When Frida Blanco needed the warm embrace of her Village Community to help her through a hard time, The Village at University Gates and the extended Schlegel Villages family was there through the Wilfred Schlegel Hope Fund.
Frida grew up in The Philippines and, like so many from that kind-hearted part of the world, she describes how common it is for neighbour to help neighbour, no matter if it’s in a small, rural Village or a corner of a bustling, congested city. Frida explains how before coming to Canada she volunteered for a group that would support her community’s vulnerable elders, as well as children struggling on the margins of poverty.
Caring for others, says Frida, “is a calling” and she came to Canada in 2015 seeking opportunities to enhance life for the two children she had to leave behind while she established herself, first as a nanny and then as a Personal Support Worker at University Gates.
It wasn’t easy, but through hard work, dedication and a positive, smiling attitude, she made progress and her family eventually reunited in the Waterloo Region.
In the summer of 2021, however, Frida was diagnosed with cancer and her life was instantly plunged backwards. The health concern and treatment involved was one thing, but financially she was far from stable, which greatly added to her worries. Here she was: a single mother who scrimped and saved on a nanny’s wage to bring her two children to Canada from The Philippines and covered every fee involved. Now, as she worked to cover the cost of post-secondary education for her children and skyrocketing rent costs, illness threatened to take her away from her job and the community she was so much a part of at University Gates.
Frida’s positive energy and her kind spirit are what stand out for those who know her, but behind closed doors, Frida says that hope was hard to find in those early days after diagnosis.
“I cried a lot,” Frida says. There were people in The Village she trusted with her emotions, such as Chris-Anne Preston and Kathy Wilkinson. “They were my angels,” Frida says, and when she mentioned her financial worries to them, they pointed her to the Hope Fund, which is available because of team member contributions that are matched by up to $50,000 a year by the Schlegel Family.
It is meant exactly for team members like Frida, who give of themselves each and every day and find that life has thrust a challenge before them. Her application was approved almost instantly and, as Frida says, every extra dollar makes a difference.
It was December when the first installment came in, and she says Christmas still felt like Christmas and her family felt the love of her extended University Gates and Schlegel Villages family.
She was able to supplement the Employment Insurance she received while treatment was at its heaviest and in the early fall of 2022, as she shares her story and explains how happy she is to be back working in the Emma’s neighbourhood full time, her smile is wide and her prognosis looks promising.
“No one could believe that I was diagnosed with cancer because I’m always smiling,” Frida says.
“I’m grateful and thankful for all those people that shared even just one dollar to the Hope Fund, because it can move one life to a better place. It brings a big impact to my life and we do not know what will happen tomorrow, so why not share.”
Frida says she is happy to be able to give back to the Hope Fund now that she is back to work and she encourages anyone connected to Schlegel Villages to offer any support they can.
“Even one dollar can change a life,” she says.