The following speech was delivered by “Lina,” a Sanctuary for Families client, at the Winter 2019 Economic Empowerment Program graduation. Of the 52 graduates in this year’s fall class, four women were selected by class vote to share their stories with the audience.
Here’s “Lina’s” story:
I have attempted to write this speech several times, asking myself how to go about it, because it is challenging to fully capture the impact of this experience on my life. I wish I had a magical looking glass that would allow you to look into my mind and heart and understand the complexity of the effect that this experience has had on me; short of this, I will do my best to articulate what is in my heart with words.
The Silver Lining
If you met me a year ago and we engaged in a dialogue, you wouldn’t believe that you were speaking to the same person you see before you today. I was pessimistic and hopeless. For a very long time I felt like a sitting duck here in the U.S. Stuck, to say the least, is how I felt. Without immigration status I worked as a waitress for a very long time, grateful for the opportunity to be able to support my children, but steadily losing hope for the future. I was aware that without legal immigration status, my chances of a bright future within the states was slim.
I made up my mind that if there was no resolution to my immigration issues, fearing that I would eventually be deported and/or separated from my children, I would for their sake go back to my homeland of Trinidad and Tobago in 2019 and try to make it the best I could there.
On February 24, 2018 a silver lining appeared. I was finally legalized to work. As happy as I was with the news, I realized that I only had a high school diploma and no work experience other than the restaurant industry. Needing guidance and advice, I spoke to my case manager at Sanctuary about my problem to see if she could point me in the right direction. Shortly afterward, my case manager presented me with the opportunity of participating in the Economic Empowerment Program (EEP) – this, I can say was one of the best thing that could’ve happened to me.
A Community of Support
Hard work perseveres through all. This is one of the major things that have I taken away from this program. I cannot and will not say that it was ever easy, but what I can say is that it was more than worth it. Through workshops, classes and professional development, the Career Readiness Training Program has given me the confidence to know that I can and will find my place in the professional world. This program was the type of push that I needed, the push for me to challenge myself and reach my maximum potential.
Along my journey to career readiness, I stumbled across something beautiful. A group of women from all walks of life, from all over the world, walking on the same path to success. I have grown to look forward to seeing these women each day – and as this phase comes to an end and friendships grow, I know that I have made lifetime connections.
We encourage each other to do our best and assist each other in any way possible. I have learned the importance of sisterhood through these women. I appreciate every kind word, pat on the back and occasional checking when needed because that’s what sisters do. This is a community that I will cherish in my heart forever.
I will close by saying this: EEP has changed me for the better. As I said, it was tough, but I came out on the other side stronger and more prepared for the world and economy that we live in. My peers and the staff have believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself and encouraged me all along the way. When I began this program, I had the misconception that I was in it alone. I am not a person who asks for help – I find it very hard to do that. And, although I still struggle with this, I am comforted in my heart and mind by the fact that if I needed anything and they could and would help me.
I thank all of you for that. You have shown me that good people still do exist in this world. I am no longer a sitting duck but an eagle, soaring through life, confident and strong with nothing to stop me but myself – and I have no intention of doing that.