How PSS changed my life
My name is Violeta, I came to Canada in 2006, as a refugee to start a new life far away from my home country. It was hard. I remember the days when I was crying alone at home, wishing to have my family close to me. Most of the time, I avoided going out. I couldn’t speak English; I always say, “at that time, I was mute, blind and deaf”. My life changed and I lost everything when I arrived in Canada and become a Refugee claimant. I lost family, friends, work, house, etc.
When I became a new mother, I was feeling happy and sad. I was happy to see my baby growing, and sad because I was alone here. It was a big challenge deciding to be a full-time mother. I had to give up my career. Society always pushes you hard to be a good child, a perfect mother, and an excellent professional; I felt like I was a failure. As a new immigrant and a new mother in Vancouver dealing with my ups and downs was not easy. Lucky for me, the Community Worker at the Clinic for refugees provided me with some community resources and programs in Spanish, which is my first language.
My life changed once again when my second baby was born, I was joining a few programs in Spanish that helped me to understand my new role as a new mom in Canada. Being a 24-hour mom was really hard, there were days when I was tired, sad, stressed, and upset; I was crying seeing my new reality. I was raising my child without the support of my family, in a new culture and society. I appreciate all the support that I had from the community workers, facilitators, and my home visitor from Building Blocks; all of them provided me support in Spanish which made my life happier and easier. Since those days I was thinking “one day I will be supporting others in the same situation as mine”. It was a long wait.
In 2015 my youngest boy was ready to start kindergarten; two years before that, I attended English classes, it was the first step to open a new world. This new world was a multicultural society where everyone faces a lot of challenges, and achieves goals in a short, medium and large period of time. In Immigrant Service Society of BC (ISSofBC) I met people like me, it made me feel better and inspired me to rebuild my dreams and goals. When I finished the ELSA program, I took some trainings to learn how to support immigrants like me. When I applied to be a volunteer at PSS, I had in mind just one thing “to have the opportunity to support others to face their fears and have the courage to become a resilient person”.
The first day when Bella called me, hearing her friendly voice, it made me feel happy and secure. When I attended the first interview in person, it was a good and nice experience. Bella was kind and friendly, she treated me with respect, empathy and compassion. At that moment I was thinking even if I was rejected because I didn’t fit in the position “I won’t feel bad, it was my first try”. One-week later Bella invited me to have a meeting with her. She told me “at this moment in PSS we have just one position for Spanish Group facilitator, but you can be volunteer in another area”; I definitely said YES!
In that time, as a volunteer, I helped reactivate the Steering Committee, which is a team of professionals who support the volunteer group facilitators. Two months later I became trained as a group Facilitator. A few months after that, Bella proposed in the Steering Committee meeting to open a new Spanish group in New Westminster, it was supported by all. In March of 2016, I helped facilitate this new group when we had our first meeting with just two new members attending. Every meeting and experience was an opportunity to learn something new that help me to be a better person, it helps me to develop my skills and knowledge to provide a better support to the members of the Parents Support Group in Spanish.
We had to move the group from one place to another, trying to keep the group open and active, until today. The group has become a family of our members, a safe space where everyone is able to express their problems, feelings, and emotions without the fear of being judged. After being a long-term facilitator, the group provided me with the courage to rebuild my life and my career in Canada. So, in 2022, I applied for the position of Volunteer recruitment and Retention Coordinator at PSS and got the job! I am grateful every day to continue helping people become volunteers and seek the supports PSS provides. From seeking support, myself, to now giving it, I am grateful for everyone who helped me be where I am today.
As a long-term facilitator, and now staff member, the only thing I can say is “THANKS TO PSS my life and the life of the members that I support, have change for good”.
With gratitude, love, kind and admiration to all the volunteer who are part of the community of PSS
Parenting Support Group Facilitator & Volunteer Recruitment & Retention Coordinator