GVS Client


Success Doesn’t Come Before Work

My name is Clifford, and I have a story to tell.  As to whether it is a success story, I’ll let you the readers decide.

I suppose, as in any story, there has to be an introduction.

For the past 12 years I have been a single parent of three, living on social assistance.  For those of you who can appreciate what this means, not every month was a good month.  There have been times when the bills didn’t get paid, or there was little or no food to last until next month.  I guess the hardest part of this was when my children wanted something for their birthday or Christmas, and I couldn’t afford it.

Eventually, as with all things Government, the rules change on how things are done.  Now came the time when persons in my situation – that is those of us on social assistance – HAD to start looking for work.  For me, this was not an easy task.  Having been at home for the last ten years, where was I going to find work?

Well, I looked, I searched, the resumes were sent out, and one by one the “No thank you”s and “we’ll call you if we’re interested”s started rolling in.

After a while it gets to be very discouraging.  You start asking yourself, “What’s the use?  I’m not good enough”, or “My skills are obsolete.”  For me, that’s when the anxiety attacks and depression really got bad.

It was at this point that some friends suggested that I “talk to a professional”.  (Need I say more?)  This, fortunately, led me to the amazing people of Gastown Vocational Services.  The classes I took taught me to be self confident in my abilities and skills, whether they were from the jobs that I had done, or just the hobbies I liked to do.  You’d be surprised at how many “transferable skills” you can come up with if you make a list.  Well, I got through the classes, and eventually decided that I needed to get back to work.

After a slow start – on my part mostly – I ended up with Debra as my job counsellor.

Ah, what can be said about her that hasn’t already been told?  Here is a lady who is not afraid to take the “bull by the horns”, and shove it right in your face!

Now, please don’t be offended by what I’ve just said, I mean it in the nicest way possible.  Here is a lady who is not afraid to tell it like it is.  Debra has a gentle and “persuasive” nature about her that cannot be denied, no matter how hard you try.  She’ll encourage you, and inspire you to heights you’ve never imagined before.  But she won’t do the work for you, and she won’t let you quit.

For this I am thankful.  If it wasn’t for this, I would not be writing this story or working full-time now.

In one last meeting together, it was suggested that I send out “one more resume”.  This resume was for a carpenter at a jobsite in Richmond.  I didn’t think I was qualified for this, but Debra said “Why not?  Let’s do it anyway.”  I think that must be Debra’s favourite line.  It certainly has a profound effect on a person.

Well, as you can expect, I sent off the resume, and also added that I was a first year apprentice with the Carpenters Union.  I didn’t give it much thought after that. 

When I got home, I found that I had a message waiting.  It was from a gentleman who had received my resume.  Well, I called him back, and after a short in-depth discussion, I wound up starting work on August 8, 2005.

It doesn’t sound that incredible, does it?  If you send out enough resumes, you’re bound to get a response, right?  Well, what if I were to tell you that the company I now work for was because of that LAST resume I sent out.  You know, the one where Debra suggested “Why not?  Let’s do it anyway.”  The one looking for carpenters.

At the time of writing this, it has been six weeks on the job.  I work Monday to Friday, 7am to 3pm.  I’m sore, tired, smelly and sweaty.  In short, I’m a construction worker.

I’d like to leave you with one last piece of inspiration.  One week after I started work my daughter made me a card.  It read:

Congratulations on getting work.  You’re now on your way to success.

At the bottom of the card was one last line:

The only time SUCCESS comes before WORK is in the dictionary.

Profound, isn’t it?  If you’re not willing to put in the work, no matter if it’s only one last resume, then you will never get the success you DESERVE.

I hope I’ve inspired you, or at least entertained you.  You see, I don’t consider this just my success story.  I consider it to be Gastown’s as well.

Thank-you Mariella, and especially to you, Debra, and all the other staff at Gastown Vocational Services.

I hope there are many more success stories in your future.

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My Road to Success

From when I first started at GVS I felt that the staff understood me. My occupational therapist got to know me and helped me by explaining the program and getting me going through the stages. I found the tests and groups, especially stress management, very helpful. I felt supported by my life skills coach in the groups, she let me talk and showed that she understood where I was coming from. When my job coach helped me begin my work experience placement at a thrift store, the placement seemed to be right up my alley. I was able to test electronics at my own pace, with no one down my back and no pressure. I felt valued – that my work really counted and people appreciated me. I decided to volunteer there long-term. Since I began at the thrift store, I’ve lost my sister and I’ve experienced lots of physical health troubles. The people at the thrift store have supported me through these difficulties; it feels like I’ve been volunteering there for years, instead of 9 months! I still use some of the stress management techniques that I learned to help me deal with the stress of my health problems and the loss of my sister.

