Racism in early Victoria

by Monica Hammond

35 Africans who were on board the steamship Commodore, which pulled into Victoria Harbour in April 1858, decided to make Victoria their home. Edward Cridge visited the ship and discovered that one of the families was Christian. He invited them to join his congregation at Christ Church.

This shocked some of the members of the congregation. One letter to the editor of the Gazette referred to the parishioners being insulted “by crowding negro men into the same seats with white and respectable women” (The Home: p. 27). Other angry letters to the editor followed, some submitted anonymously.

Edward Cridge responded, in his own letter to the editor, saying that he thought little of racist statements and that he would say so in any discussion promoting racism.

Actions like these, which weren’t popular with everyone, show that Edward and Mary Cridge were determined to champion the rights of all residents of their new community of Victoria.

This piece is based on the work of Vernon Storey, Terry Worobetz and Henry Kennedy in their book The Home: Orphans’ Home to Family Centre: 1873 to 1998. Copies of the book are available for purchase at The Cridge Centre for the Family.

Royal Jubilee Hospital

The Cridges and the Royal Jubilee Hospital

by Monica Hammond

Edward Cridge was involved in the earliest days of what is now the Royal Jubilee Hospital. In 1858 a sick man was found lying on a mattress in the Cridges’ garden. Edward and his wife Mary cared for him, and realized that there was a need in their community for a medical facility. Edward made use of his connections in the community to open a care centre in Blinkhorn’s, a rented cottage at the corner of Yates and Broad Streets in downtown Victoria. Governor James Douglas helped to fund it. The number of patients at Blinkhorn’s  grew quickly, and the facility moved to a building on the Songhees Reserve. These were the simple beginnings of what is now the Royal Jubilee Hospital.

This piece is based on the work of Vernon Storey, Terry Worobetz and Henry Kennedy in their book The Home: Orphans’ Home to Family Centre: 1873 to 1998. Copies of the book are available for purchase at The Cridge Centre for the Family.


Fort Victoria

Fort Victoria Welcomes the Cridges

by Monica Hammond

There were about 200 settlers living in Victoria when Edward and Mary Cridge arrived in 1855, and about 600 settlers on Vancouver Island. The Cridges lived in Fort Victoria for their first year, while their parsonage was being built.

Very early in their lives in this new community, they became aware of the needs of their fellow Victorians. A seriously ill man was found on a mattress in their garden; someone had brought him there knowing that he would receive the care he needed because of the generous nature of the Cridges. Another time, a naval officer in ill health stayed with them while he grieved for his father. Yet another time, Edward Cridge visited a shooting victim who had been brought to the Fort. It did not take long for the community to appreciate the impact of Mary and Edward Cridge on the lives of the disadvantaged.

The gold rush of 1858 brought a rush of people to Victoria. 20,000 people came through, and Victoria’s population grew from a few hundred to between 3,000 and 6,000 over a period of five years. Reverend Cridge immediately began to address the needs of these new Victorians, many of whom would become his parishioners. His ministerial work extended beyond Victoria to Colwood, Esquimalt, and other areas. The impact of his and Mary’s social work was felt by people near and far.

This piece is based on the work of Vernon Storey, Terry Worobetz and Henry Kennedy in their book The Home: Orphans’ Home to Family Centre: 1873 to 1998. Copies of the book are available for purchase at The Cridge Centre for the Family.

Edward and Mary Cridge

Who were Edward and Mary Cridge?

by Monica Hammond

Edward Cridge was born in England in 1817. His mother died when he was quite young, so he was raised in a single-parent family. After grammar school, Edward went on to get a degree in mathematics. In the same year that he got his degree, he passed a theological exam and was ordained into the Church of England. After three years as a minister at Christ Church in Essex, he heard about the chance to minister at a new parish – the “Chaplaincy of Vancouvers Island” (The Home: p. 20). He would have to leave England in less than one month.

He had been working with Mary Winmill in Essex for some time and had grown to love her. He asked her to marry him and go with him to Vancouver Island. She said yes. Three weeks later, in September 1854, Edward and Mary Cridge embarked on their voyage to the other side of the world.

Even as a young man, Edward had an interest in helping people and building communities. He raised support for victims of the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, and organized a musical society while at college. Mary had also been active in community-minded work. This social awareness on the part of both Edward and Mary Cridge would have a great impact on the fledgling community they were about to join: Victoria.

