed at lifting people to a more sustainable life, changing the power of poverty.

 

“You did this. You gave me back my dignity. You gave me…me.”- Steve Gosselin

You don’t fix a noise in your car by turning up the radio. That’s a bandage. And while that might work for a cut, treating a life which is broken means dealing with more than just symptoms.

Sexually assaulted as a child, emotionally and physically abused, Steve spent more than 30 years in a haze of alcohol and self-loathing. He lost his family, his children, and his home.

“I may not remember what you said. But I remember how it made me feel.”

Years of harsh words, or worse in some cases, invisibility, ended with Steve’s arrival in 2006, in this community. A “United Way Community” he adds. Counsellors, rehab and shelter volunteers spoke, and more importantly listened. Healing the whole person, addressing the root cause of problems, and giving a person, like Steve, the opportunity to grow and prosper shows anything is possible.

Steve believes anything is possible. So do we. Your donation makes anything possible. “We need help. We need it at different times and places. No one moment helped fix my problem.”