Genet’s HIPPY Story: ‘I think HIPPY was the only way to get out of my situation.’
In her former home country of Eritrea, Genet was used to being a social butterfly. Once she came to Canada, however, her social life changed dramatically. Genet’s first months in Canada were difficult. She arrived with four children and no familiarity with the country or its culture. She did not know any Canadians and had difficulty connecting with people outside her home.
In addition to the challenge of social isolation, Genet faced another roadblock to community: a language barrier. Although fluent in three languages when she arrived, English was not one of them. “It was hard for me,” Genet says. “I was isolated for a few years.” By chance, Genet ran into a HIPPY mother from Eritrea who told her about the program. Genet signed up for HIPPY and was immediately paired with a Home Visitor who offered her a connection to the community and the opportunity to learn and improve her English.
HIPPY Canada also allowed Genet to return to working with children, an activity that had been central to her former life in Eritrea. Genet had been a teacher for ten years when she immigrated, but she feared that she would be unable to continue supporting children’s education after arriving in Canada. Genet is now a HIPPY Home Visitor working with fifteen families. She feels she is more patient, more creative, and more understanding as a result of working with mothers and children from different backgrounds. The most important child with whom she continues to work, however, is her youngest son. When they first arrived in Canada, he had difficulty focusing on activities, especially reading. Thanks to their time together in the HIPPY program, he has found a love of reading. Today, Genet’s son is happy to bring his HIPPY books to kindergarten and continue to develop his lifelong relationship with learning.
Looking back on the changes she has experienced since she arrived in Canada, Genet feels the HIPPY program has been a key component of her transformation. “The HIPPY program made me happy, confident,” she says. “I think HIPPY was the only way to get out of my situation.” We eagerly await to see Genet continue to blossom through her work as a Home Visitor.