Day 40 - Jessica

40 Jessica.jpeg

Day 40 - Jessica (4th person I approached)

February 09, 2014 - When I stopped Jessica in the street to ask her if she’d talk to me, at first I thought her facial expression was one of “absolutely not.” Turns out it was “absolutely yes!” Born and raised in New Westminster, Jessica has one older sister, who she is close with. “We are quite close in age, so growing up we had a lot of the same friends. You know, sometimes friends would spend more time with her and it bothered me, or vice versa. We are close now for sure.” Her sister moved to Halifax to go to school, and is now a Nanny here in Vancouver.

After school Jessica spent time studying theology. She knew a chef who worked in a halfway house, and he told her about a job working at the reception desk. Jessica realized that she wanted more than to be working with computers and filing. She went to Vancouver Community College and became a counsellor. Jessica currently works two part-time jobs. At one job she works in a house for people going through “the second stage of recovery, after treatment, and before independent living.” At her other part-time job, Jessica works at a safe house for women. I asked about the challenges with that work; the ability to listen, to empathize and care, without taking on the issues of the people she is caring for and supporting. “Yeah, when I first started this work, I couldn’t not take it home with me. It was tough, and fortunately I’ve had to learn to separate myself from it.” 

Jessica lives in the Downtown East Side (one of the poorest communities in Canada), where poverty and drug addiction are on every corner. She chooses to live there. “I can’t really see myself doing the work I do, the volunteer work, the support work and the ministering, if I lived in a nice apartment on a nice street, and then went out and handed out sandwiches to people I thought needed help. I want to be there, to be with the people I’m helping. I see beauty all around. Down there, on the streets, in the people there. I’m not alone, I have people working there with me.”

I asked Jessica what she wanted to do, where she saw herself going in the future. “Actually, I’m moving to Finland at the end of April. My family are from there, and I want to travel, to experience new things and to do it while I can. I won’t be able to continue with the work I’m currently doing when I get to Finland, because of the language barrier. I’m thinking I might make soap and sell it, or become a baker. I don’t know yet.” #notastranger