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Starling Community Services.

Helping the Community that Helped Her


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In her summer job at Lutherwood, Manuela derives joy from offering support to her community, mirroring the assistance her family received from Lutherwood when they needed it most. At just eight-years-old, Manuela and her family fled Ecuador for a chance at a better life in Canada, where they were warmly received by several community services, including Lutherwood, and set on a path to success.

Upon their arrival in Kitchener, Manuela's family connected with Lutherwood’s Housing Services for assistance in finding housing. Manuela, who quickly adapted to English, vividly remembers accompanying her mother to Lutherwood appointments and recalls helping as a translator. With guidance from their housing advisor, it wasn't long before they secured a permanent place to call home.

Later, when Manuela's mother ventured into starting her own business, Lutherwood proved invaluable once again. Recognizing her unfamiliarity with the Canadian labour landscape and business regulations, she participated in an entrepreneurship information session facilitated by Lutherwood, which greatly benefited her.

Fifteen years later, Manuela’s journey with Lutherwood has come full circle. In Lutherwood’s Employment Resource Centre, she is ready to help anyone who comes through the doors. “My favourite thing about the job is that every day is different and brings a new challenge,” she reflects. “Every client that I encounter is a chance to learn and I will do whatever needs to be done to make them feel understood and supported.”

While Manuela’s summer contract with Lutherwood will end when she goes back to school, she knows her passion is in community services. She is currently in her fourth year of Conestoga College’s Bachelor of Community Criminal Justice program, and while law school is a potential future path, she remains open to exploring her career options further.

Looking back on the path that has led her to where she is today, Manuela expresses gratitude for Lutherwood’s role in her journey. "Lutherwood provided crucial support during a difficult time for our family, and now, through my summer role, I've gained invaluable skills. I'm grateful for the chance to assist others and give back to my community in a positive way.”

"My first year, I didn't want to be here (and) did everything I could to try to get out. But eventually, I trusted these kind people with my life. I'm so glad I did because if I hadn't, I might have ended up in prison."