This piece is based on the work of Vernon Storey, Terry Worobetz and Henry Kennedy in their book The Home: Orphans’ Home to Family Centre: 1873 to 1998. Copies of the book are available for purchase at The Cridge Centre for the Family.


Travel Back in Time with us!

Have you ever wondered why we are called The CRIDGE Centre for the Family? Or wondered how this organization was started? Maybe you want to know about the history of our gorgeous building and property? Over the next several months, we will be posting short excerpts from the book The Home: Orphans’ Home to Family Centre: 1873 – 1998. These stories will give you answers to your questions and whet your appetite for the rich history that surrounds this incredible organization that has been serving the people of Victoria for over 143 years. So join us as we travel back in time to Fort Victoria and the small community that became a staging ground for the gold rush. There are many characters who you will meet with names that you will recognize from streets and buildings in Victoria. The Cridge Centre for the Family and the characters that surround it are an integral part of the history of Victoria — and this will be a journey into the past that you will not want to miss! Watch for the first installment later this week!

With special thanks to Monica Hammond for compiling these stories.

What is Cridge Respite Connect?

by Gyneth Turner


Connecting families of children with special needs to qualified respite care providers.

The knock on the door came promptly at the appointed time, and the office door opened to reveal the eager face of the young woman who had submitted an impressive resume.  Jenna was hoping to find work providing respite care for children and youth with special needs.

Lucky Us!

Jenna found Cridge Respite Connect when she came across the job ad we have posted on indeed.ca – a job search website that connects employers with potential hires.  Indeed is one of the many tools that Cridge Respite Connect uses to search out qualified respite care providers.

Who is Jenna?

Jenna fell in love with supporting children and youth with special needs as a young teen.  She credits the amazing relationships she formed with kids while volunteering for events such as Operation Track Shoes as the impetus to pursuing work in respite care.  Meanwhile, Jenna is a third year UVic student majoring in biology and psychology.  She plans to do a master’s degree in neurobiology and ultimately, a PhD in neuropsychology.  She hopes that the work she does will directly lead to better supports for the challenges that people with disabilities face.

For Families

Jenna was hired by a family who have a young son who has Autism.  Jenna and Hugo have formed a great relationship that has opened so many doors for both Hugo and his parents.  While Jenna and Hugo enjoy an afternoon at the beach, Hugo’s mum, Karen, spends a day at the mall doing some back-to-school shopping with her daughter Emily.  Hugo’s dad, Ryan, has a few hours to enjoy a 50 km bike ride with some buddies that he otherwise would not get to see very much of.  Once a month Jenna spends Friday night with Hugo and Emily pigging out on popcorn and watching the latest Netflix offering.  Ryan and Karen have dinner out together or with friends.  Before Jenna, none of this was possible.

If you know a Jenna….

Please send him/her our way!  You can hardly imagine the blessing they will be to a terrific family, and according to our “Jenna’s”, you can hardly imagine the blessing our Cridge Respite Connect families will be to them.

For more information about Cridge Respite Connect, click here

More Than Making a Budget

— Marlene Goley

The reality for many women escaping abuse is poverty.  They have been isolated, forbidden to work outside of their homes or develop marketable skills, often are left with big debts, and are trying live on income which is below the subsistence levels of government Income Assistance. There is little hope of seeing any child or spousal support from their abusive ex-partners.  Living in poverty means cycling through financial crises, housing instability, insufficient money for food and such basic necessities such as bus fare or laundry.  Returning to their abusive partners often seems like the only way for them and their children to survive. This is the reality for the women who move into The Cridge Supportive Transitional Housing.

Our program supports have always focused on the safety planning and healing that are crucial for women leaving abusive relationships.  Because we realized that we also must support women to become financially stable in order for them to create and maintain their own safety and security and that of their children we tried to incorporate some budgeting and money management. But it seemed that that was just too huge a place for women to go with us, with themselves, or with anyone.  Women needed more than making a budget.

In 2010, we secured funding to launch The Cridge Asset Building Program.  Asset building programs are much more than making a budget. Participants are supported to actually implement the “financial literacy” that they have learned. They are individually coached to set some realistic financial goals for the future, to make a plan to get control over their money (even with little income), and to start saving  modestly for their future plans.  The key to making this work? The matched savings component of the program.  Each participant’s monthly savings is matched 3:1 for 18 months.

