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Blog Post #17:  Edris Bernard finally has the chance to pursue her goals and dreams, with help from Bridge to a Brighter Future, a project of the Social Innovation Fund

Taking Control of Her Future

Program helps woman chart her course

For nearly 20 years, Edris Bernard has cared for everyone else. 

 

Now, “I’m able to do me,” she says. 

 

A single mom of three children, aged 17, 12 and 6, she has also been caring for an ailing mother. 

 

“I couldn’t go out and get a job, because I was my mother’s legs,” Edris says. “It’s all been on me.” 

 

With her oldest now graduated from high school and her mother in a nursing home, “it’s my time,” Edris says. 

 

To help chart her course, Edris enrolled in Bridge to a Brighter Future. The goal-setting program is the latest of many Edris has taken, including PowerUp and Workplace Essential Skills. 

 

“You name it, I’ve done it,” she says. “I love taking classes. Learning new things. Meeting new people. Getting out. Knowing you’re not alone. That’s the biggest thing: you’re not the only one going through things.”

 

She is in the midst of a 10-week work placement at the Saint John Newcomers Centre, working at the front desk, greeting clients and helping with administration. 

 

“I was so hungry to get out with people and go back to work,” she says. “I love helping people and the community.” 

 

She always wanted to work for a non-profit, “but I don’t have an education because I looked after everyone else. “

 

She would never have gotten the job, she says, without Bridge to a Brighter Future. 


“I’d probably be at home, depressed, not doing me,” she says. “I knew what I wanted to do, but I couldn’t see how to get there on my own.” 

Edris Bernard is doing a 10-week work placement at the Saint John Newcomers Centre.  

“I feel important now. I feel awesome.” 

Edris Bernard

Individualized Approach is Key 

BBF is based on the successful EMPath program, out of Boston, which aims to help low-income families be economically independent. The bridge is a metaphor in the program, with participants working on goals in five “pillars,” including family stability, finances and well-being.

As they achieve their goals, they move across the bridge.

 

It supported by the Social Innovation Fund, a five-year, $10-million provincial investment in new ways of combatting generational poverty. The fund is managed by Living SJ.

 

 Individualized mentoring is key to the Bridge program’s success. 

 

“Sure, you can have all those good ideas, but when you have someone there to talk to and motivate you, it makes a big difference.”

 

The program provides financial incentives to participants, but that’s not what motivated Edris. 

 

“It wasn’t about the money, it was about the goals,” she says. “I’ve learned you’ve got to pick and choose your battles, you’ve got to pick and choose your goals.” 

 

At the top of her list is health.

 

“I don’t even know how to look after myself, that’s the problem,” says Edris, who has diabetes and anxiety. “I’m learning to do that now.” 

 

She is feeling better in body and spirit. 

 

“I feel important now.  I feel awesome,” Edris says. “This was so what I wanted. This is so what I needed. This is so me!”