“Whatever obstacles that I’m facing, I can overcome those.”

December 7, 2022


After a life-altering tragedy, Reta discovered renewed purpose as a role model for other women in crisis

Content warning: sexual abuse, substance abuse, incarceration


Help change lives like Reta’s in Winnipeg now.

In a past filled with dark and painful memories, the bright moments that shine through for Reta are the ones connected to her grandmother.

“My mom was an alcoholic, but … I was with my grandmother all the time. She had beadwork done, and she would show me how to beadwork,” Reta says. “I was really brought up by my grandma. She was a good role model to me.”

“She was just always there for me, and she protected me in every way.”

Sexually abused at eight years old by a relative and with the troubles with her mom at home, Reta spent time in foster care as a teenager and tried hard to take care of herself when she wasn’t with her grandma and grandpa.

At 16 years old, she quit school and started working.

At 19, she became a mom, giving birth to daughter, Reighlyn.

One year later, grandma passed away.

It was an incredibly tough time. Substance use started to cloud Reta’s vision. The life she was trying so hard to build for her and Reighlyn was becoming more and more difficult to manage.

Reta had always worked since she was a teenager—something she’s proud of—but circumstances often forced her to move on from jobs she loved before she was ready.

She lived in Ontario to look for a fresh start but eventually returned home to Manitoba, all while still battling the harmful influences of childhood trauma and addiction.

“I had been doing everything on my own … going through everything by myself,” she remembered.

Then, in October 2020—a tragedy in Reta’s world changed everything.

For the first time, Reta found herself behind bars.* She was treading water in the maze of the justice system and overwhelmed by the possibility of losing her daughter, her family, and her future.

This was serious—something she’d never had to face before—and she knew if she didn’t get help, she wouldn’t survive.

“It was the first experience where I’ve had to address all of my issues,” Reta recalled. “It was just that something gone bad where I was stuck into this thing, and wow, in this justice system, you have never been into. I never really knew where the help was, how to get help, and where my resources were.”

Photo: Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba

“I never really knew where the help was, how to get help, and where my resources were.”

Through a friend, Reta heard about the Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba—a United Way Winnipeg agency supported by donors and dedicated to empowering women through a trauma-informed, inclusive lens.

EFSM’s Bail Supervision Program provides transitional housing to women involved in the justice system so they can access services and attend programs to help them achieve their education, employment, mental health, and other personal goals.

Reta knew this could be the answer. So, with all the courage she could manifest, she made the call to the United Way Winnipeg donor-supported agency herself.

EFSM met with Reta, heard her story, and chose to accept her into the program. She moved into residence soon afterward with her new housemates—a group of women at similar crossroads in their lives, with hopes and dreams for their futures just like her.

For the first time in so long, Reta realized she wasn’t alone—and she didn’t have to do it all by herself anymore.

“I’ve always just done it myself and provided for myself,” she said. “It helped me … to hear their stories. It was really good. I’ve never been in a program like this. It was all new to me, and I just stuck with the program.”


“I’m so amazed at how much progress that I’ve went through.”

Fueled by the strength of her circle of support, Reta completed several programs, including Kickin’ Addictions (Smart Recovery program), Women for Change (anger management), Preventions, Parenting, Diabetes Nutrition workshop, Gratitude workshops, Mighty Minds (mental health self-care), Stigma Sucks (mental health stigma and biases), Women Healing from Trauma, and Strength & Resilience.

The tools and skills she learned inspired Reta to push herself even further, and she went back to school. She returned full time last year and earned her General Equivalency Degree at the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resource Development (CAHRD). She was even nominated class valedictorian.

Now, Reta is within months of completing a CAHRD welding program and starting a new career.

“I’m so amazed at how much progress that I’ve went through,” said Reta. “I’ve worked hard and participated in all and every aspect that the facility has offered me, learning to adapt to my wellness, living with sobriety from drugs and alcohol, learning to manage my anxiety and anger issues. Meditation is how I’ve learned peace within myself, joy, and happiness. I’ve learned to become a more patient and loving person with all that I carry throughout my journey.

“I’m this person that’s willing to learn,” she said. “Whatever obstacles that I’m facing, I can overcome those. It’s a work in progress for me.”

Tasha Banfield, Executive Director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba, says Reta sets a wonderful example for others of how to overcome adversity and learn to love yourself.

“It keeps me doing what I’m doing, when you see women like Reta being so successful and pushing through those barriers,” said Banfield. “Reta had goals set out when she came here, and she’s doing it. She’s learned from (her adversity) and she’s learned how to do it with sobriety, which is so much more difficult.”

While Reta has so much to be proud of, the most meaningful aspect of her recovery has been returning to her roots and becoming a role model for other women in crisis, just like her grandmother was to her all those years ago.

“I love these women so much,” Reta said. “I know how far they have tried to come and what they went through in their life. They’d tell me their story and I would just give them advice on how to be a better person and go to the resources. Look for these programs and how to better themselves, as I’ve doing it myself, too.”

“We have a great bond. It’s a bond that you can’t break.”

In July, Reta transitioned back into the community and continues to successfully navigate her financial responsibilities, family relationships, transportation to and from school, EFSM check-ins and much more while pursuing a balanced lifestyle.

Reta is looking forward to her welding program graduation in the spring, and says she wants all her “girls” to come to her ceremony. Past that, she isn’t sure what exactly the future holds for her—but with the second chance she’s been given through EFSM, she knows for sure she has one.

“You’ve got to turn the negative into a positive and not let that negative overcome you. Your past is your past – you can’t go back to that. You live for the day,” says Reta.

“You don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring, so today is today, and you just make the best of the day.”


“You don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring, so today is today, and you just make the best of the day.”

*Reta’s case is currently before the courts.


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