With no work experience and on income support since she had her kids more than a decade before, Michelle Gabriel committed a minor crime, while in what she felt, was a very desperate situation.
While the Kippens woman wouldn’t talk about the details of her crime — or even what she was charged with — she admits at that time there was no thought process in what she was doing.
“I felt I had to do (it) to provide for my kids and although it was wrong ... luckily it brought me to the doors of the John Howard Society,” Gabriel said.
John Howard Society Week is being celebrated in Newfoundland and Labrador this week. It runs until Saturday.
Gabriel said prior to her inroduction to the John Howard Society she had no support and felt alone. She now recognizes that before her conflict with the law she was headed down a destructive path, but once she became involved with the society, it put her on track and brought her out of hiding.
“I couldn’t even talk to people before, and now I’m out of hiding because the process I went through with the people here (John Howard Society office) helped me build up my self-esteem,” Gabriel said.
She was a 2013-14 participant with the society’s Horizons Program, financed by Advanced Education and Skills, which is now in its seventh year. Her referral to the program came from the Community Based Intervention Program.
During her involvement, Gabriel participated in such courses as First Aid, Occupational Health and Safety, Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System, 12 Steps to Self Improvement and Employability Skills.
Gabriel then went out on a job search and managed to obtain a position at E & M Bookkeeping, where she has learned day-to-day office skills and has become very proficient in the use of computers.
She will remain in that position until the end of April and is proud to say she’s enroling in the accounting, payroll and business administration program at Western College in Stephenville.
Gabriel said Leanda Morris, employment services with the John Howard Society, was there to support her 24/7. She said Morris would snap her out of any breakdowns she experienced and put her right back on track.
“I found a new family here at the John Howard Society and I’d recommend this program to anyone who is in conflict with the law,” she said.
Gabriel realizes there are always going to be people who are judgmental and people who might think its too late to change their life around, but she said that’s not so when you have people like the staff at John Howard Society to help you along.
Morris said the Horizons Program would not be successful without the support from local businesses and funding agencies in the area.
She said other Community Based Intervention program services offered by the John Howard Society include: criminal behaviour awareness group, substance awareness and moderate intensity management of offender substance abuse.