HOPES: Imelda’s Story
“It was a very interesting journey – sometimes so hard; sometimes so beautiful.”
Imelda came to Toronto from Mexico City 5 years ago. She raised her family and worked as a children’s therapist. She always wanted to come to Canada, and friends had told her that it was beautiful, with a happy way of life. After she was divorced and her children were grown, she wondered what else was out there in the world – if there was something here for her.
With no money and no friends in Canada, she looked to an agency which got her sponsorship as a nanny. She took care of the children and the housework, but she knew she needed to rebuild herself and start a career where she could continue to grow. In Mexico, she had a fulfilling career, but here, the language, the culture, the education system – everything was different. She didn’t know how to write a resume or where to look for a job, and felt like she knew nothing. “Back home, I didn’t need to write resumes because I had my friends and my networking. You always have a job because everybody knows you and helps you find a job. Resumes are different here, so I started from zero.”
When she heard about the HOPES program at the Mennonite New Life Centre, she knew it was the place for her. She had the word ‘Hope’ written in red letters and posted on her wall. “I see the word ‘hope’ every single day”, she says, laughing. But it wasn’t an easy decision. To complete the program, she would have to leave her job, and that scared her. With low self-esteem and growing insecurity, she didn’t think she would make it.
Summoning her courage, she moved out, left her job, and started coming for individual counselling. She attended workshops where she learned what Canadian employers are looking for, how to build a resume, and how to prepare for interviews. “It was really great information for me. They gave me the confidence I needed.”
When Imelda found a job posting at Kerry’s Place (Autism Services), she knew it was a good match to her background in mental health and therapy. She took a course on autism, and got help with her resume. “With that resume and the confidence I got here, and the information I got here, I applied – and Hallelujah! I got it!” For the past year, she’s been helping young adults with autism. She has grown a lot, and now has her heart set on becoming a behavioural therapist. “That’s my goal. It looks like it’s going to be my job forever!”
Imelda believes that HOPES helped her to stand on solid ground. “I really found the right place to help me build the foundations. They gave me a lot. They gave me so much. The counsellors at MNLCT – they are my angels!”