After learning more about United Way, she realized that SHE has received United Way support as a young person. This is her story.
Kayla was the daughter of a single mother living in low income. Her mom worked hard to make ends meet as a waitress.
“She provided us the necessities, but wasn’t able to provide us with much more than that. As a child, I couldn’t understand why my mom would eat the crusts of my sandwich and call it a meal, or why I couldn’t have the same toys and clothes my friends had,” says Kayla.
Kayla’s mom was the child of an addict, leading her mother to find comfort in drinking. This led to something Kayla and her sister never saw coming – conflict at home. Her mom re-married, and was home more often, which brought the drinking home as well.
“I always made it okay for her to be the way she was because despite the way she treated me and my sister, she was my mother and I loved her,” says Kayla.
Along with her life at home, Kayla was being bullied at school.
“Since I never stood up for myself,” admits Kayla. “My bullies would shove me into lockers and drag me off of school property to beat me up during the day. At night, I’d have to deal with physical and mental attacks… I tried to kill myself.”
After Kayla’s treatment at Maryvale, she was set up with counselling through United Way’s Counselling and Supports strategy.
“I was taught tools that my mother and I still practice to this day. But unfortunately, as invaluable as I found my sessions, my treatment didn’t resolve the issues my mother was facing.”
Kayla was forced to live in and out of Group Homes while she and her mother attended counselling and treatment programs. Feeling that Kayla lacked a female role model, the Group Home connected her with an adult mentor through another United Way-supported program.
“I will always appreciate the encouragement and positive reinforcement that my mentor introduced into my life. Someone believed in me and they weren’t paid to do so. I felt empowered,” says Kayla.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of the bad situation at home for Kayla.
“I couldn’t do it anymore,” she recalls. “Thankfully, my counselling through Family Services Windsor-Essex and my stay at the Group Home made me realize that another suicide attempt wouldn’t solve anything, so I ran."
"I never realized how hard being an adult was, especially having to do so at 15.”
Kayla dropped out of high school a few times, trying to find work to cover her rent.
“I would babysit during the day because no one wanted to hire a child. I didn’t know what the ‘system’ was or how to ask for help. I survived off of bag of rice and other items provided by a food bank. I was drowning and had no idea what I was doing.”
Once again, the counselling program staff stepped in to help.
“They went above and beyond; along with counselling, I was referred for financial assistance and to an Alternative High School with modified hours so I could still work. I was also referred to different services that provided me with the tools to build a resume, learn how to budget and make food last. They helped me get on track and helped me start a new chapter in my life, my future.”
Kayla says she was never certain that she would even be able to graduate high school. Because of the role United Way strategies played in helping her get her life on track, she did eventually graduate. She has been working for the same company for the last eight years, even advancing within it. She spends her spare time working on fixing up her house and yard with her parents – mom included.
“My life is different from what I first imagined, but thanks to you, now it’s beautiful. Thanks to you, almost 1,100 people were able to seek United Way supported counselling last year. I am so grateful to be part of a new statistic - part of the 98% of people who’ve received counselling through United Way-supported programs and have an improved quality of life."
Kayla says there are a lot of kids out there just like her – who just need a chance to succeed.
“Every dollar counts, every dollar helps,” she says.
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