Blog Post #16: Angela MacDonald is rebuilding with help from Bridge to a Brighter Future, a project of the Social Innovation Fund
Pillar of Strength
Program helps woman rebuild after tragedy
Without programs such as Bridge to a Brighter Future, Angela MacDonald isn’t sure where she’d be.
“What we went through was so traumatic and so all-encompassing, I don’t think we could come back from it on our own,” she says. “These supports keep you moving forward.”
In 2015, police executed a search warrant at her house. They arrested her husband on charges of pedophilia. He was found guilty in 2016 and is still in prison.
“Since then, we’ve just been working on getting our lives back together,” she says.
The years since have been a personal and legal nightmare for Angela and her two young daughters. She divorced her husband, whom she describes as abusive and controlling. She declared bankruptcy. Last year, she lost both her grandparents, who raised her. She’s just getting by on a disability pension. She’s had to rebuild authority and trust with her girls. And she’s still dealing with custody and child support.
“So now I’ve been through criminal court and family court,” she says.
Of all the losses she’s experienced, though, it’s the loss of purpose that’s been the hardest. She used to be an autism support worker, providing one-on-one therapy to pre-schoolers. She is unable to return to work, as it triggers her PTSD.
“I lost my purpose, the work I love,” she says. “I just feel like that part of me was ripped away.”
Angela started Bridge to a Brighter Future in January.
“It helps me select goals that move me forward,” she says.
Participants Work on "Pillars"
BBF is based on the successful EMPath program out of Boston, which aims to help low-income families be economically independent. The bridge is a metaphor in the program, with participants working on goals in five “pillars,” including family, finances and well-being.
As they achieve their goals, they move across the bridge.
“I hope it helps me sort out every aspect of my life so I can get past my anxiety, get past my depression, get past my agoraphobia, get past insomnia and PTSD and be a contributing person again,” Angela says.
Bridge to a Brighter Future is supported by the Social Innovation Fund, a five-year, $10-million provincial investment in new ways of combatting generational poverty in Saint John. The fund is managed by Living SJ.
Angela is working with her mentor, Tanya James, on her goals.
“To have someone outside my life to say, have you thought about this one? How about this goal? That feedback is really crucial in helping me make better decisions,” she says.
“I’m thankful these programs exist because, otherwise, we’d be so much further behind.”
Angela MacDonald and her daughters. Photo credit: Christina McLean.
“Through one, you get to another. It’s like a puzzle. You just keep putting the pieces together.”
A "Puzzle" of Programs
Bridge to a Brighter Future is one of many free resources Angela and her girls have accessed since the arrest, putting hundreds of hours into therapy and programming, including counselling for PTSD, depression and abuse.
“I’m thankful these programs exist because, otherwise, we’d be so much further behind,” Angela says. “The programs are really important for when women are put in a situation they weren’t expecting or can’t control or when they’re trying to get away from abuse.”
She could not afford to pay for them herself. Her only complaint is that the programs, which she usually hears about through word-of-mouth, aren’t better advertised.
“You shouldn’t have to go find this stuff out because you’re just surviving minute-to-minute,” she says. “You can’t ask about your future, because you don’t have a future.”
She found out about the Bridge program through PowerUp, another program.
“Through one, you get to another,” she says. “It’s like a puzzle. You just keep putting the pieces together.”
For now, she’s focused on her health, mental and physical.
She’s recovering from recent kidney surgery and is still healing emotionally.
Despite the suffering of these last four years, Angela says she and her daughters are survivors, not victims.
“I flip the script to say, no, we can use this to become more empowered and resilient. We can stand on our own feet.”
Justin and his first Working 4 Change group. Participants held a symposium in May during Disability Awareness Week.