Faces of United Way: Nicola

“I got involved with the United Way through work because we fund their campaign, since I work for the City of Edmonton. That’s how I found out that United Way is the main funding organization for the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton. The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton seriously changed my life—saved my life, really. So when I found that out, I became very passionate about the United Way. I’ve met so many women who’ve been through so much, particularly in childhood, which has affected their adulthood. Some of them were in prison, some were homeless, some were in abusive relationships, and some struggle with addiction and are in transitional stages in their lives. But after the therapy from the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, they made huge, amazing changes in their lives. They’re working, they’re safe, they’re no longer addicted, and they’re living healthier lifestyles.“

“For me, I’m now working a job that I like. I don’t call in sick all the time, dealing with severe depression and anxiety. I am happy and I feel quite confident in myself. I used to really hide behind a persona and I never spoke up for myself, whereas now I have no issue talking to anybody. I had really bad anorexia and alcoholism and I was not in a good place at all. I had several suicide attempts, but they didn’t work, so I thought there had to be a reason why it’s not working, so I knew I had to deal with it. I tried so many different therapies, but everything else was terrible and just made things worse. It felt like putting a bandaid over the situation. Many of the programs were way more triggering than they were helpful. So I was having lots of flashbacks. That’s when I figured I would call the Sexual Assault Centre. The first phone call was extremely difficult, but from that moment onward, my life completely changed. They were so empowering and encouraging; they educate, they connect you with other people who had similar experiences. Suddenly, you’re not this horrible demon who all these things happened to because you’re a demon, but rather, you’re in the place you are because these horrible things happened to you. So now how do you take your life? One of my best friends from group therapy was literally living in her van when she was in therapy, but now she runs her own business. It’s really amazing the changes that can happen with the therapy program. Knowing that, and seeing so much change, I became even more passionate about the United Way and helping. I knew that many of the women I met at the Sexual Assault Centre were accessing other programs, like addiction programs, the Food Bank, education programs, and daycare programs. Knowing that United Way takes a wholistic approach to helping people, it’s something I can really get behind.”

“I think the program at the Sexual Assault Centre worked so well because it was all based on a significant amount of research on what happens to someone when they’ve been sexually assaulted, harassed, or aggressed against, and they have therapists who use different modalities, which they blend together. They have therapists who speak different languages, which really helps because we have such a multicultural society. Their group therapy isn’t just come in and everybody talks for a bit; it’s come in, this is what we’re doing today, you all get to talk a bit, and then you all get to support one other. That was really profound. Also you get educated every step along the way, so it’s empowering. They also have a crisis line that’s available twenty-four hours a day, that’s specific to their centre, so you kind of feel that there’s a safety net too as you take steps to improve your life.”

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Way of the Alberta Capital Region we've partnered with Faces of Edmonton. In the coming months, Faces of Edmonton will be featuring faces and stories relating to the United Way and its work in your community. We’re looking forward to sharing these portraits and stories with you. To learn more about United Way's work check out the Report to Community online.