Graduate Profile: Linda Bowen

Give A Voice, Find A Voice: Empowerment Through Education

Labour Community Advocate Training Programme: Linda Bowen (USW8300)

For most of her life, Linda Bowen was convinced that nobody else around her could sympathize with her problems – that she would have to deal with things alone.

So she told no one.

All of that changed when, four years ago, she arrived in the union classroom for an evening training session after spotting a poster in her workplace. Over the ten weeks that followed, Linda was surprised to find that she was hearing her own struggles echoed in the stories of the other participants.

IMG_0412-8 Linda“It was a personal awakening,” she describes. “As I listened to the others talk about their struggles, I began to realize that it wasn’t just me facing these issues. I wasn’t alone.”

Linda had spent over thirty years working at various financial institutions while raising her now-adult son. “I was not a very talkative person,” she recalls. “I was shy, and I stayed within my personal circles of friends.”

Since graduating from all three levels of the Labour Community Advocate Training programme, Linda has been able to transform her role within her friends to that of an advisor. “My friends often call me up to ask me for advice now,” she smiles.

“It’s a good way to enrich your thinking on how others with very different lives deal with their own issues – problems and solutions that you never would have thought of on your own.”

A large part of the programme’s impact, she explains, depends on the attendees. Since the participants in the programme come from a wide variety of unions across Toronto, she was able to hear from people that she would normally never meet. “It’s a good way to enrich your thinking on how others with very different lives deal with their own issues – problems and solutions that you never would have thought of on your own.”

IMG_0388-3 LindaEach session of the ten-week course covers a different topic – like addiction, unemployment, divorce, and other issues that face regular working people – and features an expert guest speaker with experience in the field.

Linda no longer feels powerless to help when friends and co-workers talk to her about their problems.

“Now that I have the right tools, I can go beyond listening. I can support them and offer them help, too.”

When co-workers found themselves stressed during labour grievances or family troubles, Linda is confident that she has the right information to offer them. And in the case of an addiction struggle, Linda was able to point her co-worker toward resources in Toronto that helped them get back on track.

In four years, Linda’s “awakening” has transformed her: she has become an advocate of change within her own circles, rather than waiting for change to come.

“These struggles wouldn’t have to get this far if supervisors had the right training,” Linda believes. “That’s why I think a programme like the LCAT should be mandatory as part of leadership training.”

In four years, Linda’s “awakening” has transformed her: she has become an advocate of change within her own circles, rather than waiting for change to come.

Most importantly, explains Linda, “The programme encourages you to find time to take care of yourself. Not a lot of people remember to do that when they’re working.”

The Labour Community Advocate Training programme is available to all union members within the Toronto and York Region. The ten-week course is offered on Wednesday evenings. For more information, contact Najib Soufian at 416.445.5819 x26 or nsoufian@labourcommunityservices.ca.