For Ana, education has been the key to getting the skills she needed to help people in her community. At only 18, Ana came to Toronto at as a refugee in 1984, fleeing El Salvador after her mother disappeared in 1982, the work of the paramilitary during the civil war. Ana attended the University of Toronto for a degree in women and gender studies, and then a post-graduate certificate in international development before making the decision to go back to El Salvador and support people there, specifically the LGBQT community, women surviving disaster and women at-risk of gender violence.
For the next 17 years, Ana bounced between Toronto and El Salvador, working on supporting people, building communities and advocating for human rights. Her last trip to El Salvador lasted 10 years.
In 2015, Ana came back to Toronto permanently. Essentially homeless for some time, she couch-surfed with friends and family as she worked to establish herself. But Ana faced many barriers. As an older lesbian woman, with brown skin and a noticeable accent who spent the last decade outside of the country, she was finding people thought her unemployable. Ana knew she would have to educate herself and build her skill set to get back into the social service sector in Toronto.
“If I don’t do it for myself, nobody would do it for me.”
Eventually, Ana found a job with Homes First. Since then, she’s being working on building her skill set, completing a certificate in case management and is currently halfway through another certificate in mental health and addictions. Ana knows that due to her age and background, she’s unlikely to get much help from elsewhere, but she’s grateful for the support Homes First has given her. She hopes after she completes her current certificate, she will start working towards another in mindfulness, and eventually aims for a Master’s in social work.
Congratulations to Ana on receiving the HFS Access to Education Scholarship in its inaugural year!