My name is Grace. With sincere gratitude, I would like to thank the YWCA Metro Vancouver for giving me the chance to live at Como Lake Gardens. I was born and raised in a refugee camp. Though my life was very difficult, nothing had prepared me for the challenges I was going to face when I moved to Canada in 2002. I found myself in an abusive marriage. I have been in and out of transition homes for several years. I have been in great need for a safe and stable home for 10 years.
In my second relationship, I found myself pregnant. Initially, I was uncertain if I wanted to keep my child because I was very afraid that I would still be connected with my abusive partner whether I decided to leave or to stay. I was also afraid that financially I wouldn’t be able to support a baby. But my belief in Jesus Christ gave me the courage to say “YES” to my son’s life. This turned out to be the best decision I have ever made in my entire life. My son became the focus of my life. Having him became a turning point in my life. I poured my energy into creating a better life for me and him.
I met a female mentor from Mary Kay Cosmetics who connected me with the Tri-Cities Soroptimists Group. They provided help with my son’s items as well as mine. Unable to work due to depression and having a seven month old child to care for, I went on income assistance to have a source of income. I was later approved for disability benefits due to my ongoing battle with depression.
Later, I began to work with a Case Manager who introduced me to Progressive Housing Society. They subsidized a part of my rent each month till I was accepted at Como Lake Gardens. I also met another female mentor from Vancouver and the Lower Mainland Multicultural Family Support Services Society (VLMFSSS). She helped me to access legal aid and I was approved for a dedicated legal aid lawyer who helped me through a lengthy custody battle. The Judge ruled in my favor. I was granted sole custody and a restraining order against my ex-partner. He still breached the order but always denied it when questioned by the police. After ten years of constant mental and emotional abuse, my self-esteem plummeted and I was deeply depressed. My life could have been a little bit easier if only I had family and / or friends’ support. As always, I stayed true to my faith in Jesus Christ and promised myself never to lose hope but hold on till the unknown end.
My mentor also provided ongoing support and the encouragement to apply to the YWCA Como Lake Gardens. I almost didn’t apply because my past had made me believe that I did not deserve such an opportunity. To me, it was too good to be true. But something in my spirit gave me the courage to do so. While awaiting word on my application, I walked past the new building site numerous times, hoping against hope that my dream for a safe place to live would finally be answered. I was thrilled to receive word that I was accepted at Como Lake Gardens in April 2012. My decade-long prayer for a safe and stable home was finally answered.
I love living at Como Lake Gardens. It is everything I ever dreamed of and more. Value Village has become my treasure shop, as with my disability benefits and new $800 earning allowance, combined with my subsidized housing costs, I am finally able to afford basic items such as clothing and a little bit of make-up, which helps boost my self-esteem. I also love the diverse group at Como Lake Gardens and I feel incredibly blessed and grateful to have the opportunity to be part of the housing community. I’m finally home.
My goals are to focus on raising my son and to give back in any way I can. I’m currently providing shared child minding with my son’s father’s family. Starting this connection was very important to me, because I wanted my son to have a sense of family and to be able to maintain a relationship with his father as he grows up. Given the opportunity, I also would love to give back by volunteering in a homelessness program. I am a good listener and I understand how important it is to listen with empathy. I would like to bring this skill to wherever I volunteer. As difficult as the past 10 years have been, I have used my pain to make a difference by helping others.