Here is how it worked for Joanna:

She left her abusive husband and was trying to support herself and her daughter on less than $900 a month.  She was in a terrible financial bind and terrified to open her threatening overdue bills.   But the promise of the 3:1 match was the powerful incentive. She said it was the only thing that gave her hope and the courage to try.  She made a spending plan that included a monthly payment on the credit card debt and put $10 a month into her savings account.  Over 18 months she paid down her debt, saved $180 and with the $540 match she had $720. That, plus a moderate student loan, would get her through the 10-month Registered Care Aid course.  What she could hardly dare dream about 18 months previously, had become a reality.
The matched savings component is the important difference between teaching budgeting or financial literacy and providing a real incentive to change behaviour – to engage with the learning. It is also the most challenging to fund. Since 2010, 43 women have been able to complete The Cridge Asset Building Program.  We are hopeful to start another 10 women.  Women can save up to a maximum of $50 per month, so for a 3:1 match for 18 months we need about $2700 for each match.  We have received a grant from The Lobstick Foundation that will cover two women.  But we are still searching for the funding for the other 8 women to give them all the opportunity to build their confidence, reduce their vulnerability, give them hope, and to be amazing role-models for their children. With your help, we can continue to give women the skills and hope to manage their finances well. Please consider making a donation and designating it to “Asset Building Program”.

Honouring Beacon Community Service Workers

— Sarah Smith (Manager of Seniors’ Services)

Last month our Recreation Coordinator, Alison, planned a fantastic event to honour the Beacon staff members who provide all of the personal care to any of our residents who need it here at the Seniors’ Centre. This includes bathing, dress assist, laundry, breakfast preparation, medication management and so much more. Many of the Beacon staff have been here since we opened and they are an integral part of our team.

There were cupcakes galore, flowers and gifts for the Beacon staff, sincere statements of appreciation from many who were in attendance and a photo booth!

The feedback from all was fantastic – way to go Alison!

open door

The door is always open

by Candace Stretch

The realities that women face when they leave an abusive partner can be stark. Women have to cope with finding housing, living on Income Assistance, being a single parent, dealing with the legal system… just to name a few of the challenges! Sometimes these stark realities can make the life they left behind seem less painful than it was, and some women choose to go back.

It is so important for us to leave an open door to women who return to their abusive partners… and to remind women when they walk out our door that they are always welcome back. We work hard to create a warm and non-judgmental environment for women who return to us.

We know that the journey is challenging… and it can take many twists and turns. But we believe that, beyond the challenges, it is possible for women to experience a life of safety and joy.

Gracious Gardeners

So plant your own gardens and decorate your own soul, instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.    (Jorge Luis Borge)

Dirty fingernails and calloused hands are not usually a source of pride…but in our Dovetail program, there is a new group who compares how rough their hands are. Who are they? A small but mighty group called the Gracious Gardeners. Our outreach worker, Beata, has long dreamt of a project to encourage our women to plant gardens. This year, together with Marilyn, four women came together to dream about small gardens in the townhouse backyards. A few phone calls later, and there was sponsorship available from Tuf Turf and Rootcellar – both businesses excited to support women growing food for their families. So soil was delivered… ground was dug… seeds were planted… and women worked and watched and waited…

Each of these women have left abusive relationships – each one has left their lives behind and started out new, facing incredible challenges and hardship. They know what being transplanted feels like… they know what losing their roots is all about. And they also know about growth, about regeneration and about blossoming in a new place. Out of their hardship has come great resilience and incredible beauty.

The process of planting and tending a garden has been not just been therapeutic for these women, but it has also become a source of great pride and enthusiasm. The women have felt that sense of accomplishment in having created something – and watching it grow and produce beautiful and edible things. Some of the women have never gardened before – and needed help to know basics such as when to harvest the lettuce.  Others have come back to gardening with a long forgotten passion and the hidden knowledge that gardening brings healing. Dotted around the property are little sanctuaries of growth, healing and beauty.

As the gardens grow, so do our women. What started as a group of 4, has doubled in size. And as the gardens grow and produce food for the families, we see women growing and healing. And that is what being a Gracious Gardener is all about.