Since most of Mission Possible's associates are residents of the Downtown Eastside, they have heard of us long before seeking us out for meaningful work opportunities. They may have walked by our office with skepticism, hesitation or disregard. This was the case with Gem, who passed the Mission Possible office nearly every day for six years while residing in the neighborhood. She would shrug, reminded of her negative experiences in difficult work environments. Unemployed for twenty years before joining Mission Possible, Gem had a distant history in childcare and cleaning work; after overcoming addiction, fighting her mental health challenges, and struggling with a back injury, she would be surprised to find the next step in her personal growth and well-being was at Mission Possible.
For some, a new family, better health, or an intervention is the catalyst for contacting Mission Possible; for others, it can come after healing through a new spiritual or religious path. Gem befriended an associate of Mission Possible at her church, where she had found solace and support. Hearing about the close, family-like bonds at Mission Possible from her new friend sparked her interest, leading her to become involved with the Clean Team. She soon recognized that Mission Possible was not an ordinary employment agency, but was instead a purpose-driven organization empowering those facing challenges re-entering the workforce. “Most of the workers at Mission Possible had their own kind of disability, but they want to be productive in the community. I’m one of them too.”
Although Gem had been out of the workforce for some time, she had a long history of adapting to change and overcoming challenges. Born and raised in the Philippines in a struggling and abusive household, she was responsible for taking care of her siblings when she was only six years old. Fortunately, her experience taking care of her siblings allowed her to work in Singapore, and later in Canada, as a nanny. Although she found the Canadian climate difficult to adjust to, she managed to maintain employment and settle in Vancouver as a landed immigrant. She even had her own cleaning service, but her period of stable employment came to an end when life took a turn for the worst. Her relationship with a partner of 16 years collapsed, and she began to struggle with back pain. Feeling alone, Gem isolated herself from others in her community. The combination of emotional and physical challenges led to years of institutionalization and drug abuse.
Now clean for over a year and having just started a new part-time position with Mission Possible, Gem feels optimistic about her future. While reflecting on her experience with Mission Possible, she was particularly happy with her working environment on the Clean Team. Gem remarks, “What matters is that you’re working with a team like a family. That’s the main thing.” Her canine companion L.V., the most gentle service dog, now accompanies Gem as she works to build a new life. Hoping to move out of her harm-reduction housing into a quieter home, complete her Basic Security Training, and save up to visit the Philippines, Gem’s life is filled with new goals and ambitions. Since her fresh start, Gem’s attitude and energy towards life is unrecognizable. “My life changed from being here,” she smiles.
Gem's story was originally shared in our Spring/Summer 2020 newsletter. In case you missed it, you can find it, and most of our past newsletters at mission-possible.ca/about/newsletters
Gem's Mission Possible journey was financially supported by one of our generous contributors to our Impact Sponsorship program. It costs Mission Possible roughly $500 per month to cover the costs of training, uniforms, safety and working gear, bi-weekly coaching, and hard earned paycheques of our program participants. For $6,000 a year, you can be a hero to two individuals like Gem by becoming an Impact Sponsor. You will receive quarterly reports on the progress of the individuals that are receiving your support, tracking their goals and capacity building over their six-month term, as well as our immense gratitude. To become an Impact Sponsor, contact Jasmine Allen, Director of Partnerships, at email@example.com.