British Columbia

'Without her, I don't know who I would be:' Mentorship program a lifeline for single parents in Victoria

Single mom Amalee Danister says mentor Lynn McCaughey helped her feel better about herself as part of a single parent mentorship program in Victoria, B.C.

1up Single Parent Resource Centre matches parents with a supportive friend

From left to right, Amalee Danister, Lynn McCaughey, Sanni Rosebrock. All three women are involved with the 1up Single Parent Resource Centre in Victoria. (Megan Thomas/CBC)

It was an advertisement on the bus that led single mother Amalee Danister to her mentor Lynn McCaughey. 

Danister, who is originally from Sri Lanka, had left her husband, finding herself with few friends or family in Victoria, B.C. 

"I was really isolated," Danister told host Robyn Burns from CBC's All Points West

"I [felt] like everybody was just ignoring me. They think that I have some issues, like some problem with me [and] that's why I became a single mother." 

When she saw the advertisement for the 1up Single Parent Resource Centre and its single mom mentorship program, Danister knew she wanted to participate. 

An emotional support

Sanni Rosebrock, the program coordinator with the resource centre, says the program, which has been a mainstay in Victoria for 14 years, matches single mothers with mentors who offer them emotional support.

"So many of the moms in the program either don't have family or don't have anybody neutral, or just need to kind of navigate being single with children," Rosebrock said. 

Danister requested to be matched with someone who would be "like a grandma" to her daughter, and eventually met Lynn McCaughey. 

McCaughey had retired recently and was looking for a volunteer opportunity. Although many of her mentees were much younger, she saw some common threads in their struggles and her own.

"[One of the] first moms I mentored said you feel like you've been left behind and everybody else is able to go out on outings on the weekend. You can't afford it. You can't take your kids to the museum. You can't necessarily participate in things in the community," McCaughey said.

"And when you feel like you're left behind, you feel like you're not worthy." 

Close relationships

Danister says meeting McCaughey changed her life. McCaughey was able to help her with anything from improving her her resume to helping clean her oven.

After the formal two-year program, she and McCaughey still remain close. 

"Even now if I have a problem, I call Lynn, not my mother, not my family. I call her," Danister said. "Without her, I don't know who I would be."

Rosebrock says there are 12 pairs in the program right now, although the numbers fluctuate. 

She says over the years she's noticed people have less time to commit to the program. 

"I see this city being busy and getting a little bit busier every year," Rosebrock said. "[But] I think it's still very valuable."

Listen to the interview from All Points West here:

Single mother Amalee Danister and her mentor Lynn McCaughey share their story of how the program is making a difference. 14:47

With files from All Points West

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