Last week, another class of DECSA clients graduated from our Transitions program, which is for males and females (including transgendered individuals) who have experienced sexual exploitation. Clients receive pre-employment and life management skills with the goal of moving into mainstream employment or education.
The cake is cut as Transitions clients gather to celebrate their graduation
Mina, a current Transitions client, came down to the celebrations at Kinsmen Park to support her peers who were graduating from the program and to honour their achievements. “I’ll miss some of the group members who are going to be leaving, because we’ve made bonds,” she said.
Mina first came to Transitions after being referred to us by Alberta Health Services – Addiction and Mental Health. “I knew I was in a very bad place and I needed some help getting on a better path. Addiction and Mental Health thought the program was a really good fit, so that’s why I ended up at DECSA.”
Transitions consists of two parts: 1) pre-programming, and 2) core programming. The length of pre-programming is different for each client, and core programming lasts 20 weeks. Pre-program content includes outreach support (housing, legal, income, addictions, etc), community referrals, and bus tickets.
Mina skipped the pre-programming and jumped right into the core programming. She now has 5 weeks left. “The best part of the program is the incredible self-awareness that I’ve gained – how I behave and think, how I move through life,” she said. “And through that self-awareness, I can make shifts and changes to make my life better.”
Jason, a class facilitator, notes that the program is performance based and targets specific behaviours. “The program is intense. It’s about what you can do, what you can change in the present moment to relieve stress,” he said. “And it works.”
Money was the biggest factor in Mina’s involvement in the sex trade. “That was probably where most of the bad behaviour in my life comes from – finances or lack thereof. So that fuels me to make terrible decisions,” she said. “I found that the financial literacy program offered at DECSA was hugely impactful. I learned awareness around how I spend, why I spend, what happens to my money, budgeting, building credit, and getting things a little tighter.”
Core program content includes financial literacy, cooking program, work experience, bus passes, counselling services, relapse prevention, Women in Motion, impacts of prostitution, relationship and family dynamics, skills development, career development, and further education.
Mina is currently seeking employment, and when she graduates from the program, she plans on returning to school and pursuing a degree in fine art. “Art is something I had done my whole life,” she said. “I just hadn’t taken it seriously. I was strongly discouraged from it from my group of peers and family. It had a huge effect. If I can’t construct, I will destruct.”
Constructive versus destructive behaviour is an idea that Mina returns to time and again.
“It’s always been a battle between self-loving and self-loathing,” she said. “These two extremes needed to come to some kind of balance – and leaning more towards the self-loving acts. Recognizing the negative side and acknowledging it, but not resting there. Resting on the positive side and then moving through life in the middle ground.”
Going forward, Mina wants to give back as a member of society. “I’ve learned that if you have no love inside of yourself, then you have nothing to give to anyone else. And I want to be a viable part of my community. I want to be able to give back some things that I’ve gotten, which is love and understanding and support.”
Transitions clients come to DECSA every weekday for class from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The structure is something Mina appreciates. “Routine is paramount for how I can constructively behave in this world,” she said.
To enroll in the Transitions program, you do not need a referral. Call us at (780) 474-2500 or visit us at 11515 – 71 Street to take the first step away from sexual exploitation and towards a better future.