"There are two ways of spreading light," wrote author Edith Wharton. "To be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."
Twenty-five-year-old Nadera has experienced both as a participant in the Victor Mager Job Re-Entry Program sponsored by Manitoba Education, Training and Youth, Manitoba Labour and Immigration and Human Resources Development Canada.
Through an effective support system, quality job re-entry programming and her own tenacity, Nadera is getting herself onto a successful career path and helping light the way for other single moms.
As a young single mother of four-year-old Ayana, Nadera struggled to find her place in the world. Social assistance provided the support she needed at the time, but she firmly believed it would be a temporary solution.
"I grew up on social assistance and I didn’t want to have that same kind of life for my daughter," she says, adding that some people suggested she continue receiving social assistance until her daughter was school age. "I thought 'Well, that’s not going to do anything for our future. I’ve got to make it on my own and I've got to find the best way to do it."
The answer came in 1999, when she discovered the Victor Mager Job Re-Entry Program, a community-based program offering guidance, support and training for people to start making changes in their lives to prepare them to find and maintain paid work. Through individual programming, students are provided with long-term help in handling the issues that often make it hard to find and keep a job.
“The Victor Mager Program is somewhat unique in that the responsibility for the training, and for translating that training into jobs, remains within the program,” says program co-ordinator, Joan Embleton. “We believe these two factors strengthen our program and contribute to the overall success of our participants."
It was at the Victor Mager Program that Nadera found the emotional support and practical skills training she needed to move her closer to her goal of becoming a teacher.
Along with training in computer use, resume writing and interview skills, Nadera was provided with career counselling, labour market research assistance and advice about personal and parenting issues. She also received funding to attend community college to learn skills in child and youth care.
Nadera supplied the goodwill and hard work and the program provided the training funds and practical help in getting her employed as an instructional aide with the St. Vital School Division. She says working half-time and attending school at night was tough but worthwhile, both career-wise and as a good example for her young daughter.
Working in a school setting made her sure she wanted to be a teacher, so her next goal was a university degree. Nadera was heartbroken when her marks fell short of university requirements at the same time that her common-law relationship ended.
"I was just broken," she says. "I called Joan who was very supportive. She told me about a program that would enable me to access tutoring, university registration and bursary opportunities."
The Access program proved to be the springboard Nadera needed. With the continuing support of job re-entry staff, Nadera recently completed her first year in the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Arts, on the way to her education degree.
Remembering the hard lessons she’d learned along the way, Nadera shares her experience by contributing to the community that helped her on her way.
She co-chairs a youth advisory committee for a local organization helping teen mothers and talks to students about the challenges of single parenthood. As part of a committee, she helped lobby for St. Vital’s first teen health clinic which opened in January 2002.
"I tell other young moms to believe in themselves and do whatever it takes to make their lives positive for themselves and their children," says Nadera. "There are a lot of opportunities out there for single moms. Find them and turn your situation into something positive."