When Jessica first heard about the Dartmouth Family Centre she had four children under the age of four and was “terrified to leave the house.” She had no family in town and needed someone to talk to.
“The family centre was so welcoming” she recalls. “They watched my kids while I talked to a social worker and from that day forward I just kept on going.”
Jessica planned her month around the family centre’s program calendar, attending parenting programs, play groups with her kids, and other programs like Food & Families. Over time she built strong relationships with all the staff.
When the food centre site opened last August Jessica was invited to participate in its Community Action Training. She spent 11 weeks training to become a peer advocate, completing group and individual work to build leadership skills, learn how to manage conflict and become a knowledgeable source of information about services and resources in the community.
After three months she had the opportunity to apply as a volunteer Community Peer Advocate – a role that she initially found daunting. “I was so interested – and scared – by the idea of becoming a peer advocate. We had to do a resumé and an interview. I was so nervous but I got the position.”
Now Jessica volunteers at the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre twice a week, sharing information and resources with her neighbours. She plans to go back to school to study social services.
“I have never been more confident in my life and I want to make sure my kids have that too. I’m so proud to say that I have a goal and, for the first time in my life, I feel I can reach it.”