A Welcoming Centre

"Many moms have no one to talk to at home. So they come here to talk to other adults." Mery T., Early Learning Facilitator, former program participant and volunteer.

A Welcoming Centre

"Our Place is the perfect name because it is so welcoming, and parents feel like it is home," says Mery T., who began volunteering at Our Place 16 years ago. Her daughter was two years old at the time, and she was new to Canada. Mery was looking for ways to improve her English when a friend recommended volunteering at Our Place. After four months of volunteering with young children, the Early Years Manager invited Mery to join the staff. "They believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself," says Mery.

Her supervisor encouraged her to go to college for Early Childhood Education. "I didn't think I could do it because my English was too poor. But because of my supervisor, I went to college." Today, Mery is a full-time Early Learning Facilitator. She facilitates many Early Years programs for children 0-6 years old and their families, including infant massage, drop-in, song and story programs.

When she sees new Canadian parents at the Centre, Mery remembers what it was like to feel alone in a new country. "I didn't know anyone, and my family was back home. I was afraid to speak English to Canadians, and I didn't know the culture." Mery reassures parents that it's OK if their English is not perfect. She tells them, "Like you, I came new to this country. Don't worry; you will meet amazing people!" Mery makes people feel welcome using sign language and simple words. Naturally expressive, she says, "You can welcome people with your face."

Mery never takes it personally if a parent has a grumpy expression. "You don't know what their story is or what they have experienced." She says that most parents who come to the Centre, both new Canadians and life-long residents, are looking for friends. "Many moms have no one to talk to at home. So they come here to talk to other adults."

When Mery talks to new parents, she tells them about all of the great Our Place programs including, Connecting with your Toddler, Parenting in a Pandemic, and Parenting in a New Society. "If I see a mom with a sad expression, I tell her about Stork Secrets, our Pregnancy and Postpartum Adjustment Peer Support Group."

It makes Mery happy when she hears parents say, "Our Place feels like a home." She also likes to see parents staying in touch after programs end. Mery thinks of the Our Place staff as her "second family." She says, "Everyone is so kind." She adds, "I love my job!"