Looking back, it was like a perfect storm. Mary Jane Sinclair’s mother had died a violent death. She herself had survived a violent relationship that left her unable to hear out of one ear. Menopause was approaching. And she hadn’t worked in 20 years.
“I was getting depressed. After I lost my mom, it was a downward spiral. Everyone around me was working, and I had no income of my own,” she said.
But a series of events — and people — would begin to change things for Sinclair, a member of the Splatsin First Nation who grew up in Enderby.
A new marriage brought her to Vernon, and the annual Winter Carnival brought her up to SilverStar Mountain Resort to see the ice sculptures. On the way back down the hill, the ache of her ears, always on and off infections, became unbearable. A local doctor connected her with a specialist who would be able to perform the surgery in Vernon, rather than send her to Vancouver, an expensive journey she had previously believed was necessary and nearly impossible for her.
The healing took weeks, but over time, her hearing returned. She could hear her husband if he asked her how she wanted her eggs when she was in the next room. She could hear her grandkids asking for cookies when she had her back to them. Even more, she knew that with her hearing restored, she’d be able to get out of the house more, and maybe even find work.
“There’s no way I would have been able to get a job with hearing only on one side,” said Sinclair.
But being hired for a job, any job, was still a distant dream. There were steps in between she somehow knew she needed to take. Friends had told her about Bridges, an eight-week workshop designed to help women who have faced life challenges build self-esteem and self-awareness, and skills to solve problems and manage conflict.
Through a case manager at Community Futures who “wasn’t going to let me slide,” Sinclair applied for the workshop, went to the interview, and was accepted.
“I was pretty shocked. I thought, ‘They must be seeing there’s something I need.’”
Over the next eight weeks, she learned how to look inside herself and how to stand up for herself.
“The facilitators were there for me for the support I really needed. If you really needed extra help, they were there.”
When Bridges ended, she felt lighter yet stronger and ready for a new phase in her life.
So there she was. She had some tools, some friends, a bit of hope.
And then her case manager pointed her to the Nexus Hireability program. Soon, she was taking computer workshops, printing off resumes, and eyeing the help wanted ads.
After seeing an ad for Apple Lane, a Chinese restaurant, she was there, résumé in hand when they opened at 11 a.m. A woman was just opening the doors.
“You coming in?” she asked Sinclair.
“No, I’m here to apply for the server position.”
And so it went. By that afternoon, Sinclair had the job. By the next day, she was wearing an apron and serving customers.
A month later, Sinclair says she looks forward to getting ready to head to the restaurant for her shifts.
“I became a lot more hopeful once I got my job.”
She knows the menu, the prices, how the restaurant works, even some of the regulars.
“I’m meeting new people every day. Every day is different.”
She’s grateful she saw the ad that day, and walked up to the doors of Apple Lane.
“I’m going to be with these people for a while. I’ve never had such good bosses. I can’t give them enough praise.”
The job will provide important income for Sinclair and her husband.
Along with the ear surgery and the self-awareness and skills she gained in the Bridges program, she’s also improved her relationships, including the relationship with her two adult daughters, and her outlook on life.
“I wanted to prove to them that I could still go to work, and that I’m worth something. It’s a good job. I’m getting up and doing things. They’ve seen a big change in my life. I’m a lot happier.”
Do you know a woman who has faced life challenges that have made independence and employment challenges difficult? Reach out to Community Futures so a case manager can help determine if Bridges would be a good fit by calling 250-545-2215.