A big move

by

Some of us know the struggles and challenges that are associated with moving to a new province or city, but can you imagine how much harder it would be to move to a different country? Here you’d be surrounded by a new place where you potentially know only a handful of people, and need to find a place to live and a source of income. It’s no easy task; so often many social service agencies refer new Canadians to our program to help them transition and settle into their new life in Canada. Sometimes after a few hampers they’re able to move on and support themselves; but sometimes they find themselves in a more challenging position than when they first arrived. To give you an idea of this, here’s the story of Sophia:

I remember going to Emergency Food Hampers as a child, but I never really knew or understood what it was. I remember coming with my siblings and we would enter this “store” and fight over all the toys and stuff in the lobby. We thought it was so cool that you didn’t have to pay for anything…My parents came to Canada a long time ago, but never used House of Friendship until they started having kids. It was just the two of them, but quickly our family became seven people. As our family grew I remember my dad began staying at home. My mom said he wasn’t able to work anymore so we would receive some help from disability benefits. My parents told us that our family wouldn’t have a lot of money, but we’d always find a way to work through it. I never remember my parents being stressed or feeling that our family was poor. My mom was the only one working and providing for the family. With only a high school diploma, my mom could not find a good paying job that would adequately support a family of seven. She worked night shifts, often with over-time. But I knew it wasn’t enough sometimes; otherwise there was no reason for us to come to this program. 

Sophia’s story is not unique. Often many patrons bring their children with them to get a food hamper because they can’t afford or don’t know anyone to watch their children. Also this is one of the few chances that these parents can say “yes” to their children when they ask if they’re allowed to take that toy or pair of shorts home.

Think back about your own childhood.  The world was a pretty complicated place and you always had a lot of questions for your parents.  How would you ask them about the food bank?  Would you have been able to understand how hard it is to ask strangers for help?

If you were able to, would you be able to explain to your 8-year-old self what it’s like to struggle to balance the household finances and do the things you feel most “normal” families do, like visit the restaurants your school mates do, go on trips, and have the right clothes to fit in?

Many people who turn to us are working one way or another to make ends meet.  Today, this often means the night shift, temp work and a handful of very part-time jobs.  How do you handle that fluctuation and unexpected circumstances? It’s hard to save and plan ahead for the future because some of the over-time pay money always goes to paying down the hydro or water bill, car insurance, or dentist.

At times you get ahead but then quickly things change where you have almost no hours at work again and the bills keep coming. Work is unpredictable, but your education limits your options on where you can work, and your English is not the greatest to write a resume to even apply for another job. But if you did apply elsewhere and got a job, your family can’t wait until any new medical benefits kick in after a few months.

Luckily Sophia’s family has medical benefits. Many people accessing our program work at part-time or temporary employment positions and don’t get the opportunity to receive any health benefits. However, saving on this expense still doesn’t put them in a better situation.

Many families scrape by most months, so it’s unlikely that there will be any savings for retirement or college funds for any of the children they may have. If they work hard and get the grades some of them may be able to earn scholarships to help pay for the increasing costs; or some may get bank loans or OSAP  in order to secure a job that may deliver better future.

In the mean time, we will be here to help when things get tough.

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