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First Person Stories

Rebecca Chenier

Rebecca Chenier – My Story

By | First Person Stories

Rebecca Chenier

 
Rebecca Chenier

My Story

Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned and I found myself sitting in an employment center trying to find a career to support my family.

I asked the employment counsellor about a skilled trades flyer and he warned me that this was a dirty job that I may not enjoy.

Now I smile when I think back because I’m not your typical millwright apprentice.

 

My Power Shift

The pre-apprenticeship program allowed someone like me (no shop experience) to learn hands on. No other career opportunity allowed me to learn full time and get paid.

The teachers and staff were involved and helpful. They wanted to make sure we fully grasped concepts, terminology, and shop talk.

The work placement was an amazing environment to learn the fundamentals, and expand the skills of my trades with job security.

 

My Future

I have now completed my 3 year General Machinist apprenticeship and my Red Seal General Machinist Certification.

The Trades have given me financial independence, a home for my family and the opportunity to let others know about it.

I love being a role model to my daughters and showing them they can have a career they enjoy. Hopefully I can inspire more women to explore a career in the skilled trades!

Omolade Williams

Omolade Williams – My Story

By | First Person Stories

Omolade Williams

 
Omolade Williams

My Story

Prior to taking this course, I was a business analyst, IT network systems project manager and product manager.

My Masters was in innovative manufacturing in the UK, however I had no hands-on experience on the shop floor.

I was working full time at Ground Effects for minimum wage.

 

My Power Shift

The pre-apprenticeship program added knowledge that made me employable. I developed new skills such as: differentiating between different bolts, practicing safety and mandatory skills with tools and understanding how to utilize tools for optimum results.

All subject areas are relevant to the skills required in all aspects of practical manipulation of tools to complete a skilled project; from blueprint reading to moving equipment from one location to another.

 

My Future

Upon completion of the program, I experienced a major step-up with my career growth.

My first job after completing the program, I started at $18.22/hr and 6 months later, I received another increment up to $22.00/hr.

Maggie Henry

Maggie Henry – My Story

By | First Person Stories

Maggie Henry

 

My Story

I was stuck in a rut. I always liked working with my hands but the career I chose in Massage Therapy wasn’t as fulfilling as I had hoped.

 

My Power Shift

I applied to the WEST program and urged my sister to do the same. We both got in!

I went through the program learning so much and gaining a sense of empowerment. When my sister and I moved recently we built a wall for her room, changed light fixtures and general maintenance with confidence all because of what we had learned.

We learned to trust our skills, that we were strong, independent women that are capable.

 

My Future

Now I work as a welder-fabricator and get to build giant transport trailers and industrial ovens for factories. I leave work everyday feeling like I can tackle the world.

I hope all women can feel this empowerment because it feels so good!

Lisa Eybergen

Lisa Eybergen – My Story

By | First Person Stories

Lisa Eybergen

 
Lisa Eybergen

My Story

In 2015, I was a full-time stay at home mom of three after a recent separation. I was invited to a women in trades workshop with the opportunity to learn new skills and apply to a pre-apprenticeship course at the college.

By the end of that week, I was determined to get into school. I made every effort to figure out child care and how to support my family financially if I was accepted.

 

My Power Shift

I finished my pre-apprenticeship classes and was hired at A.V. Gauge and Fixture to start my apprenticeship as a General Machinist. For the next three years, I worked at A.V. while also going to school part time in the evenings and learning from my coworkers during the day.

Last year, I completed my apprenticeship training, and achieved a 4.0 GPA overall. I also wrote the qualification exam and I was determined to only write once. I’m happy to say I achieved that goal, with a grade of 81%.

 

My Future

I am so grateful for the amazing opportunity I received to better myself and my future for my family. I was able to show my children that no matter what circumstances you find yourself in, with hard work and determination you can achieve great things!

Now that I am a Journey person, my future looks bright and I am working towards a leadership role at work.

 

Bobbi Day

Bobbi Day – My Story

By | First Person Stories

Bobbi Day

 
Bobbi Day

My Story

I completed my secondary education at Walkerville Collegiate Institute which focused on honing skills for students interested in the arts. At this time, I didn’t possess any knowledge regarding the trades nor did my high school experience expose it to me.

After graduating, I was a waitress for five years before coming across an ad for the very first all female pre-apprenticeship program.

 

My Power Shift

I decided that it wasn’t too late to begin a trade and jumped at the opportunity to start my pre-apprenticeship in 2014.

Immediately after my pre-apprenticeship, I started my placement at Toolplas in 2015. I have spent the last five years acquiring many skills and specialized training to further my career in my new-found passion for the trades.

 

My Future

I stand at the forefront of one of the most fastest-rising careers in the manufacturing industry as a CNC Machinist/Operator at Toolplas in Windsor, Ontario.

