Claudia’s Story: From a Mexican Circus to Living in Canada
(3 minute read)
Claudia’s life has been full of challenges. At age 12 she was kicked out of her home in Mexico and lived on the streets for over a year before finding a welcoming family in a traveling circus. At the circus, Claudia did everything from selling popcorn and cleaning trailers to making costumes and juggling rings. During her time traveling with the circus she had her first son before eventually meeting a Canadian man who would become her husband.
LEAVING THE CIRCUS
Though the pull to stay with her circus family and return to Mexico was strong, Claudia wanted a better life for her young son. She knew that in Canada he would have more access to healthcare, education and opportunities for the future. In 2005, after settling into her new life in Canada, Claudia had her second baby. She was doing seasonal work in plant nurseries and dreaming of starting her own cleaning business, but unfortunately she was about to hit a few bumps in the road. Claudia and her husband separated, but for the boys’ sake continued living together as a family in the same home. When her ex-husband decided to sell the home where they were raising their family in, Claudia and the boys were suddenly left with nowhere to go.
ON HER OWN AGAIN
As a single mother of two, Claudia barely scraped by on a combination of seasonal work, Employment Insurance and income assistance. Despite the busyness of raising her two sons, working, learning English and losing her marriage, she still managed to become a Canadian citizen and put what she could on the table each night for her family. However, it was never quite enough and times were getting tougher. In early 2015, Claudia’s friend convinced her to go to the Abbotsford Community Services Food Bank and seek help. She felt shy at first and it took time for her to work up the courage to go, but when she did, her life began to change.
“They were so nice and welcoming,” Claudia said. The Food Bank staff helped ensure that she and her sons had enough nutritious food to eat, and during better economic times, she in turn helped Mexican migrants who worked locally but didn’t always have enough for themselves.
“It’s great to come here if you need help… come here with dreams for the future.”
Through the support of the Food Bank, Claudia also started to gain self-confidence. “I realized I could do better.” Nick Johnson, the Food Bank supervisor, has been especially helpful. He has assisted her with completing paperwork for things like the BC Housing subsidy and researching scholarships and bursaries that would cover skills training. “I didn’t do much school,” explains Claudia, noting the young age at which she left home and joined the circus in Mexico. But today, with the help of the Food Bank she’s completed certifications for Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHIMIS) and industrial janitorial training. Her hard work helped her gain a full time job in a large nursery, where she earns more than minimum wage. She is still thinking of starting her own cleaning business, and has been able to start helping others.
An accomplished singer, Claudia often performs with bands at fundraisers. Recently she helped raise money for the victims of earthquakes in Mexico and Guatemala. She has also volunteered at Menno Home here in Abbotsford. “People are embarrassed to come to the Food Bank, but it’s great to come here if you need help. Don’t be embarrassed,” she emphasizes, “but come here with dreams for the future. Don’t get stuck.” “I knew my potential. God knew I could do better,” Claudia says. And with a combination of self-motivation and help when she needed it, she has hope for an even brighter future.