I could not leave the house at all. My English wasn’t very good, and Canada was just completely different from Uganda.
I remember our first Christmas here—it was the first time I saw snow. The weather was so cold! I was used to living on the equator, where it’s 30 C or 40 C every day.
My mom was in Canada with us for a while. Then she went back to Uganda and it was just me and my sisters. My dad was here too, but he was usually working, so I had to be responsible for my sisters. That was quite hard. But we would do United Way programs. There was a story time program at the library, which I loved. I also played sports—I went to all of the programs.
Now I volunteer. I often think, ‘Where would I be without United Way?’ And honestly, I probably wouldn’t be as involved in my community as I am. I don’t think I would be going out there and doing random acts of kindness, like writing little notes that can make someone’s day, or telling people, ‘Hey, I love your smile,’ or ‘I like your style.’ I feel like volunteering has given me a lot of confidence and built leadership skills for me as a young woman.
Eventually, I was connected with a social worker through a program that’s supported by United Way. The social worker helped me get provincial disability support and access a range of services, including counselling, housing, peer support and skill development that made me feel more hopeful about my future.
Today, I volunteer with youth as a peer support worker at the agency. It really helps me to be able to help others. I no longer feel like a burden on society.
I still work with my social worker one-on-one. We’ve looked at finding work for me and applying to schools as a mature student. It’s nice to know that people care about me and want me to succeed. That’s pretty powerful.”