The Power of Belonging: Asse 'Eva' Aka's Story

Your Impact - Eva's Story

When Eva’s family first arrived in Canada from Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast), language wasn’t an issue. Landing in Quebec in 2012, Eva’s French easily got her through high school. But when the family moved to Edmonton in July 2014, Eva spoke no English and conversed only in French with the staff at the restaurant she worked in.

“I had no idea what my life here was going to be,” Eva says. She decided, “This is not what I want for my life.”

That October, the family moved to Grande Prairie. It was smaller and friendlier, and a family visit to its Centre for Newcomers offered Eva a chance at a better life. There, she discovered the YMCA’s Bridging the Gap (BTG) – a 20-week program that involved training in workplace skills and ended with twelve weeks of work experience. 

Language was still a problem for Eva, but a bilingual classmate helped her communicate, then the program managers arranged for her to study English at the Grande Prairie Regional Council for Lifelong Learning. Eva’s instructors made learning much easier than she’d expected. Soon she was ready for her field placement at Oxford Learning, where she was kept on for a full year. 

Eva wanted to work in child care, and her BTG managers identified her as a good candidate for Level 1 training at Grande Prairie Regional College. She liked that training so much that she pursued a Child and Youth Care diploma online through Lakeland College.  

In 2015, her skills and initiative brought her to the Grand Prairie YMCA’s Child Care program. She split her time between the Patterson and St. Gerard Child Care facilities. At St. Gerard, she met Director of Early Years Child Care, Jen Stierle.  Eva looked up to Jen, whom Eva found “patient and very understanding.” Jen admired Eva’s work ethic and positive attitude so much that she recruited Eva to follow her when Jen moved to the Riverstone facility.

Eva soon earned the position of Assistant Director of both the Early Years and Out of School Child Care programs. Her ability to quickly see tasks through to completion and her skill with parents, kids, and staff fill Jen with both amazement and pride at how far Eva has come since the days when a language barrier severely limited her career opportunities. Eva looks back on her decision to enroll in BTG with pride and gratitude.

“I came out stronger. Now I have a great career. The YMCA helped me a lot – to grow up, to find what I like, and to find my place.”