Spreading her wings and learning to fly

A United Way Winnipeg agency partner helped Danielle find the strength not just to survive but to thrive.

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Spreading her wings and learning to fly - United Way Winnipeg

Trigger warning: child abuse

When Danielle lost her 24-year-old son, Jordan, she also lost her will to live.

“I wanted so much to die,” Danielle said. “I wanted to be with my boy. He was my baby.”

And then she reached out to Thrive Community Support Circle, a United Way Winnipeg donor-supported family resource centre, and eventually found peace and even joy. A counsellor at Thrive suggested that she volunteer at their thrift shop, as a way to deal with her grief.

“From there I just sort of took off,” said Danielle. “They were so supportive. They got me through all the ups and downs, the depression . . . they made me feel like I could accomplish anything.”

The family resource centre has many vital supports to help Winnipeggers, including therapy services, a food bank, child care, and the thrift shop, which provides volunteer work experience to individuals of diverse abilities.

“They’re so committed to helping people,” Danielle said. “They took me out of my deep depression, and I probably wouldn’t be here without them.”

Losing her son was one of many tragic experiences in Danielle’s life.

“I grew up in a really bad home; there was violence all the time,” Danielle said. “I remember my dad getting so mad and hitting me on the head against the wood walls, and my mother saying to him, ‘Not the head, dear. Not the back.’”

Over time, Danielle lost her hearing in her left ear as a result of being hit in the head.

“He used to say to me, ‘Can’t you do something with that face of yours? You are so ugly,” said Danielle. “And I’d apologize to him. I’d say, ‘I’m sorry, Daddy. I’m sorry for being ugly.’”

Spreading her wings and learning to fly - United Way Winnipeg

Danielle at her workplace, Thrive Thrift Shop

“I tell everyone, I’m a Thrive-a-holic. I pray, I hope, and I thrive.”

Danielle’s siblings endured much of the abuse as well, including her younger brother who has Down syndrome.

“He was also so bruised,” Danielle said through tears. “I remember holding and rocking my baby brother while he wept . . . hoarse and gasping from crying so much. I just wanted to take him away from there. But of course, I couldn’t.”

Danielle wants to use her experience to help others who have been in similar situations.

“It’s important for me to get that message out there that things like this are happening; this is my purpose,” said Danielle. “Yes, I’ve been in a lot of bad places and had a lot of bad things happen to me, and yet I’m here, and I’m succeeding. I want to share that story so I can help others succeed and know that they can overcome their challenges.”

The people at Thrive not only helped Danielle deal with her grief, they also helped her channel her inner strength to get out of an abusive situation.

Danielle was in a relationship this past year that also turned violent, but this time—thanks to the family resource centre—she felt empowered to leave her abuser and report him to the police.

She had her tattoo with his name covered with a new tattoo–a beautiful feather.

“The feather symbolizes flying,” Danielle said. “And that’s what I’m doing. I’m soaring, and he’s not taking me down. I am someone who’s making a difference.”

Today, Danielle works at Thrive’s Thrift Shop where she began her journey as a volunteer, and she can’t get enough of it.

“I tell everyone, I’m a Thrive-a-holic. I pray, I hope, and I thrive.”

Help change lives like Danielle’s in Winnipeg now.

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