When Kathy and her young son with disabilities were at risk of homelessness and needed help, she turned to the YWCA’s Single Mothers’ Support Services and affordable housing program. She eventually returned to school to become a community support worker and now gives back through her work.
It was a long struggle, however. At 21, Kathy left Hungary, which at the time was a communist country with few of the goods and fineries of the West. She and her first husband decided to move to Canada where they might have a better life in 1986.
While she doesn’t consider herself the adventurous type, Kathy realizes that she needed to be strong and resilient after she moved, and that these strengths have led her to where she is now.
Even though she had trained and worked as a kindergarten teacher in Hungary, it was difficult to find work in Canada with her foreign credentials. After her marriage fell apart, she met her second partner and settled down with him and had her son. New challenges arose when she realized that her new partner had alcohol issues. When her son was one, she left the relationship and started life as a single mother but was still hopeful that things would work out.
After her relationship ended, Kathy discovered that her son had autism and Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome (RTS). This meant that he would need a great deal of attention and she couldn’t spend any time away from him. Being on social assistance, daycare costs were too high for her and, with her limited education, she didn’t have the opportunities to go back to school and retrain.
Kathy had few resources or people she could turn to at the time. In her mid-30s, Kathy found the YWCA’s Single Mothers’ group that completely changed her life. The group introduced her to people in a similar position.
The YWCA specializes in providing single moms with the support and growth opportunities they need. There, Kathy and her son found resources and options including affordable supportive housing, the opportunity for Kathy to go back to school and get the career that she wanted, and a daycare centre for her son so she would always know he was safe while she was away from home. Kathy says, “With the support, it was much, much easier. I can’t even imagine what I would have gone through without it.” With a special needs son that needed an immense amount of additional care and support, Kathy says it really takes a village to raise a child.
While she lived there, Kathy attended Langara College to complete her Social Services Worker Diploma, so that she could work for the same type of social programs that helped her get on her feet. She started out as a volunteer facilitator at YWCA Single Mothers’ group in Vancouver, and then facilitating Parenting for Immigrants. After that, someone approached her about providing pre-employment and life skills training for people who have disabilities, and she was able to say that she had the experience they were looking for because of what she learned while raising her son.
She now works as a Resource Room Coordinator at Work BC in Surrey, where she provides employment counselling and services to people who are looking for work. Interestingly, and probably based on her own experience, the best advice she has for job seekers is to utilize their networks – because employers want to screen you even before they meet with you. Agencies are also working together, creating partnerships, and that’s how people get from one point to the next point with more support.
Kathy now lives in independent housing in Port Moody, and she couldn’t be happier. She now has time to explore her love and interest in the arts and to travel, and feels she has the freedom and energy to do this.