“I was robbed a few weeks ago while I was away on a trip; I was robbed of almost everything.” Mariama tells me about her disaster in the first few minutes of our telephone conversation. “But I’m hanging in there; I feel cared for, supported. I now have the tools to face this kind of challenge. Ten years ago, I would not have been as strong.”
Mariama, the mother of two boys aged 16 and 7 years old, is now a lunch monitor in a grade school. Her journey since arriving from Morocco in 2007 has been filled with obstacles, but also with important lessons. If today she feels indebted to her community, it’s because she feels she has received a lot from the women and support program at the Women’s Centre in her neighbourhood and from Pharmaprix’s Growing Women’s Health campaign.
IR: Mariama, how did you end up at the Women’s Centre?
M: Once I had immigrated to Canada, I had trouble finding a job. I used to be an executive secretary, but here, I couldn’t find a job. I already had a child, so I wanted to be able to take good care of him. Somebody suggested I go to the Women’s Centre. I was admitted right away to the *Virage program, a non-traditional career exploration program.
IR: What kind of support did you receive?
M: The Women’s Centre supports us. It offers psychological support. I was pregnant, uprooted from my home and I separated from my husband. I was facing many problems. The Women’s Centre became my second home. In fact, a woman from the Centre was with me during my delivery! I also received food and clothing aid. I received Christmas baskets, stuffed animals and educational games for my children. It really made me feel supported. I had no family here, so this help was all the more precious.
Through it all, we become friends with other women, we communicate, we share our suffering, our good news, and our resources.
IR: Once the Virage program was over, what did you do?
M: Once the program was over, I completed a year-long internship in the furniture upholstery field. I quickly realized that in that field, I had to make my own projects happen. At night, I would make chairs and armchairs at home. That really helped me become more self-confident. I was taking control of my life; I had a goal and was working to achieve it. Since internships were unpaid, I started filling in at childcare centres, and I ended up choosing to change my career. I am now a lunch monitor in a school. I love taking care of children; I love them, I want to protect and encourage them.
IR: So then, it’s like paying it forward? You give back because you received help?
M: Yes, it’s true. I consider myself very lucky. I was so well cared for and supported. I was given advice and the tools to face all of my challenges. I became a stronger, more confident and more accomplished woman.
IR: A strong mother makes for strong children?
M: Absolutely. My children benefit from it. All three of us come out winners. We’re receiving a new arrival today, and I’m looking at what I have at home to help with her integration.
The furniture she built during her internship may have been stolen, but Mariama’s confidence and personal experience will stay with her forever.
I told you Mariama’s story, but France, Solange, Martine, Karine and many others have similar stories.
Thankfully, many local organizations come to women’s aid. You can also make a contribution by going to your local PHARMAPRIX store.
During the Growing Women’s Health campaign (September 9 to October 6), you can buy and personalize a Growing Women’s Health icon, either a "leaf" for $1, a "butterfly" for $5, an "apple" for $10 or a "bird" for $50. The icons are prominently displayed on the PHARMARPIX AIMEZ. VOUS. Growing Women's Health Tree in all participating stores
Our annual campaign has enabled us to collect over 32.3 million dollars since 2002. Last year, 500 local organizations received 100% of the donations made by clients from their respective communities.
All of our projects support local initiatives focused on women’s health, which can range from improving local hospital services to supporting mental health programs. This year, the objective in Quebec is to reach $410 000.
I hope many of you get involved :) Make a contribution to help women in your community and share your gesture with the hashtag #PHARMAPRIXAIMEZVOUS.