When things were at their worst, I never imagined that one day Jully Black would be the guest speaker at a graduation banquet. Someone famous from my own Jane and Finch neighbourhood came back to say “way to go.” Pretty amazing. At my worst, I couldn’t even imagine attending a course, let alone graduating. Thanks to Women Moving Forward (WMF), I can now actually imagine building a pretty great life for me and my son.
I had Daniel when I was 14. I was just a kid myself, but all of a sudden had to be a parent and I didn’t necessarily know how to do that. So I resorted to partying, drugs and drinking to cope. I was living a pretty reckless life, leaving my son with my mom on and off, not able to support him properly. That of course didn’t help my relationship with my mom either.
There was an incident when I was out one night and got stabbed. I was terrified. That, finally, really shook me up. That was the point when I knew I had to change things around or my life would go south for good.
I saw a poster for WMF when I was walking home one night along Jane St. It said they could help single moms between 20 and 29 get off social assistance. I went home and called them and it was the best phone call I ever made. I was scared to try something new, but I wanted to go back to school and start making my own money. I knew I needed to live in the real world instead of the one I was living in. I knew I wasn’t reaching my full potential or giving my son opportunities.
The program was great. We learned how to manage our money, set priorities, and write a resume. We went out on field trips to see what kind of careers were out there for us, and speakers came to us to talk about what they did. Everyone from bankers to social workers. Graduates of previous WMF programs too.
It wasn’t easy though and throughout the year-long program, there were days when I was so discouraged that I broke down. But that was the thing about this program. They had people there to support you, talk to you, keep you moving forward. Two councillors from Griffin Centre were there every week to speak to us as a group and in person. The woman I talked with regularly helped me believe that I could do it, that I had a life to look forward to. I graduated from the program last month and now work part-time in fashion retail while taking night classes in acting at George Brown College. I’m studying acting and plan to become a talent agent. My mom came to my graduation and I can’t even find words to tell you how happy she was.
As young mothers we may not be perfect, but we can give our kids a better life. Even if you think there is no way, there is always some way—bursaries, scholarships, programs like WMF—just reach out. There will be obstacles, but you have to work your way through them. You have to fight on.
Jully Black told us we should get engaged with our community and I now know that taking an interest in your community can make things happen. During our program, there was lots of talk in the news about cutting funds to programs like ours. We got together and wrote a letter about where we would all be if not for WMF. Our city councillor actually read it at City Hall during the public hearings and we were so proud. I learned that if you yell loud enough, someone will hear.
I imagine a city where all single moms have access to programs and resources to help in their fight out of poverty. I imagine a city where people see how much single moms want to make a future for their children and how hard, given half a chance, they will work to make it happen.
And I wish I could tell them all you’re never too old and it’s never too late.
You can hear more of Aneesa’s story in this short video. Hear how she had the courage to make a change and build a better life for herself and her son.