By Don't Panic
Being a street kid in Guelph was a very unique experience. It’s hard to explain to someone who wasn’t there for it all. The most amazing thing to me was the intense sense of community between all of us. There was usually someone there to talk to, people looking out for and protecting each other, people that understood your feelings. Sure, there was dysfunction in our relationships, but with substance use and mental health and everyone’s own issues surrounding family, that was to be expected. When I decided that I wanted to change my life there was no shortage of people that wanted to help. The support I received from counsellors and agencies was unbelievable. There were people that were enthusiastic and dedicated to helping me make changes to my life. It took some time, and it wasn’t easy, but eventually I had a place to live and a job that paid my bills. There were opportunities for me to work on my mental health and substance abuse issues, and even opportunities to give back to my community. I was amazed by what people at service agencies did for me, and it inspired me to become a social worker someday. I kept working and volunteering for awhile, just enjoying the stability and financial comfort that employment provided me. I loved my job but eventually I knew that it was time to move on.
When I first got to college, culture shock hit me like a ton of bricks. It has been the most bittersweet thing I have ever experienced. I am very happy to be immersed in the material, to be learning about things that I am passionate about, but sitting in class all day has proven to be a challenge. I am lucky to have such a strong support circle to help me through the times when I am lonely, or when I don’t think I’m smart enough to finish. I have learned so much about the people I want to serve, and learned many skills that will help me serve them. I think that being a “lived experience” student has given me a different perspective on the whole idea of marginalization and justice, and I hope that my perspective will allow me to reach people and connect with them.
The most important thing that has rung true since I’ve started is the value of empowerment. Empowerment encourages independence and leaves dignity intact. Giving someone the tools or skills to do something is so much more valuable than doing it for them, taking away their opportunity for growth.
Posted on Thu, February 14, 2013 by Cassandra Sheppard filed under