Saskatchewan caregiver for daughter with cerebral palsy hopeful to keep working at 59

Click to play video: 'Past TIOW program participant Donna Merasty' Past TIOW program participant Donna Merasty
WATCH: Caregiver Donna Merasty talks about her time with a Targeted Initiatives for Older Workers (TIOW) program for mature jobseekers at the Radius Community Centre in Saskatoon – Apr 30, 2021

While Donna Merasty may be turning 60 years old soon, she said it feels more like 34.

The search for employment continues for the woman originally from Pelican Narrows, Sask., as she continues to help her 29-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy.

Merasty’s vast work experience includes Northern Saskatchewan elementary school teacher, actress and coordinator at a special-needs facility.

Read more: She wanted a job, but at 55, no one would hire her

When Tricia Ballantyne moved to Saskatoon to a new job, Merasty came with her but found it difficult at her age to find part-time employment.

“I have applied since I moved here in 2011 for jobs in the city and I didn’t get anything,” Merasty said.

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“I just needed something during the day, part-time, so it is hard for my situation.

“I wanted to be out there and do something because I’m not a person who likes to sit at home and do nothing. I’d rather be working and doing something for others.”

To occupy her time, she volunteered with Ronald McDonald House Saskatchewan for about three years. She also earns roughly $700 to $1,000 a year with her craft projects made in-between caring for her daughter.

A photo of some earrings crafted by Donna Merasty. Donna Merasty / Supplied

While looking to keep busy, Merasty came across a Targeted Initiatives for Older Workers (TIOW) program for mature jobseekers at the Radius Community Centre in Saskatoon.

“I took that program to help me update my resume, like my resume was really outdated, and so I took that program and I’m glad I did,” Merasty said.

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“I updated my first aid and CPR certificate in that program. I also learned communication skills, computer skills and interview skills and I needed those skills to try and find a job for myself cause I just can’t stay still while I’m able.

“But then COVID came along. Good thing I finished the program.”

Read more: Saskatchewan records lowest unemployment rate in Canada despite COVID-19 pressure

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Immigration and Career Training (ICT) launched six of these TIOW projects aimed at increasing the employability of older workers aged 55 to 64 with various agencies in the province on Jan. 1, 2020.

“It helps them to remain active and productive labour market participants and focuses on improving their skills,” read an ICT statement to Global News.

“After COVID-19 impacted the province in late March 2020, alternative service delivery methods were adopted to continue to deliver the services to clients. Changes implemented by the agencies included virtual orientations for recruitment, online group-based learning, take-home workbooks for self-study, and one-on-one assistance by video or phone.”

Merasty was able to find work right after finishing the program early in March 2020.

“I actually worked for Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation as a contact person in Saskatoon here. I was delivering elders’ cheques for our membership, also delivering masks and hand sanitizers, gift cards, dried goods and meat packs to the membership that lived in Saskatoon,” Merasty said.

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“There’s 11,000 Peter Ballantyne members in Canada, over 11,000, and so they look for people to help the membership in a place so I was one of the contact people in Saskatoon and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t mind it at all because it kept me busy.” 

Click to play video: 'Saskatoon employer handbook aims to boost Indigenous employment' Saskatoon employer handbook aims to boost Indigenous employment
Saskatoon employer handbook aims to boost Indigenous employment – Aug 27, 2019

Currently, Merasty is unemployed but is hopeful to get more work soon through the First Nation which just recently had an election.

The ministry said the Saskatchewan economy, like others around the world, was not immune to the impact of COVID-19 on the labour market.

“Agencies were successful in the recruitment and engagement of clients, despite not being able to offer integrated in-person programming. This is illustrated by the fact that six agencies were able to recruit 172 into the program.”

“Of the 172 clients who participated in the program, 61 per cent of them became employed or progressed to further education or training. For clients who completed the program without securing employment, they are being supported to continue their job search.”

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Read more: Grandmother named 1st female chief of Muskoday First Nation

Merasty said the TIOW program boosted her self-esteem and would recommend it to others.

“You got nothing to lose and you’ll learn a lot of skills there and you’re never too old to dream a new dream,” she said.

“I was very satisfied with the Radius program. Everybody was very respectful towards me and I think the staff because they were just super.”

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