Blog Post #5:  - Meet Ann-Marie Marsh, a participant in Bridge to a Brighter Future, a project of the Social Innovation Fund

Picturing a bright future

Mentoring program helps young woman on path to independence

Two Christmases ago, Ann-Marie Marsh treated herself to a Canon Rebel, her first DSLR camera. At the time, she wanted to get back into photography as a hobby. Now, after going through two influential programs that helped her set goals and create her desired future, she’s thinking about the camera in a bigger way, as part of her long-held dream of going to art school, and becoming a professional photographer.


“It sped things up,” Ann-Marie says of Bridge to a Brighter Future, the individualized mentoring program she enrolled in last summer. She always wanted to go back to school but lacked the self-confidence and a plan to move forward.


She thinks the program has helped her overcome her shyness, “maybe getting me out of my shell, getting me out in the world.”

“It’s bettering myself and my family." - Ann-Marie Marsh

Tanya James is a mentor with Bridge to a Brighter Future. 


Ann-Marie Marsh is a participant in Bridge to a Brighter Future. 

A new approach 


Bridge to a Brighter Future is supported by the Social Innovation Fund, a five-year, $10-million provincial investment in creative ways of countering generational poverty. New to Saint John, it is based on EMPath, a proven model from Boston that has helped many people escape poverty.  


“It’s bettering myself and my family,” Ann-Marie, 23, says. “I want to be able to support my family on my own financials.”


Building on her talents

Ann-Marie has always been artistic. She’s long had an interest in photography, making images of friends and natural subjects back in junior high. In high school, she was a student in the International Baccalaureate art program.


She had plans to go to art school. Then she got pregnant. Two months after graduation, she gave birth to her son, Darius, now 5. A few years later her daughter, Jurney, was born. The years since graduation have been mostly focused on family, not career or self.


Last year, Ann-Marie took Enterprising Women, a training program offered by the Saint John Community Loan Fund for unemployed or underemployed women who want to start their own businesses.


“Enterprising Women made me feel like having a career in photography is possible,” she says.

Little steps to bigger change

Her experience with Bridge to a Brighter Future is building on that feeling of potential. The bridge is the program’s grounding metaphor and guiding visual reference. With the support of a mentor, Ann-Marie’s been working on goals in five “pillars,” including family stability and well-being, to stabilize and move forward. There are financial incentives for participating.  


Ann-Marie’s been working Tanya James, North End Community Connector and one of five Bridge mentors in Saint John and Sussex, to assess where she’s at, where she needs to focus.


“We’ve worked on some little steps,” she says, to advance upon her larger goals. Along with applying to school, she’s addressing mental health challenges, including anxiety and depression.

“I feel a lot of people, they judge. They think everyone who’s on assistance is the same, just bums or drug addicts.” -Ann-Marie Marsh

A new legacy


“I just want to be off the boulevard,” she says, referring to the north-end neighbourhood around Churchill Boulevard where she’s always lived.


“It’s kind of scary,” she says. “It’s home. It’s what I know. But it needs to done.”


Ann-Marie worked at the Superstore from age 15 until her daughter was born. She’s been on assistance since.


“I feel a lot of people, they judge. They think everyone who’s on assistance is the same, just bums or drug addicts.”


Growing up, her parents were on assistance, unable to work due to health problems.


“It’s a cycle. It’s hard,” Ann- Marie says. “You think, I don’t want my kids to grow up in that cycle. I need to be the one to break it. My parents couldn’t do it, so now I need to.”