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Paula Wischoff Yerama  

I AM ALFA because I refuse to give up. I believe that everyone has alfa qualities and that everyone is unstoppable – sometimes they just need the right opportunity to shine.


Photography: ALI SOHRAB

Hair & Make up: Amanda Rampersaud and @hair_and_makeup_by_trisha

Venue: Platoon FX Fitness

I grew up on a farm in Northern Alberta with my father, mom, and younger sister. We lived simply. A wood stove and a fireplace heated our four-room house. Household water was accessed from the cistern outside through a pump in the kitchen. We didn’t have indoor plumbing and bath time involved setting a galvanized tub up in the kitchen, filling it with water, and heating the water with an electric heater. Most of our food came from our livestock – meat, eggs, milk; we even made our own butter and ice cream – and our garden. My mom cooked, baked, and canned everything with the wood stove. She did laundry with a ringer washer and hung everything to dry on a clothesline, even in the winter. My sister and I were the first ones on the school bus and the last ones off. There were no more than 100 students in our elementary school. There were many tailgate dinners and coffee visits with neighbours and birthday parties with friends. I didn’t appreciate the simplicity or the immense amount of work that way of living was until I was much older.

The summer between grades 5 and 6 we moved to Olds, Alberta. I came to learn that what was normal to me wasn’t normal to others and that some of the things I had experienced were wrong – very very wrong. I didn’t know how to make sense of what had happened to me. I tried to find ways to fit in – to be normal. I tried to escape the growing pain and shame and worthlessness and hopeless I felt. During junior and senior high I moved around a fair bit – in and out of group and foster homes until I finally got my own place in Sundre, Alberta. I went to school and I worked. I made bad decision after bad decision that resulted in bad situation after bad situation. It was attending my first year of college that I got married. Not even a year later I was separated, and in the process of getting a divorce.

The summer after I graduated with a business administration diploma. I ran a student painting company in Red Deer, Alberta, and moved to Lethbridge, Alberta to continue my education. Shortly before I moved to Lethbridge I learned I was pregnant. I moved to Lethbridge anyway – alone, broke, and without a plan. By the end of the first semester of university and the second trimester of my pregnancy I knew I couldn’t continue. I made more bad decisions that resulted in more bad situations. On March of 1997 my beautiful daughter with corn silk hair and ocean blue eyes was born. She was perfect. I found a way out the bad situation I had gotten myself into with the help of my mom and we started a new life. I worked and went to school and did my best to ensure she had everything a little girl could want or need. We didn’t have much but we had enough. In 2004, when my daughter was 7, we met the man who would become her dad. In 2007 we became a family.

I still worked and went to school and did my best to ensure she had everything a young girl could want or need. I started a business and then another and did my best to ensure she had everything a young lady could want or need. Everything I did was for her. Every decision I made was for her. I lost myself along the way and I was still trying to escape the growing pain and shame and worthlessness and hopeless I felt.