Rowena’s Story

In the wake of her husband’s passing, Rowena had bills to pay and a home to maintain

When Rowena’s husband passed away six years ago, her life changed in countless ways. Amid her grief, Rowena now had bills to pay and a home to maintain. Knowing her husband was ill, Rowena realized she would need to start working and trained to become a caregiver six months before his passing.

“If I hear something break in the house, I cry because I cannot afford to have it fixed,” she explains.

Though she expresses deep gratitude for the home purchased by her late husband, she laments the financial struggles that have since shaped many aspects of her life. Having moved to Canada 16 years ago, Rowena shares that she grew up living in poverty and that her family remains in the Philippines.  

“But here in Canada, you don’t have family... You could lose your home if you can’t pay your bills...,” she says, recounting how her family and neighbours relied on each other for support back home.  

Perched on a light fixture above her kitchen table, Rowena’s pet bird, Pixie, chirps as she shares her story. Winkie Wonka, the family cat, slinks around the house while Rowena’s daughter enjoys a day off from school. Every few minutes, she expresses sincere gratitude for the Home Upgrades Program.

“It was one of the best days of our lives when we got the new furnace,” she says. “I was on cloud nine.”

Having already borrowed money to fix a leaky window that risked causing water damage, Rowena worried about the day her furnace would fail.  

“It was one of my biggest worries when my husband passed away. I said: What happens in the middle of winter, -40, and the thing breaks down? It [the furnace] was 40 years, as old as the house.”

In addition to worrying about the furnace breaking, Rowena stressed about high heating costs and lost sleep listening to her old furnace rumble each time it kicked on. As a result, she came to hate winter, a challenge in a cold city like Calgary.

After her new high-efficiency furnace was installed, she told Kyle (the Home Upgrades Program former Calgary Construction Manager): “I have never slept well like a baby for a long time. Now I barely hear the furnace. It is very nice, very cozy.”

The program is made possible thanks to the generosity of our funding partners: Alberta Ecotrust Foundation, the City of Calgary, the City of Edmonton, ENMAX, the Alberta Real Estate Foundation, the McConnell Foundation, Suncor Energy Foundation, and Calgary Foundation.

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