What is the Pro Bono Program?
I don’t belong here. Well, that’s what I used to tell myself. I’m going to tell you some personal things that most don’t share in the professional world… but…
My story is a big part of who I am and why I do the things I do.
You see, I came from an upbringing surrounded by substance abuse with peppered with a full spectrum of soul-crushing, ambition-stalling behaviours and attitudes. Support and encouragement were seldom given without caveats and invisible debts. I came from a world where post secondary education was an impossible, unrealistic and “selfish” goal. When I was in my formative years in middle school, I was not picking out my outfits and planning parties with my girlfriends - I was more worried about where food was coming from, if my clothes were clean and which utility in the house was going to get shut off next. A knock on the door was usually a scary or angry person looking to settle a debt and picking up the landline in the house was a punishable offense, that is, when it wasn’t cut off.
But through it all I had a light inside me telling me there was more to life than… that. I rebelled in the opposite way of most teens. My rebellion was to stay away from home as much as possible by staying at school or at friends’ houses or volunteering. In high school, I joined extracurricular activities like jazz band, theatre, the improv team, student government and even joined the all-male chess and poker club. Before long, I noticed all of my happy friends in these circles were planning their future and picking their universities - and that’s when I realized I could have a different path.
I still remember when I smuggled home flyers for my dream university and when I was questioned on my intentions… I wasn’t praised for my ambitious future. I was scolded and told I should focus my time on “finding a man who could take care of me” because “you can love a rich man just as much as a poor man” and that a university education was an expensive way to fail with no guarantee of success. I was also told that going away to school was the “most selfish” way I could live because I was told no one likes a person who abandons their family. I even remember turning to a high school guidance counselor to tell them about my plight and they told me that my family clearly couldn’t afford the university I chose and that I needed to reconsider my options and pick something cheaper, quicker and close to home. I was told I would need to take extra math and science courses to meet admission requirements and that most “artsy girls like you” have a hard time. I did the math in and out of school and calculated that I would have to work doubles all summer in a factory and as a waitress so I could save up enough money for just 1 term. I was told it couldn’t be done. No one in my family had done it before.
Let’s just leave it at that and say I received a lot of bad advice early in my life.
But did I listen?
I refused to believe that getting married, having kids and and staying close to home was my future.
The reason I knew another future existed in the first place was because I had been fortunate to be surrounded by kind, generous and loving strangers who saw something in me. They saw my spark, my ambition and my sincere desire to carve my own way forward. When I began to apply for jobs to save up for my first year of university on my own, my bosses gave me extra shifts, referred me to other business owners and always gave me pep talks. When I was too tired or scared to deal with my household issues after a long day of school and work, my best friend’s family fed me dinners and housed me for the majority of my final years in high school. Teachers, residents in the community and even complete strangers would offer help, advice and mentorship because when they met me - I let them know I had a dream - that I was going to make something of myself and get out of the cycle I was born into. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but I knew I needed a way out of my past.
Fast forward to the present, and I’ve accomplished more today than I ever thought possible. Did I pass those classes and work those jobs? Yes. Did I make it to the dream school? Yes. Did I graduate? Yes, with honours. Was it worth it all? Absolutely. While I was at university I was fortunate enough to be elected by my peers many years in a row to government leadership positions and had a full-time salaried job waiting for me before I graduated. It wasn’t easy, and I made mistakes along the way - but I did it. How did I do it? I worked full-time hours while in full-time university… and probably attended every free-food event within a 2km radius for 5 years! It was and still is very humbling.
Now… I feel whole, I feel welcome and I finally feel like I belong here.
I graduated almost a decade ago and I didn’t turn off the ambition. Now, I live in a world of my own choosing, nestled in the beautiful mountains of British Columbia, surrounded by inspiring, loving and genuine people. It’s a dream come true and it’s astonishing that I am now making a living by helping others.
This is why I am giving back through the Pro Bono program. I think people who are looking for a brighter and kinder future need someone who sees the light they know is inside of them.
If it wasn’t for the kindness of strangers and their willingness to donate their time, care and thoughts to me, I may not have made it out. I owe my success to the countless strangers that helped me with the expectation of nothing in return. Some of those strangers are now my family, and my heart has room for more.
So if you feel that your story is similar to mine or you feel that you’re having a very hard time trying to break a relentless negative cycle from your upbringing or ingrained habits and beliefs, please connect with me on the “Contact Us” page and let me know your story. I promise to do what I can to help. The only payment required for the Pro Bono spaces that I have reserved, is a promise that clients one day pay their services forward. I believe the world is better when open-hearted, open-minded strangers work together.