ChondaChonda didn’t want to give up her job, but she didn’t know what else to do.

Her abusive former partner was harassing her at her workplace, a call centre, and her frustrated supervisor was on the brink of firing her.

Anxious and distracted, she quit.

It was a low point for Chonda, who had already been through a lot, including getting pregnant at the age of twelve. Thanks to her mother, Chonda had managed to finish high school. She went on to have two more children. Through it all, her mother was a constant source of support. Then her mother was killed in an accident, and Chonda struggled to carry on alone.

Now she was a single mother of three, with no job, no prospects, and one to turn to.

She didn’t want her kids to see her on welfare doing nothing, but didn’t know what to do next.

“I was tired of being beat down, mentally and physically," she says. “And I wanted to make my mother proud.”

Then her employment support worker suggested she register for Women Unlimited, a unique program designed for women who are thinking of a career in a nontraditional trade.

Through the program, Chonda got the chance to explore more than forty different trades, including electrician, plumber, and carpenter.

When she ran out of money, the program staff supplied groceries and bus tickets. They listened to her vent about how hard it was to raise small children on her own.

For the first time since her mother's death, Chonda felt encouraged. She felt valued. Her confidence blossomed.

Through the program, she discovered an unexpected interest in plumbing – despite the bugs and the crawl spaces – realizing that she’d always enjoyed “fiddling with stuff.”

When Chonda graduated from the program, she was granted a sponsorship to study pipe trades at her local community college. She excelled, becoming the go-to person for her struggling male classmates. 

Chonda has graduated and is on track to land the best-paying job she’s ever had.

She says her future is “beyond bright.”

“All my life I’ve lived paycheque to paycheque,” she says. “There will soon be a point in time where I won’t have to depend on anybody, and that will be a first for me.”