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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jagrup’s blog – The story of teen moms

Jagrup’s blog – The story of teen moms

Today [January 8] I met with 30 teen moms from the Team Mom Education Child Care Program offered by Options Community Services Society – a nonprofit based in Surrey.
All 30 moms are students at Surrey high schools, ranging from ages 13 to 20. When the teens are at school, Options provides childcare to their children. Options is a much needed program partially funded by the Surrey School District.
I would like to share the story of two teen moms I met with at Options today.
Kristine is an 18-year-old single mom with a seven month old daughter. Kristine is in her last semester of high school. If the thought of raising a newborn at 18 wasn’t overwhelming enough, Kristine’s partner lost his full time job and the family ran out of money. The stress was too much and Kristine was left alone to raise her daughter.
This Christmas Kristine tried to apply for income assistance but was denied support because she is not eligible until she turns 19. Kristine told me that the experience of lining up for welfare was upsetting, “I didn’t like standing in line in front of the welfare office for three hours in the rain. They should at least put an overhang or covering of some sort to shelter for the people and children in the lineup.”
Kristine is currently surviving on $300 a month in child tax benefits and is unable to pay her rent for January.
Another teen mom I met with was a 16-year-old who lives with her mother. The teen mom is still considered a dependent of her mother who is on disability. After the teen’s baby was born the mother went to the welfare office to add her granddaughter as a dependent. The ministry told her that her daughter would have to give up guardianship of the baby in order for her to be added to the file.
These stories show another face of poverty endured by teen moms who are struggling to access resources within the social system, while admirably finishing their education.
Options is committed to empowering these young mothers, supporting families and promoting community health.
Thank you to Tammy Dyer from Options for her dedication to the Team Mom Education Child Care Program and for allowing me to meet with these amazing teen moms who graciously shared their stories.

Jagrup’s blog – The story of single mothers

Today [January 7] I visited the Newton Advocacy Group Society to meet with single mothers living in poverty.
The Newton Advocacy Group Society is a nonprofit organization which assists both homeless people and those living in poverty. They run a special program to empower single moms to live positive and productive lives.
Cost of living versus welfare rate for single parent families.
I met with a number of single mothers and their children at Newton. Here are a few of the many stories shared that day which challenge the myth that people on welfare don’t want to work.
Frances, a mother of three young children, worked full time at grocery store for 16 years at a decent hourly wage. But her hours were suddenly cut and she found herself needing to apply for welfare to provide for her family.
Danielle, also a mother of three, worked for about 10 years before she had her children. After her first child was born, she stopped working to be a stay at home mom while her husband worked. Danielle fell victim to domestic abuse and ended up on welfare. Sadly, I heard many stories like Danielle’s of women living in poverty after surviving domestic violence.
Allison, a mother of two, was a receptionist for over three years at a car dealership before she was in a car accident. Allison told me how she had to go on medical leave from her job and when she returned, she was told she had been replaced. Despite the massive setback, Allison went on to put out countless resumes which got her a few interviews but no job.
Here are some of the day to day challenges that these women shared with me:
“It is tough to be a parent on welfare as your children feel ashamed when they are asked by other children, what does your mother do for a living?”
“Poverty can make you angry.”
“We are forced to work under the table because there are no earnings exemptions. Any amount made is deducted from the welfare cheque dollar for dollar.”
“Child support is clawed back dollar for dollar.”
“It is hard to find money for clothing and we are having to take money out of our food budget to buy clothes.”
The Newton Advocacy Group Society program is making a difference for these women and they are working hard to move forward with their lives.
I would like to thank David Young, Executive Director for Sources (Sources has merged with the Newton Advocacy Group Society) and Susan Keeping for arranging my visit today. Susan is the founder of the Newton Advocacy Group Society and a strong women’s advocate.
Single mothers and children at Newton Advocacy Group.

Jagrup’s blog – Meeting constituents and seeing my family

Today [January 6] was a very tough day for me. It was my day to work at my office to meet with constituents, and I got to see my family for the first time since New Year’s Day.
I took the bus to the office, where I had the opportunity to meet with six different constituents and listen to their stories of how they are struggling to live in extraordinary life circumstances and in poverty.
One of them had worked for the B.C. government for over 20 years, but left his job as he
couldn’t handle the stress any longer. He came from an upper middle class family and his father was a vice-president in a multinational corporation. Due to some mental health challenges, he ended up on disability welfare. He was having a hard time with his landlord who had given him an eviction notice; he needs to be out by the end of the month. My constituent told me that he has no where to go but to live in the bushes.
Another constituent told me that he earned $120,000 last year, but is now recovering in a safe house from a drug addiction. He was looking for a bus ticket to go and meet his family on the island.
Around 4pm, I left the office and hopped on the bus to go to see my daughter’s basketball game at school, which started at 4:30pm. Sitting on the bus, I hoped and prayed that I would make it before the game started so that I could hold her and hug her, instead of waiting through the whole game to do so.
When I walked into the school gym, my wife Rajwant, 12-year-old daughter Noor, and 4-year-old son Fateh came running to hug me! It is hard for me to write about the emotions I felt as I held all three of them in my arms. My mind and my body were filled with positive energy as I kissed them one by one.
Noor quickly went back as the game was about to begin. Rajwant, Fateh and I sat on the side lines and watched the basketball game and cheered on Noor’s team. Whenever the game stopped, my wife and I struggled to share our stories from the past week due to constant interruptions from Fateh, who wanted to tell me his own stories. Noor played well and the match ended by 5:50pm.
The next bus to take me to my room was due to arrive at 6:06pm. We walked outside together and had a brief goodbye. Fateh asked where I was going, and when was I going to come home. After a brief silence and a forced smile, I told him that I loved him and that I would be home soon.
Putting on a brave face, I left them watching me walk down the street. Little did they know that on the inside I was feeling the exact opposite. It was a long and hard walk to make back to the bus stop, leaving my upset children behind. The entire bus ride home I couldn’t stop thinking about them.
I love them and I miss them.
Japrup, Noor and Fateh at basketball.

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