On most afternoons at The Salvation Army Bethany Hope Centre, 27-year-old Alice can be found meeting with her friends and participating in programs as she works to make a better life for her family and children.
Alice is working towards finishing high school through the Learning Coach Program and is also learning to cook and make healthy lunches for her children through the Nourish Food Program.
Alice has 5 children and 3 of them are under the age of 6. Most often they are at daycare but sometimes you can see them playing with the other children in the Bethany Hope Welcome Centre and putting a smile on the faces of those around them.
Alice and her family came to Edmonton, Canada from Liberia when she was 12 years old. She attended high school in Edmonton until grade 9.
“My life in Edmonton was very different than in Ottawa,” said Alice. “Life in Edmonton was kind of rough because I didn’t have much support.”
She came to Ottawa when she was 20 as she already had family in the city and was looking for a change.
Alice says she discovered the Bethany Hope Centre while out for a walk in the Hintonburg neighbourhood where the Centre was located until 2014.
She introduced herself to the staff and learned about the various programs they offered. It wasn’t until after the Bethany Hope Centre moved to Woodroffe Avenue that she enrolled in programs starting with a nutrition and cooking class for pregnant women called “Buns in the Oven”.
“I have found a lot of good friends and a good community here in Ottawa,” said Alice. “I also completed the Hope Ventures Program, although I didn’t start my own business after; I did learn a lot of new skills,” she said.
Hope Ventures is designed to encourage young parents to explore and advance within the world of work and entrepreneurship. While given access to many resources at Bethany Hope Centre, young parents are offered in class and one-on-one support to learn the fundamentals of building a small business and/or preparing for employment.
Alice is completing her high school credits through The Bethany Hope Centre Learning Coach program.
Alice began with a literacy course as English was not her first language. “My English skills have improved a lot since I have been coming to the Bethany Hope Centre,” said Alice.
“I have seen Alice gain so much confidence from her successes,” said Phil Wakeford, who teaches in the Learning Coach Program, “She is always open to and appreciative of getting feedback.”
Alice is now enrolled in a course called ‘Child Development and Gerontology’ which will give her a grade 12 credit towards her high school diploma.
“Phil is a really good teacher and he’s very patient. I would recommend this program to any young parent that wants to finish high school; they won’t regret it,” said Alice. “Phil helps me to think positively even when I am stressed and I want to give up. He says ‘No, you can do this!’ and that makes me feel good.”
Alice says her goal is to go to college and or university and become a social worker. “Someday I want to give back and help others in need.”
“The Bethany Hope Centre is like a family and they care about you and your children and how you feel inside. I feel comfortable and my spirit is happy here,” she said. I have met a lot of moms and we become friends and talk about raising our children. The parents are respectful and it’s peaceful.”
Alice concluded our chat with some friendly advice: “I just want to tell everyone to come in and see what they have to offer and how they can help.”