Breast cancer survivor follows dreams, changes her life

A GLADSTONE resident and aspiring teacher has shown the world it is never too late to change your life.

Maria Luisa Parnell, 50, flew from the Philippines to visit her sister in Gladstone in 2009, when she met her future husband, John.

After a year of bliss, the couple received a blow when Maria was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Since then, her life changed remarkably.

After she was cured of cancer and later became an Australian citizen (in 2015), she passionately searched for opportunities to help and serve the community, society and the country which had given her a partner and a new life.

Maria's quest came to an end when she discovered the Welcoming Intercultural Neighbours. Having had some experience working in kindergartens, Maria decided to assist in WIN's multicultural playgroup.

With her new volunteer role, Maria integrated herself into a team of passionate individuals who are part of WIN's Embracing Diversity through Volunteering program - an initiative now funded by the Queensland Government Access and Inclusion program in Gladstone.

The following year, with the help of WIN director Natalia Muszkat, Maria landed a highly sought-after position in the Skilling Queenslanders for Work program.

The SQW training projects, an initiative supported by the Queensland Government, help jobseekers gain the skills, qualifications and experience they need to enter and stay in the workforce.

"I received this email with the weekly newsletter from WIN and I found out about the course,” Maria said.

In December 2016, she proudly graduated with a Certificate III in Early Childhood Education and Care at CQUniversity.

She expressed her gratitude and said: "That's a reason I am very thankful to WIN. They have helped me improve my skills and abilities. Without WIN, I couldn't have dreamt of being where I am today in my career.”

Empowered with her achievement and passionate about her work, Maria is now continuing her studies. She has enrolled in a university-level diploma to become a teacher.

"I love kids and working with children and my volunteer work with WIN and doing the Skilling Queenslanders for Work program has helped me follow my dreams,” she said.

Maria hoped that others, after reading her story, would be inspired to fulfil their dreams too.

For more information on WIN, call 0487 422 142.