Women SOAR to success

A Scarborough based program is targeting single mothers to help them find work and assess their employability skills.

However, the YWCA SOAR program is unable to provide daycare facilities for these mothers who are attending these workshops and that makes the task that much more difficult say organizers.

Sharon Shearstone, program counsellor helps women assess their employability skills and find work.
Sharon Shearstone, program counsellor helps women assess their employability skills and find work.

Counsellor Sharon Shearstone says because of this, their program has not seen the turnout of women they know could use the help.

“Our main objective was to help sole-support mothers, but having said that – the odd point is we weren’t given funding for daycare,” Shearstone says. “So it is often very hard for people who need the programs to use them.”

Krystle McGillivray, a sole-support mother says it would have been difficult for her to attend these types of programs, she used to take an hour walking her son, Donny to daycare, and then take an hour-long bus ride just to get to work.

McGillivray acknowledges like many other single moms, she struggled with finances, finding work and daycare.

“It’s very difficult even if you have a good job, to get back and forth from work, daycare, and my family lives far away, so I didn’t have their backup, to get them to babysit him or watch him when I went to work,” she says.

The SOAR program now not only accepts sole-support mothers, but it has opened its doors to women on employment insurance, new immigrant women and women working under 20 hours a week. In spite of this, the program still only sees about four to 10 women on average per each four-week session.

Shearstone says another main reason they don’t see larger numbers of women is because of their location.

“When I first started working here, one of the first things I did was phoned the TTC and said ‘If I lived here, here and here, how would I get to this location?’ and nearly everyone would have to take at least two or three buses,” Shearstone says.

The program does not have the funding right now to relocate or provide daycare, but they are looking into ways to better promote themselves, she says.

“I think there needs to be better daycare programs available to single mothers, if they are working, and a discounted public transit rate for single mothers who are employed,” McGillivray says.

Despite the obstacles, Shearstone says their program has had many success stories, and that people do appreciate the employment assessments and resume-building classes that help them become more competitive in the workforce.

McGillivray says she wouldn’t take anything back, and although there were hardships, there were also some benefits.

“I got to make all the decisions myself,” says McGillivray, laughing. “And just the way you feel when you are teaching your child something, and their smile when you walk in the door at the end of the day makes it all worth it.”