woman and child, sunset, together, resilience, safety

“Finally, I could smile again. I could get excited for the future.”

When a woman first makes a crisis call to the YWCA, she is at one of the lowest moments of her life.

Paralyzed with fear and overwhelmed by anxiety. No control over her situation. The basic needs of herself and her children not being met.

I’ve been there. And I know first-hand how much courage it takes.

My family was in distress, facing a lack of shelter, food insecurity, and emotional turmoil. So I made the decision to leave the only home I had and face an unknown future, because all that mattered to me was my children’s safety.

That’s when I started my Journey of Care with YWCA Peterborough Haliburton.

Their team began safety planning as soon as I called. They sent a taxi to pick us up from my kids’ school – the only place I could ensure we’d be alone. As we rode away, I knew we wouldn’t be able to go back.

We arrived at the safe space and were taken to a private room with hygiene products, quilts, pajamas, and stuffed animals on the beds to welcome us. I can’t express how much that meant to me, after leaving behind all my kids’ favourite toys. I took a deep breath and felt the fear start to ease slowly.

When I was ready, I began the work to heal. I spoke about my trauma with the YWCA’s supportive counsellors, and joined group sessions where I learned from the other women in the safe space. I learned that I was not alone – there were many women working on learning how to live a life without fear.

After a long process of digging deeply in counselling, I started to feel whole again. I had more confidence in my ability to parent. I was believing in myself again, as my Journey of Care continued.

The day came where I had to seek legal support. I worried I’d never be able to walk outside freely anymore, that I would always be reliant on others to help me. But the YWCA Court Support Worker sat down with me to walk me through filling out the forms to obtain a restraining order.

I knew there was still a lot of work ahead, but I had a plan.

My next step was to meet with the team at the START Program, a service hub that connected me with multiple community agencies. They listened, recognized my vision for where I wanted to be in a few months and years, then presented me with options for support, tailored to my unique situation. By the time I left that meeting, I had forms completed for priority second-stage housing, temporary income support, and information about furthering my education so I could get back on my feet.

Your generous support helps the YWCA provide life-changing services to women like me, so that we can give our children the gift of safety.

Finally, I could smile because my vision was possible. I could get excited for what the future held.

The next step in my Journey of Care was to leave the shelter and move into second-stage housing. I heard that the YWCA’s rent-geared-to-income community, Centennial Crescent, had a unit available.

But instead of being happy, I felt completely overwhelmed. I had no beds, no dishes, no food – nothing. We had received many donations of clothing for myself and my kids, but the weather was cold and we had no coats. It was just too much. How could I ever manage on my own?

I approached the counsellor on duty and shared my concerns. Right away they reassured me, saying the YWCA could provide donated items to help us get started in our new home, and gift cards to stores where we could buy food and supplies. With these magical words, I felt the last of my worries ease away.

A week later, after settling into the Centennial community, I met with a support worker who encouraged me to sign up for on-site retraining sessions on finances, computer skills, and résumé writing. I also applied for the YWCA’s Hazel Education Bursary, applied for OSAP funding, and set up skill development classes I needed after an educational assessment at Fleming College identified the gaps in my learning.

Within a few short months, I was able to apply to my college program of choice and had been approved for funding. After working so hard to build up my résumé, I applied for jobs and got hired quickly.

Reflecting on my new life, I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for the staff at the YWCA, and the amazing community of people like you who support their work.

I know the YWCA would not be able to provide all the programs and services they do without generous financial support from the community. If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have had that wrap-around programming to help me through my journey from fear to safety, from trauma to healing, from control to independence – my Journey of Care.

Much like any road we travel, each journey has ups and downs, stops, starts, and redirects. Each woman’s experience is unique. The wonderful thing about the YWCA is that they support women in the way that works for us individually, whatever that looks like, and they believe in us and our choices.

My hope is that you will continue to walk beside the YWCA as they help women like me construct our paths into the future. With your donation, you’ll be helping women move into a life without fear.

Please support the YWCA. Your generosity will help women and children in the Journey of Care, from surviving to thriving in a life free from violence.

With my gratitude,

P.S. My story is not unique, but so many other women in our community are still in various stages of fleeing an abusive situation. Please give today so more of those women can become what I am today – independent, strong, and living without fear. Thank you for your support!

*Heather is a real woman who recently found support at YWCA Peterborough Haliburton. Her name has been changed to protect her safety.