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Alumni News

Ashley De Souza

Helping others change their lives

December 09, 2015

Although Ashley De Souza’s chosen profession of social work has been called an admirable one, she believes it is the people she assists every day who truly merit respect.

As a Counsellor for the Abrigo Centre in Toronto, Ashley deals with victims of domestic abuse, many of whom are seniors. “They have made the courageous decision to come in and take that first step to change their life,” she says. This, despite language and cultural barriers that often preclude them from seeking help, adds the 2010 Social Service Worker graduate who counts Portuguese as her first language. The Abrigo Centre specializes in providing services for the Portuguese-speaking communities.

Although counselling through the Partner Assault Response program represents the bulk of her role at Abrigo, Ashley is also an intake worker and a group facilitator at the agency. The group provides a forum for about 10 women some of whom have been in an abusive relationship or are going through a separation to voice their thoughts freely and learn about resources available to them.

“Once I have drawn the map identifying all potential avenues they can pursue, I let them know it’s their decision about what steps to take next,” explains Ashley. “My job is to guide them through whatever stage they choose to enter. One of my main messages is that there is always a silver lining and an option for change.”

Helping people transform their lives is rewarding work to be sure, but it is not easy, Ashley adds. “Because everything is client-driven, there are no guaranteed outcomes. But we are often the only resource that these individuals have. So it’s important to go to work every day with an open mind.”

It’s also beneficial to continue learning, says Ashley, who holds an Honours Bachelor of Social Work and a Post-Graduate Family Mediation Certificate from York University. However, her Sheridan experience remains close to her heart. When the chance to join Sheridan’s Faculty of Applied Health and Community Studies Alumni Board came up, Ashley accepted it eagerly. “I was looking for a way to give to a community that was such a big part of my life. I left Sheridan but Sheridan really never left me.”

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