This week's Summer Story comes from Rap, a participant from South Vancouver Neighbourhood House (SVNH). Rap was referred to the SVNH by a friend of hers, and this is where Rap met Julie Desta, the Community Engagement Programmer at the Neighbourhood House. We hope you enjoy Rap’s story, of how she found her community and a sense of belonging during a time when she felt she had nothing. *Content Warning - This story touches on thoughts of suicide.*

Rap arrived in Canada in 2018 as a temporary foreign worker from the Philippines, where she was a nurse with a lovely family, a hard-working husband and two children. After moving to Canada, she was a live-in caregiver caring for two young children. In her employer's home, she did not have her own room but was sleeping on a couch in the living room, which meant that she only had privacy when the family were in their bedrooms. However, in the middle of COVID, she was laid off with no support or resources to guide her. She was told by her employer that she was not eligible for Employers Insurance and was left to her own resources. Feeling completely alone, Rap was unsure of what to do.

She recalls “I was crossing the street somewhere in the Dunbar neighbourhood, November 2019, there was a woman I met in the bus stop, and she introduced herself as Elizabeth. Maybe I looked miserable during that time. She gave me a calling card and told me to call Julie Diesta from South Vancouver Neighbourhood House.” Rap wasn’t sure that she wanted to, but Elizabeth said, “just call her and let me know what she says”.

When Rap summoned the courage to call Julie, six months after she had originally been laid off, she started crying over the phone without even saying a single word. Julie gave her time and held space for her to unload. With immense bravery, Rap shared “I was ready to jump in front of the Skytrain to end my life”.

At this point in time, Rap’s work permit, SIN and MSP had all expired, and she had private medical insurance that cost her $250 per month. She was scared to disclose all of these at the beginning of her conversations with Julie, but gradually, she began to open up. After some time, with Julie’s help, Rap was able to reinstate her SIN and MSP, cancel her private health insurance, renew her work permit and re-apply for EI.

In August of 2020, Rap found another job, and Julie was with her every step of the way, making sure that Rap had the support she needed to be able to apply for a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), which allowed her to be hired as a foreign worker. After a few months, Rap applied for a position better suited to her skillset and is currently working in a facility as a home support worker. Throughout this journey, Rap has been supported by the SVNH team.

After finding South Vancouver Neighbourhood House, Rap participated in the virtual SVNH Indigenous programs where she learned about the history, culture, teachings and traditions of Indigenous nations. This has helped her in her present position because she is working in a facility where the majority of the folks are Indigenous.

In December 2020, Rap gained her permanent residency in Canada, and two years later, her husband and two children were able to join her in Vancouver. Rap has found a lifelong community at SVNH, and now she aims to share their resources with other migrant workers coming to Canada who are in a similar situation to hers.

In Rap’s words, “SVNH is a support group for migrant workers and students. They teach us all the legalities, our rights and how we manage our life here in Canada. That's why I invited some of my friends and even other migrant workers and students to join SVNH. What I learned and gained in SVNH I need to share with other people in need” .

After her husband and children joined her in Vancouver, they all became involved in SVNH, with her husband JC and her daughter KC attending a Meet & Greet event for newcomers that was hosted by SVNH. Now, KC is part of the newcomer’s youth program and is happily making friends. Rap, her husband, and her son are all working, and are forever connected with the SVNH, not just as a family that has received support through their hardships, but also as members of the community that have been empowered and are now ready to empower others.

We hope you enjoyed Rap’s story. To learn more about the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House, click here. If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433). Someone is available to talk with you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.