KELOWNA – Kelowna trauma play therapist Magdalena Amestica loves her job at the Metis Community Services Society of B.C.
“I feel deeply, deeply connected to native people,” says Amestica.
Amestica, 83, has touched the lives of many people including Kelowna woman, Elisa Johnson.
“I wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for Magdalena,” says Johnson.
The 44-year-old single mother of three says she had an abusive childhood and was the victim of a violent crime. She says she tried various types of therapy, counselling and medication before being recommended to a post-trauma group led by Magdalena.
“Through this whole process, Magdalena has brought me from being a completely locked in, terrified person to coming back to life and being able to love and live,” says Johnson.
Amestica immigrated to Canada from Chile when she was 43. After upgrading her education, the psychologist worked as a teacher and counsellor with First Nations communities in Alberta.
She partially retired and moved to the Okanagan but her retirement didn’t last long.
“I started doing things that retired people do: gardening and cooking and baking and cleaning the house but I thought to myself, where is my time going?” says Amestica.
So, she sought out volunteer work and was welcomed to the Elizabeth Fry Society.
When a full-time job opened at the Metis Society, Amestica couldn’t refuse the opportunity to work with children who have suffered trauma.
“Children have taught me how to be resilient,” says Amestica.
At 83, most people are retired, but Amestica is not only doing this full-time job, she’s dedicated to her role as therapist around the clock.
“I’ve had to try to convince her to take holidays and that she does get vacation time and she does need to take it. She’ll phone people from her own home if need be. She goes above her role,” says her boss Kelly L’Hirondelle who is the executive director at the Metis society.
While the modest woman has had a hard time admitting her impact on those she serves when she sees the progress of clients like Johnson, she says she knows her work is helping an entire community one person at a time.