Learning to lead
When Samantha and her family first moved to Canada from Uganda, it was a shock. Between cultural and languages changes and adjusting to the much colder weather, she needed support to adjust. As she grew up, she wanted to give back and help others. Now, at 19, volunteering has helped Samantha become a local leader.
When I first came to Canada, I was super shy.
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.
You can change someone’s life just by showing up.
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.”