I have now completed my Level 3 General Machinist and in the process of studying and preparing towards writing my Red Seal Exam to become a certified Tradeswoman!

 

Manal

Manal – My Story: Never Give Up

By | First Person Stories

Manal

 
ManalIn this challenging and strange world, sometimes we have to start from scratch “zero”, I believe even if we are at zero but we have the strength, we will achieve and we can add value. So, if you had to start from “zero” ones in your life, a few times, or never had to, you will still be interested in reading my story.

I came from a beautiful country in Middle East (Syria), but the war made it the most dangerous place in the world, so I had to go to Canada in 2017 with “zero” language because I never spoke English, some education because I only had one-year law university, that it is not recognized or accepted here in Canada, also “zero” friends and family. I left them all behind; they were lost in the condition of war, “zero” financial because I lost my possessions too. From all those “zeros”, I had to start. At that time, I used to imagine how much we would teach our children the foundation of language and how much we would make an effort to provide them with knowledge, good economic condition, and a solid foundation for facing life. My question is, what if suddenly something happened and they were forced to start from scratch and maybe placed in front of the “zeros”.

I had a strange feeling of fear and loneliness. At that time, I decided to go, step by step, to be successful in my new place, so I started to learn English from “zero”, and I knew it would not be an easy way. I took a full-time ESL class at the WEST for women. I got a lot of support from the staff, as they encouraged me to work hard on my education, so I went to level five in eight months because I was working hard and never missed out any lesson even though. I was pregnant with my twins, until one day my teacher said: “It is your last day at school, please stay home and take a rest, because you will very soon give birth. I told my teacher that “climbing to the top of the mountains has never been so easy, and I deserve access.”

After my twins grew up a little bit, I went to the LEAD program at WEST. There I did build up my skills and I got customer service skills, first aid, CPR and public speaking skills which made me feel I am ready to find a job, but I knew I should start from something that doesn’t need perfect English like a lawyer, so I chose the medical field, and I found work in a pharmacy. In the pharmacy, I did start from “zero” too, because I never studied or worked or even had any knowledge about pharmacy jobs. Also, it is a very subtle work that requires “zero” mistakes in a work placement, which made me very scared, so I put all my heart into my work until I learned very well.

It wasn’t easy. I cried many times. One time my manager said, “ you are always holding your tears”, I thought it would be your last day with me.You exceeded my expectations by your insisting on learning and intention to work hard; “she said” I have been on time and never been late once and always show up with a big smile and my insistence on success. Due to the language barrier and career knowledge, communication was difficult and challenging, especially dealing with my employer and coworkers until finally I was able to gain their trust and love through my kindness and hard work in a very short time. I become one of the best assistants there (as per my manager), I also have an excellent economic foundation so that I can shop and buy my own home. Moreover, I did improve my English, and I almost got my high school diploma in just two semesters as I am working toward post secondary education . Also, I did register at college to gain more knowledge in my career.

After almost a year, all the world faces a pandemic of Coronavirus, I was a front-line worker in the pharmacy, so I got the virus and I was maybe the first one in my city who got it. I had symptoms when I came from work, after two days It became worse, so I went to the Assessment Centre to get a test but I couldn’t because I didn’t travel outside Canada. I sat at home and I started self-isolation(as a precaution), but my manager asked me to do the test to make sure it is not coronavirus but unfortunately, I couldn’t do it because it was only for people who had traveled, until the third time when we had some cases in the city I did the test and it was positive. At that time my husband and my four kids had the virus too. I found myself again facing big challenges because I couldn’t go to the hospital and keep my kids and my sick husband by themselves, so I had to be strong and handle everything by myself with my illness. Thank God, I had support from the Health Unit who did call me every two days to update my case and answer my questions, also I had support from a Settlement counselor with the Settlement Services Department at (WEST) who was following up on me regularly, as they called me as soon as they heard that I was tested positive and knew about my struggle with covid-19, they called every day when and offered all the help.

I desperately wanted someone I could talk to because I sat at home in self-isolation for more than a month, which put me under a lot of pressures such as taking care of my kids with my sickness, studying online for my final exam without any help and thinking about work and if I would be able to return. I think that I overcome all difficulties on my own and with people’s support, I believe that when we face a hard situation any kind of support can make a difference like WEST-”Women Enterprise Skills Training of Windsor Inc.” who was with me in my very difficult times starting from when I had my twins, till I got sick which made me so appreciative and can’t even imagine how I would have done it without their support. I can’t Thank them enough for all their care and support.

Finally, I believe those “zeros” and difficulties added more value to my life and made me discover myself more and know my strengths and my potential and use them well. Also, they made me face my weaknesses and my fears to overcome them, so we should never be scared to start from scratch “zero” because it will add more worth to our life with determination and belief in ourselves, so I learned from WEST, whatever happens with us we should Never Give Up.

