February 20, 2018
Read Time: 6 minutes
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Jorie came to Canada in July of 1995. Before she left for Canada her brother asked her what she would do if something went wrong? Her family was so far away and there would be no way to help her in a new country. Jorie told him with absolute resolution that he should not worry, she would take care of herself.
I became a pen pal with a Canadian man through a mutual friend. We would write to each other often. As time passed we became more and more interested in each other. The things he would write resonated with the values that I had and I thought to myself “This is the one.” We wrote to each other for 2 years before he asked me to come to Canada and meet his family. Three months after arriving, we were married. We started our new life together in Ontario.
After a year of marriage and a new baby, things became very difficult.
The abuse started slowly. First, he would swear at me or not talk to me for long periods of time. I didn’t know any of his friends and never met the neighbors. He would keep me away from everyone. He was the only contact I had in this new country. I was alone.
One night, when he was in a fit of rage, he tried to force me to leave the house. I refused. He pulled the baby from my arms and left with my son. Later on, he called and told me to leave the house; that he would send me back to the Philippines. I told him that I would not go without my baby. He refused to give my baby back.
I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know who to talk to or who could help me. I was in a new country with different rules and laws. I felt lost and alone.
I remembered my friend who had introduced me to my husband. She now lived in Edmonton and she was the only contact I had in Canada. I called her and told her what had happened. Her husband advised me to look in the phone book for a local Crisis line.
When I called the Crisis Centre, the woman I talked to was so good to me. She listened to me and waited until I stopped crying. She told me about all the resources that were available in the area that I lived in. I found out that there was a shelter that I could go to and that there was legal aid who could help me get my son back. It took several weeks but eventually my son was in my arms again.
After two years of separation from my husband our relationship seemed to be getting better, and I thought he had changed. We were seeing each other regularly and eventually we got back together.
The first year was okay.
The second year was the worst I had ever experienced.
My feelings were difficult to describe – I didn’t want to leave. I wanted my child to have a father but the abuse was intolerable.
In the end, I didn’t have to make the choice. In the middle of the night, I was forced out of my home completely alone, unable to take my son with me.
“I would never wish any woman to go through what I went through.”
I went to the neighbor’s house. They didn’t know who I was. I knocked at their door for half an hour. They finally answered the door and I asked to use the phone. I called the RCMP and asked them to take me to a shelter.
Once at the shelter, I called the one family in Canada that might know me. My husband had a daughter from a previous relationship who was in foster care in Steinbach. I called the family and immediately they offered to help me. This was the beginning of a changed life for me. They kindly took me into their home and helped me to try and sort out how to get my child back. I remembered that I had a court order from the first separation and because of that, the police were able to go pick up my son and bring him back to me.
We settled in Steinbach, a growing and increasingly diverse immigrant community, and I was able to make friends. I took a program to upgrade my skills and found a job. This really helped to boost my self-esteem and confidence in my abilities. After much support and encouragement from the people I had met as I restarted my life in Steinbach, I passed my Life Insurance License Qualification Program (LLQP) and became a Sun Life Financial Advisor. This gave me a lot of flexibility with time so that I could help where I wanted to most – with newcomers who had just arrived in Canada.
I was also fortunate to meet a man who was kind and thoughtful. He cared for me and for my young son and invited us to attend his church in Steinbach called Southland Church. I have learned so much there and have grown in my walk with God. I have had a heart for others my entire life and now my heart is full as I help others within my church and in the community. If someone is struggling with life and relationships and if they are alone, I am able to understand what they are going through. This gift from God to help others has helped me grow into an independent person. I have much joy helping others as others have helped me and I am forever thankful that God led me to Steinbach, Manitoba.
Since moving to Steinbach, Jorie has been actively involved in helping others in a variety of ways. She co-founded an organization called SEMFA (SouthEast Manitoba Filipino Association) to help newcomers from the Philippines settle into the Steinbach area. She has used her home not only as a refuge for women who are in abusive relationships but also for newcomers who needed a temporary place to stay. She has befriended many people who have been alone in a new country.
As Jorie wrote, she met and married a wonderful man who understands her passion to help those in need. Jorie is one of our citizens who keeps Steinbach a vibrant city and a place people feel comfortable calling home.