Genoveva (Gina) Villagran Leonardo

Gina arrived in Québec on an icy winter’s day in January 1987. She had left her native country of Guatemala in the hopes of a better life. The young 23-year-old was happy, as her future looked bright. Gina pursued a professional education and became the proud mother of three children. As a nursing assistant, she had found a career she adored. In 2006, she was involved in a workplace accident that would leave her both physically and psychologically wounded. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and declared unfit to work. Gina lost her bearings. She had taken such satisfaction in her work and wanted to continue to feel useful. She would fall into a long period of isolation and sadness. She stopped taking proper care of her children. Feeling hopeless, she started to have suicidal thoughts. Her eldest daughter decided to break the silence and seek professional help. She cried to Gina, “I no longer have a mother. Mine has been dead since the accident.”

These words sent a shock wave to Gina and became etched in her memory. Thanks to her daughter, she began a rebirth of sorts. A three-month stay in the hospital allowed her to recover her mental health. During this period, she rebuilt her self-esteem and acknowledged her full potential, despite her limitations. She also met people who, from her perspective, were struggling with even bigger problems than she was. This convinced Gina that she had the strength to overcome her challenges and that she would come out stronger for them. Given her issues, she had to revisit the way she approached life. Gina has nonetheless found new ways to value herself by helping people in need. She no longer fears being around people and participates in groups for people of Latin American origin. She is a member of a group of people who have been victims of aggression, in which she helps women to adapt to themselves and to be sure of themselves. She finally found her inner little girl to make peace with the traumatic events of her life journey, and undertook therapy for victims of domestic violence. Gina’s life goes on with the desire to help other people who have lived a similar kind of story.