Against All Odds

by juneli
Categories: Divisional News

By: June Li

March 8th is International Women’s Day and The Salvation Army wants to celebrate the success of women everywhere.  On this day, we would like to pay special recognition to one of our newest team members at the Ontario Central East Division.  Helen Choi is our Major Gifts Representative, Individual Giving. She is a Certified Fund Raising Executive, holds a B.A in Political Science and a post-graduate certificate in Fundraising Management. In many aspects, Helen is well-educated and has accomplished numerous spectacular things in her lifetime. But looking back just ten years ago, things were very different.

At eight years old, Helen immigrated to Canada from Korea with her mother. Unfortunately, life wasn’t easy. From an early age, Helen understood what it meant to be hungry and homeless. “My parents split when I was young. My mother went on welfare and we were very poor,” she says.

When Helen was 15, she ran away from home and dropped out of high school. She began to party, do drugs and went on a quick downward spiral which eventually led her to become homeless. “I was looking for a sense of belonging and fell in with the wrong crowd,” Helen explained, “I was in an abusive relationship and was beaten by my ex-boyfriend. I went to the cops but I was afraid and dropped the charges”. Filled with embarrassment and shame, Helen was left with nowhere to go, and no one to turn to.

With despair, Helen prayed and asked God to give her a sign and to guide her. At that moment, she felt a sense of peace and was filled with motivation. She enrolled back into high school, went onto University, fell in love, got engaged and was expecting her first child.

Helen and her daughter Joy

When things finally began to look up, Helen was hit with another obstacle. Sadly, Helen and her fiancé went their separate ways and soon she was a single mom.  Things quickly went from bad to worse. With no financial support, Helen was left homeless once again, but this time with a newborn. “I was living with less than $100 a month. I was so poor, I remember having $3 in my pocket and not being able to afford diapers,” she explained. Even with these obstacles, Helen didn’t give up. “I did whatever I could to survive. Every single day, I have to fight for my daughter and make sure I can provide her with opportunities I never had,” she says, “I was a victim of circumstance and I didn’t want that to define me or my daughter”.

Against all odds, Helen is now striving and empowering others who are struggling to break down the barriers they face. Most recently, Helen received a special invitation to be part of the Women’s Impact initiative Task Force with the Association of Fundraising Professional International. Being the only representative from The Salvation Army, she looks forward to organizing the women’s global summit, participating in research, and helping empower and nurture generations of talented female leaders from marginalized and under-represented communities. “I never thought I would be the one giving back, but faith has carried me out through this entire journey,” Helen said as she smiled, “I’m so grateful to be part of The Salvation Army, to be able to help others and to have the freedom to be a woman of faith”.