They say when you work hard for something, you appreciate it that much more. For former Ontario Works client Stephanie Vandevenne, that couldn’t be more true.
As a young, single mom with two kids, Stephanie found herself struggling financially. When things got so bad that she could no longer afford to buy the essentials, she decided to turn to Ontario Works for help … bringing with her determination and a dream.
“I met Stephanie a few years back,” says Ontario Works supervisor Cecilia Dickson. “As a sole-support parent, she was in need of financial support. But at that point, she also had a goal in mind — she wanted to return to school to become a nurse.”
By assisting her with costs like childcare and transportation, in addition to the financial support she received from the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), Ontario Works helped Stephanie to successfully return to school. Stephanie says that the help she received gave her peace of mind — she could focus on her education, without having to worry about how she was going to get to school or who was going to watch her kids.
Stephanie says it wasn’t easy juggling the responsibilities of being a single mom and a student, but with Ontario Work’s help and Cecilia’s support, she persevered, even in the face of judgement.
“There’s this stigma of ‘you’re poor, and you’re a single mother and you’re on assistance’,” she explains, “where people just treat you like you’re not even worthy enough to dream. But Cecilia allowed me to dream … and Ontario Works helped me to make it a reality.”
Today, Stephanie is a Registered Nurse and manages a team of nurses, occupational therapists and a new chronic pain program at the Victorian Order of Nurses. While it’s sometimes painful to remember her past struggles, she reminds herself each day just how far she’s come, and how grateful she is for the help she received.
“If I didn’t have Ontario Works,” she says, “I definitely would not be where I am today. And I think about that every single day.”
Cecilia says that Stephanie is a shining example of what can happen with hard work, determination and a helping hand. But she’s also quick to point out that Stephanie was successful because she chose to make the most of what Ontario Works offered to her.
“What we have to look at in this story is not what Ontario Works did for Stephanie,” Cecilia says, “but what Stephanie did with Ontario Works.”