Jane

New Life in a New City by Jane Emilia Tomasso

By | First Person Stories

Jane Emilia Tomasso

 
JaneLife brought me to Toronto. I grew up in Amherstburg with Windsor as my nearest metropolis. It was difficult to understand my confusing childhood as a trans girl, especially considering the surrounding world was not only destitute from the creation of popular culture, and Essex County was and is often latent to the ever-changing social landscape.

In Windsor, I was a patient at the Windsor Family Health Team. I joined the patient roster in early young adulthood because it was one of the few teams in Windsor educated on how to care for trans patients. As required by law, I was sent for a psychiatric evaluation to ensure that I “fit the bill” of someone who needed hormones. The receptionist at the psychiatrist’s office had a terribly unwelcoming demeanor and always seemed to be on the phone with staff from her children’s school about one problem or another. Visits to the psychiatrist made me feel like an outlier. Windsor is a small city and never when I was young did I have interactions with other trans girls to relay our experiences and empathize. At a mid-point in my transition, I was sent to an endocrinologist to have my hormone levels checked and ensure everything to do with my medication was in order. The endocrinologist took it upon himself to ask invasive questions about my sexual life and history and then deemed a physical to be necessary. I later asked my family doctor if he had asked the endocrinologist to give me a physical or investigate my sex life – he had not

At age twenty-two I moved to Toronto after working for The Hudson’s Bay’s Windsor store in the cosmetics department for around two-and-a-half years. I felt as though Toronto not only represented a call to opportunity for all young people, but for young trans people especially. In Toronto I experienced for the first time a work climate that not only celebrated my transness but also let it be a nonfactor when it was irrelevant to discuss. Nothing is totally perfect, of course, but there is opportunity in Toronto for trans people who really work at it – and not much of the sort in Windsor.

Some barriers arose in my moving to Toronto. I had two primary concerns: was I going to be happy, and would the high cost of living prove to be untenably high. Those barriers and others certainly did rear their heads. As I began to adjust to city-living, I realized my sporadic gender dysphoria had not so much previously abated as it had been crowded out by exciting changes in my life. Dysphoria unfortunately returned and months later I left a plastic surgeons office with a $20,000 quote for a rhinoplasty and a brow shave. People who do not understand trans individuals often find this sort of expense and desire to look a certain way to be extraneous when it comes to discussions about trans people’s need for life-improving surgeries like facial feminization and the broad spectrum of ‘plastys that reside under its scope. In Toronto I hit a major financial barrier that, truthfully, would have hit in Windsor as well. Facial and corporeal surgeries are such an important part of the conversation when discussing the mental health and overall wellbeing of trans people and, as an aside, it is a necessity that OHIP should cover. After a long chat with my parents, my father decided that he would help me and fund my surgeries. I now am a totally content patient at the Sherbourne Health Centre in Toronto, an institution that provides much of Ontario with modern and empathic guidelines of care for trans people. I am comfortably able to book my own STI checks, checkups, and have my doctor help me with my pre-FFS surgical forms.

In the months after moving to Toronto, I truly did live! I found an expansive community of trans and queer people waiting for me in good old Hogtown. Never before had I had so many affirming voices in my life encouraging me to be myself, be authentic, live in my reality, and express myself endlessly and freely. My self-esteem skyrocketed, but at times so did my self-doubt. My understanding of my own sexuality changed from previously shrivelled and WASP-informed to expansive and inquisitive. I have a phenomenal support system of friends that have really helped me to better myself. They are the sisters that I chose. It wasn’t all positive, however. Many times I was harassed on the streetcars while running errands or commuting to work, and I’ve been threatened with physical violence as well. It is often men that perpetrate this violence very often, and more people need to start protecting trans people using public transit from harassment. After these violent experiences, I desperately needed the loving shelter of my community, which I often get from my trans roommate and her trans girlfriend.

My experiences in Toronto have definitely given me a feeling of personal satisfaction. Within one year I moved out on my own, started a new job, received a promotion, had portraits of me exhibited at a Canadian Women’s Foundation luncheon with my commentary, and realized that it’s okay to be a trans woman that is not totally straight. Revelations upon difficult yet thankful revelations characterized my first year in the city. I feel the success of my experiences now only as I am writing about it, and I am very happy that I have a platform to share my thoughts. I am currently part of the managerial staff at a Toronto-based skincare company. I am happy to be where I am but I am always looking for the opportunity to endeavor creatively, which I do not get to do at my current job. I hope that in the future I will find myself in a more creation-oriented line of work.

To women and other people with similar experiences I want you to know that you are not alone. There are many trans women just like you, fighting the daily fight to pay rent while working towards something greater. I want you to know that it is okay to explore and experiment with your gender and sexuality. I want you to know that you do not have to look a certain way to be beautiful. You are already beautiful. Most importantly, however, I want you to know that there is love waiting for you.