Paola’s Story: The Power of Giving Back

Paola’s Story:

Paola Dugand Barros

Paola, now a Case Worker at Mission Services of London’s Men’s Mission, came to Canada in May of 2011. Leaving her home in Venezuela, Paola came to London with her husband and two sons, only six and three years old at the time. They planned to stay at Mission Services of London’s emergency shelter for families, Rotholme Family Shelter.

When Paola and her family arrived at the Canadian border as refugees, they met Paola’s cousin who was already staying in Canada. Paola was immediately connected to a settlement organization which found her family housing within the week, diverting her from needing to stay in the shelter.

The settlement organization also connected Paola and her family to Mission Services of London’s Mission Store. The Mission Store offers the Emergency Voucher Program for those in need of an emergency set of clothing, outerwear, and small household items.

“My sons’ first ever winter jackets came from the Mission Store’s Emergency Voucher Program.”

“Coming from Venezuela where it’s hot all the time, we never needed winter coats,” Paola recalls. “The Mission Store’s program gave us everything. They gave us our bed sheets that covered our futon,” Paola continues.

Paola and her husband also bought their sons’ Christmas and birthday presents from the Mission Store. “My sons, they had to leave everything behind. Yet, because of the Mission Store, it was like they never missed anything. They had their toys and their clothes. The toys were new to them.”

Paola, originally trained and working as a psychologist in Venezuela, was trying to find her professional fit in Canada. Paola started working at Mission Services of London through Rotholme Family Shelter. While working at Rotholme, Paola went back to school to become an Addictions Counsellor.

When the pandemic hit, Paola had the opportunity to work with the men served by Men’s Mission. It was then that Paola had the idea that becoming a Case Worker would bring her back to her roots as a psychologist through one-on-one counselling.

“When you immigrate to a new country, it hurts your self-esteem. You don’t think you are worth it. Working here, I was able to gain the self-esteem that I lost,” reflects Paola.

“Mission Services of London impacted my life. Just having the opportunity to work for this organization is a way for me to help other people achieve their goals, settle into the community, and provide the resources they need to succeed.”

When asked if there was anything she’d like to end her story with, Paola said: “Just believe in yourself. If you find someone that is willing to support you and guide you, take the opportunity. You never know what you can achieve. Maybe, it will give you the opportunity to give back.”

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