By MCS Program Director, Anna Bergen
About 20 years ago, a young woman called our Family Education and Support Project of Aylmer (FESPA) office asking about classes for women. Lily* heard about our program and was eager to be registered for classes. It was summertime, which means there were no classes until the fall.
She shared that she and her husband had recently moved to Canada as a newly married couple and she was going stir crazy in their small apartment in downtown Aylmer. Lily came from Mexico, and having lived in a colony, there was always something to do and someone to visit. Suddenly she found herself very alone in a new country while her husband was at work.
As the summer went on, she called a few more times to ensure she was registered and that she had not missed the starting date.
In the fall, she started attending classes where she was able to meet other women who shared her experiences and, like her, were learning how to do life in Canada. Lily was a joy to those around her, always sharing her smile freely with everyone. Although she did not enjoy school, she was determined to keep attending so she could learn to speak English.
When she was expecting her first child, we enrolled her in our Family Support and Mom&Baby Programs to assist her at various appointments, advocating and translating for her. Being a first-time mother she was very grateful for the support from FESPA as she would not have been able to communicate with the doctors on her own. Being our very first participant in the Mom&Baby Program she was also very gracious as we tried to launch this new program. Instead of complaining, she just gratefully accepted what we could offer as we stumbled through that first year together with her, all of us on a new journey. Shortly after her son was born, Lily and her husband were able to purchase a house which was a blessing to them as the apartment they lived in was not suitable for family life.
Lily continued to attend FESPA classes for several years, first bringing only one son and then a couple of years later, her second child. When her oldest son began attending public school she began to transition out of our program and began helping at the school as a parent volunteer. The school principal was overjoyed to see a newcomer willing to volunteer with the school.
I met up with Lily this year and learned that she still lives in the same house they bought when her first child was born, she now has four beautiful children in three different schools, her oldest son graduated from high school last year, and she continues to support the schools where her children attend.
It is a joy to meet people in the community and see how they have re-established their lives because they received welcoming support when they were newcomers.
*Name changed for privacy
Pictured above, FESPA students in class in January 2020.