Hello. My name is Elsa Garcia. I am 27 years old and I live in the Brooklands community with my partner and our two children Olivia, 7 and Diego, 5. I wanted to write to let you know how important United Way programs and supports have been to me and my family.
My partner works, but he also pays child support because he has kids from a previous relationship. Raising a family on our limited budget is very hard. Especially when his payments are due. There are times when I can’t even buy a jug of milk.
My oldest, Olivia, sees things her friends have at school and she wants them too. Like Cheese Strings, or even something simple like juice boxes. But they’re expensive. I have to buy whatever’s on sale. I have to buy in bulk and put it in another container. Sometimes water it down. These are the things you have to do.
Just the other day, one of Olivia’s friends asked her why her mom doesn’t just buy her those things. So she came home asking me why, mommy. I have to tell her we can’t afford it. I have to tell her I’ll try my best for next time. It just breaks my heart. I think she understands.
It’s easy to get upset and stressed. We argue. I know it’s not good for me to be angry at my partner. I know he’s stressed too. I wish I could help our family, at least with getting some of the basics. I want him to know it’s not all on his shoulders all the time. But you just get so frustrated when you can’t provide for your own children.
I’ve got my diploma to be a medical office assistant, but when Olivia came, and then Diego, I had to stay home. We looked at daycares, but it’s too expensive. All my paycheque would just be going to keep them in care.
When we found ourselves in this situation, I was embarrassed and ashamed. Thankfully there’s a place that tells me it’s okay. It’s a United Way agency partner in our neighbourhood. They tell me that everyone goes through it sometimes and that if we can, if we’re able to help you, we will. And they do.
I joined their health group. We meet every two weeks. They brought in a dietician who gave us tips on shopping for healthy food on a tight budget. But it’s also just nice to meet new people from the community. I remember when I used to live at my parents’ house, nobody ever talked to each other. There was no community. But now I know the people around me and if I have a problem I can go and ask them for help. To me it’s like a family.
There’s also an afterschool program. My kids love it there because they get to draw and paint and do crafts and have a healthy snack with the other children. It makes me feel good because I know they’re safe and enjoy it there. Now I can focus on finding a job.
We don’t have a computer at home so I’ve been getting help with updating my resume and job hunting on the internet. They’ve shown me some of the boards where there are postings and they’re trying to find me somewhere I can volunteer so I can get some experience.
My dream is to just be able to give my kids and my family the basics. When I no longer have to worry if my kids will have food on the table…and we can be more happy and not stressed all the time about financial problems, that’s my dream.
And I know that when I can, I’m going to be donating to organizations like United Way. Because I know how hard it is and I know there’s a lot of people going through what I’m going through.
To everyone who reads this who supports United Way, and has helped me and my family, I cannot say thank you enough. You are giving us hope for the future. You are helping us change our lives for the better. If you have never made a donation, please consider it.
PS. I just got a job working 3 hours a week at the agency. I’m so excited!