Josée Gallant’s work placement in the summer of 2005 was an eye-opener on several levels. Firstly, she realized that many people on the Island are living a difficult life, and that there is still a long way to go to eliminate poverty and ensure that everyone can live in safety and good health.
She has also seen with her own eyes, thanks to the PERCÉ program, that her province offers many job opportunities. “On the Island, there’s a place for me in my field,” she says. “I want to travel for a few years, but I certainly want to come back to the Island.”
Josée first studied social work at La Cité collégiale d’Ottawa. She then went to the University of Ottawa to complete her master’s degree in social work.
During the summer of 2005, thanks to her participation in the PERCÉ program, she had the opportunity to collaborate with the Association des femmes acadiennes et francophones de l’Î.-P.-É. (AFAFIPE), which works extensively in the field of social justice for women and the general population. Through this work, she was able to learn about and work with several other organizations, including the P.E.I. Rape Crisis Centre, the Canadian AIDS Society and Cap enfants in Wellington.
“During my time at AFAFIPE, I helped develop and carry out a study among francophone women, at the provincial level, on working conditions and how to promote a balance between family and professional life,” explains Josée. “I also worked on the issue of domestic violence and health. The whole thing was really interesting.”
She accompanied then-executive director Colette Arsenault to meetings of various groups, including the P.E.I. Council on the Status of Women, the Cooper Institute and the Decent Income Task Force. “Through these committees, I was able to meet many people in my field. I got to know several organizations and learned about potential work opportunities, which opened many doors for me. It also gave me the chance to learn about my own skills and motivate myself to progress.”
She had the opportunity to discuss many topics in the field of social justice with the executive director. “It gave me the chance to develop critical thinking and to be more aware of the real events that women and the general population are going through. Basically, it confirmed to me that the field I’m studying is the right one.”
In July 2007, she landed a job with the Prince Edward Island government, working in the Child and Family Services division in the West Prince region as a child protection investigator.
“It was a good place to start my career because I got to really experience a range of services that families can benefit from. I was also really well situated to get to know all the other services and partners we worked with.”
“PERCÉ gave me good hands-on experience working in my field of interest,” she explains. “This program connected me with key partners. My placement also gave me an opportunity, with AFAFIPE, to get to know several organizations that fight poverty and violence against women and children.”
The work placement also gave her the opportunity to do an interview project, so she learned working techniques to facilitate this kind of task. While she was developing these skills, little did she realize how important they would soon be in her working career. “With my work with the province, I was doing a lot of interviewing with children and families, so I was using the skills I learned during my placement on a daily basis.”
The PERCÉ experience also allowed her to explore the Island job market. “It was a good way to see, to realize that there really are jobs in my field on the Island.”
Today, Josée is the owner of the Elm Grove Centre, which offers equine therapy and a variety of other mental health support services. In fact, for the past few years, she has been offering a workshop on mental health to today’s PERCÉ participants during their training days.