Despite the fact that my goal when I came to GVS was paid employment, I’m happy that I was able to achieve volunteering for now. The social support and excuse to get out of my apartment helps me with my health. My advice for people considering GVS: the people are helpful and understanding. My confidence has improved through being productive and feeling supported.

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What Worked for Me

This is why / what GVS worked for me:

After attending several agencies to find employment I was finally directed to GVS by an HRDC counselor, as I had some concerns that simply could not be addressed by other agencies.

This is a real SUCCESS STORY.

GVS has a team that is highly motivated, experienced, training and multi-disciplines.  Their diverse backgrounds provide the knowledge to develop unique approaches that will suite an individual’s particular needs.  This means you will have the help required to develop a logical, practical and workable plan, which will bring you good results.  This will be accomplished in a friendly, and supportive atmosphere. 

  1. When I left my first appointment I felt hopeful, for the first time in a long time.  (and I wasn’t crying)  I was allowed to explain my situation and what I had been trying to deal with. And I had spoken to people who actually understood what I was talking about.  Immediately, possibilities were put forward and suggestions were made that were supportive and practical. Also important was that I now had been given some interesting possibilities and opportunities to think about until the next meeting. 
  2. My job coach worked right along with me to help analyze, organize, discuss and design strategies that worked for me.  For example, arranging for skills upgrading and or new training in specific areas.  (The EPPD Program).  The next very valuable opportunity was that of a work placement in a setting that utilized what I had just learned and gave me a chance to use some skills I already had.
  3. Always, my personal situation and what I was able to do at the time was taken into account.

I would recommend GVS to anyone who may need a helping hand. If you do not give up on yourself GVS will not give up on you.  You will be amazed and delighted by what will be accomplished.

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Step by Step

It seems hard to believe now, but less than a year ago I was struggling just to get out of bed each morning. I was in the midst of a severe depression associated with Bipolar Disorder, and simply living felt like hard work to me. At age 32 I felt like I had not achieved anything of importance in my life, and I completely lacked any sense of purpose or direction when it came to the future. Whenever I tried to set goals for myself, I would become overwhelmed by all of the steps necessary to achieve them and I would give up before I even got started. My depression had clouded over all my former interest in things, making it impossible to imagine what type of work I might find satisfying.

Enter Gastown Vocational Services. My employment counselor at GVS, Jeff Leese, helped me to focus on finding a path to a brighter future by encouraging me to rediscover what activities had brought me happiness in the past, and by bringing into question what values I felt were most important in a career. I’d always felt that I wanted to work in the fashion industry, but recently due to my depression I had stopped caring about clothes altogether and had developed a very low self-image. But with the exploratory and supportive counseling I received at GVS, I was able to identify fashion as the area I was most likely to thrive in.  I became much better at focusing on the small steps that would lead me to my goal, one at a time, without the crippling sense of hopelessness that had held me back before.

Today I am happy to say that my mornings are not nearly as difficult as they used to be. Thanks to the program, I am now looking forward with great anticipation to studying fashion at John Casablancas School of Applied Arts next year, and in addition I am currently involved in a work-study at one of the trendiest new boutiques in Vancouver. Part of the work-study experience even involves assisting a young up-and coming designer in his studio. As a result of being granted this new beginning, I have undergone a major personal transformation, having twice the self-confidence I had before and paying much more attention my own clothing and style.

 I would like to formally thank Mr. Leese and everyone else at GVS who has cooperated in giving me this extraordinarily life-changing opportunity.

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Go For It

I’ve been at Gastown for over a year working with different people [in the Youth Employment Program]. I’ve done 2 work experience placements in the field I was most interested in. A lot of things have kept me back from doing my best, such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. I thought that I would never get a job under those circumstances, “people can see right through me. They will never hire me”. I was also housebound, and even the thought of leaving my house freaked me out let alone handing out resumes. Somehow I managed, everyday I got stronger and stronger with more confidence. I am proud to say that I now have a job at a local video store and am training to be an assistant manager. Movies are my passion, as well as being something I collect. I currently have a collection of 1,051 movies. If there is something in this world that you want: TAKE IT!

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GVS Client


288 - 2750 East Hastings (Goldcorp Mental Health Centre) • Vancouver, BC • V5K 1Z9
Telephone: 604-675-2535 • Fax: 604-683-5099

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