Unlocking Hope - A Series of Stories from our Community She is a survivor of domestic abuse, but she was also charged with assault when she fought back. She was badly beaten, scared and left with her own criminal record when she fled the relationship. She went through years of counselling and unemployment and needed to apply for social assistance. She met her Ontario Works employment counsellor in March of last year. Looking for work was a challenge for Suzie because she often didn’t have the “right” qualifications and her criminal record got in the way. Her employment counsellor referred her to a skills-building program to provide her with some updated skills, a little more confidence, help to re-enter the work world and a new item for her resume – hopefully with a good recommendation. The program involved working with the public and Suzie was concerned that she would bump into her abuser. She struck up a friendship with another woman in the program with a similar background who was a great support. Suzie, with the support of her new friends, was even able to manage a frightening moment when she almost bumped into her abuser during the program. Her new friends kept her out of harms way and ensured that she made it home safely. Through these experiences Suzie has taken on more volunteer opportunities, and now also volunteers with agencies that support other women who are taking charge of their lives following abusive relationships. She continues to use volunteer activities to develop her administrative skills and it is a pleasure for staff to call her agency and be greeted by an outgoing happy voice, rather than the shy, quiet women who first met her employment counsellor. This is the first part of a longer journey towards employment for Suzie, but she has taken some of the biggest steps. Suzie’s story shows us that we all have difficult challenges to overcome, but step by step these barriers can be overcome with a plan in place. Congratulations to Suzie for taking these steps and helping other women along the way.