Marc Cuevas will never forget when he and his family had to rely on the kindness of strangers to help them through some challenging times.
Cuevas was just nine-years-old when he and his family arrived in Winnipeg from Manilla. With no immediate family to assist them to adjust to their new surroundings, Cuevas was grateful for the assistance and compassion he, his parents and brother Edrick received from people they hardly knew.
That experience had such an impact on Cuevas that he rarely passes up an opportunity to pay it forward some 20 years later.
“When we came to Canada…we didn’t have a lot and we really depended on people’s kindness to show us around and help us out,” he recalls. “I think that’s why now I try to take the opportunity to help people out. If I try to help them out even just a little bit hopefully I can help get them on track.”
It was that desire to help others that led Cueva to join Epic Opportunities nearly five years ago, first as a residential support worker and more recently as a Disability Support Worker at the organization’s 3421 Portage Ave. location. At the time he was considering a career in health care when a close friend who worked at Epic Opportunities suggested he check it out.
“My mom took care of retired people…and I wanted to do something where I could help people too,” he says.
“The first day I fell in love with the people I worked with. They had such a great sense of community. I was this new guy and they really took me in and I felt like I was part of the family.”
Cuevas says the most rewarding part of his job has been witnessing the progress of the people he serves, especially when it comes to establishing a more independent life.
“I like to see the progress from Day One to now. It’s so cool to see them transitioning to independence,” he says. “I get such happiness from doing that. It’s not just a job. When they win, we win with them.”
Co-worker Stephanie Reimer has worked alongside Cuevas for the past three years and says he has a gift for connecting with people.
“He’s very quick to help anyone with anything, whether it’s someone we serve or his co-workers. He genuinely cares about people,” Reimer says.
“The other thing about Marc is that his support for people is always very person-centred: he focuses on where that person is at, where they want to go and the things they need to get there. [And] he has an awesome sense of humor. People know he likes them and has their best interests at heart.”
One of the things Cuevas brought with him from the Philippines is his love of boxing. His dad and his grandfather were both pugilists in their native land and instilled a love of the sweet science in him.
Although he doesn’t box anymore, Cueva does train several young fighters. He says there are some notable similarities between what he does in the gym and his job with Epic Opportunities.
“It’s very similar. You watch the person you support and see how they move and determine what the best way for them to learn is,” he says.
“You can’t have a cookie-cutter approach. Everyone has different ways of learning. It’s all about finding the best way to learn for that individual.”