In five years, Helen Davies wants to have a good chunk of her student loans paid off and be saving for a down payment on a house.
Right now, she's using every penny she earns, supplemented by student loans, to work on achieving her dream of becoming a registered nurse.
The 35-year-old single mother of two boys is now in her third year of nursing school, splitting her time between the classroom and helping patients in hospital.
She's also got a part-time job to help keep her boys, 17-yearold Daniel and Quentin, 13, fed, clothed and with a rented roof over their heads.
The family is one of many helped by generous donations to the Times Colonist Christmas Fund each year.
Nobody wants to fall on hard times. It just happens.
Davies was headed for a career as a doctor, taking premed courses, when her father died and she dropped out of school.
Her children were young, so she supported them by working at fast-food restaurants and other low-paying work. Then, in 2009, she decided to head back to school in hopes of a better life.
She estimates that when she graduates in June of 2014, she'll have a debt of more than $80,000.
"It will be huge, huge," said Davies.
Despite the tough times, Davies is determined to make Christmas special. This year, she will be able serve a turkey dinner with help from the Times Colonist Christmas fund.
There won't be gifts, but her kids are aware that there isn't money for that.
"The boys are well aware that there's basically no money and maybe we'll have to do Christmas in January, and they're really good that way," she said.
It didn't help that Daniel had had to get his wisdom teeth removed in September, which cost Davies $750, plus $60 for prescription medication.
Rent of their three-bedroom duplex is $1,150 a month, "with nothing included, not even water," she said.
Pets aren't allowed - "not even goldfish" - so Davies' wish to one day have a cat will have to wait until she can buy her own place.
The boys are busy away from school. Daniel works part-time as a price-checker at a grocery store, while Quentin volunteers with the local food bank.
Daniel graduates next spring and has applied to attend the University of Victoria, hopefully assisted by a scholarship.
Davies doesn't dwell on the challenges her family faces. She's looking ahead and knows with hard work, she and her sons will achieve their dreams.
Right now, she's loving her work as a nurse.
"You feel like you're making a difference," she said.
>> To donate online, go HERE
>> More stories on the Times Colonist Christmas Fund