“I was working at a hotel before my job at IAAW. I saw the job ad for the Empower U Facilitator, I had so much so much self-doubt and I was trying to find every reason not to apply. It said facilitator, and I’m not a teacher. I had the job ad up on Facebook and my co-worker Chandan was just like “just apply!” I was already excluding myself because, you know, we’re our own worst enemy and our best friend at times. Then, I got a call back so I really need to thank you to him because he encouraged me to apply. If he hadn’t seen what I didn’t see in myself, I might have still been at the same job.
When I first went back to high school, I had a lot of difficulty in Math, but it was because I didn’t finish grade 9. At 17 I went back to school, and I got a job at Safeway. So when I started doing Math at first, it wasn’t nice to me because I didn’t understand and then I kept at it and kept going, and I did a little bit of accounting and finance, and that’s where my passion started. Once I started understanding it, I was in love with it. The first time I went to college was in 2007, and I did accounting and payroll and same thing — I was really good at it, the teacher loved me, I was student of the month, I had a really good grade point average.
Battling with my demons and my trauma, I would go back to addictions, but I was trying hard to push through it.
When I went through something really bad, I met Officer Dan. I was on the streets, and him and his partner, they came walking around the corner and was like what are you doing here? They had so much concern for me, and you don’t see that often.
It was a work in progress for me to change. Even still now, it’s still just trying to make sure that I’m good, and that I stay good for my children. I really had an ugly childhood so a lot of abuse. I’m trying to make sure that I’m there for my kids, and that they don’t have the same story as me and my mom and my sister. Most importantly, I want to be a role model. I have to be mum and dad at the same time. I’ve had years where they were good, then years that were horrible. I went back to school in 2010, again 2014, and then in 2016 I did my first year of Advanced Business management specializing in Accounting. In the future, I hope to open up my own Aboriginal Payroll company. It’s part of my five-year plan.
When I tell people my story, people always tell me to share my story! My specialist said that I have a secret, but I think the secret is different for everybody. For me, the secret is my children. The biggest thing was making sure they have a future.
Life hasn’t been very kind, but it’s what makes you and if I can do it, I believe that anybody can.
If they have support, it would be best. Just because you don’t have anybody, you just have to look at your children and look at their future. Do it for Creator. It’s not an easy road, it’s very lonely, but in the end, just seeing the smile on your kids’ faces… My daughter says “I want to be a mum when I grow up, and I want to wear big earrings just like you”. Things like that just remind me why I’m doing it.
It’s not easy, and it gets really lonely, but my auntie used to tell me, that you’re never alone and Creator is with you.
I do know now that all the things I’ve been through, I was in the deepest darkest, and I know that I’m here for a reason… even if my reason is just to tell people and to be that example for them, then I always say that you can do it. It’s amazing once you get there. It’s kind of like childbirth, it’s painful, but then you see your baby and the pain is all a memory. It’s just that rewarding.”
*This blog is a transcript of an interview.
Julia Chalifoux is this December’s woman of IAAW. Julia is from High Prairie Alberta, and originally from the Gift Lake Métis Settlement. Julia wears many hats in life and at IAAW. At work, she acts as the Transition Support Worker, Finance Clerk, Payroll Administrator and the Office Manager. She is also a single mother of six children. This month, we are featuring Julia because of her tenacity to reach her goals and the heart that she puts into her work and family