The people we serve have rich stories of their own that they generously allow us to share from time to time. Here are some of those stories.

Diversity and Acceptance in Children

Submitted by Janelle Breese Biagioni.

Diversity and acceptance are the same for children.
Society, in general, invests a great deal of time and money into educating people (adults) about community inclusion, which is about a person having social interactions and meaningful relationships with people who are not paid staff and that the relationship benefits both parties.

This picture shows two toddlers who are daycare buddies. The little girl approached Atticus, who uses a pacer to walk with, and offered him the doll stroller. When Atticus took the stroller, the little girl went behind him and pushed his walker so he could push the stroller. When some twigs and rocks stopped Atticus from moving, she stopped and stepped to the front clearing the debris and then resumed pushing his pacer and they were off again on their little adventure.

This little girl didn’t worry about being “politically correct” or if she would insult Atticus by taking charge to help him experience the thrill of pushing a doll stroller. In her little heart, she felt, “Atticus is my friend,” and in her mind, she said, “We can do this together.”

As adults, if we strive to emulate the love of children, we can make a stronger community that is inclusive, loving and has no barriers.

Learn more about our Childcare Services.

Karen’s Story of Loss and Rebuilding

 

February 2, 2015 is a day that Karen will never forget – it was a life changing day. While Karen was at work, the house where she rented a suite was consumed by a fire, taking with it her 3 beloved cats. At that point, Karen’s life changed.  She lost everything and began a new journey of rebuilding.

Karen Abrahamson is a Family Support Worker at The Cridge.  She has been working with our women’s programs for 15 years as a counselor, advocate and front line support worker. She also coordinates the volunteers with the Dovetail program and Transition House. Karen is a woman of great passion and integrity – a powerhouse and fierce advocate. She is the type of person who will stand in the gap and not back down until her client receives the help that she needs. Karen is dedicated and strong – someone to be counted on and trusted.  She is admired and valued tremendously.

So when Karen lost everything in the fire, we were all shaken to see her grief. This strong woman was just like the rest of us – vulnerable, hurting and broken with loss. She spent the next month living in The Cridge Seniors Centre guest suite and taking time in between work to rebuild her life. During the last 3 months, Karen has walked a hard road. She admits that in the past she was always the strong one – the one who helped others.  But now she was in need, broken and grieving – and needed help.  Even though at times she was unable to articulate that need, she says that she was so blessed to receive help and support at every turn. The love and care that showered over her from The Cridge family, and the wider Cridge community, was often overwhelming to her. She received so much and is so very grateful.

Karen knows that her journey through this painful time is not over – there is more healing to be done. But she does see that it has given her a better understanding of what the women she works with go through – she understands losing all her worldly possessions, she understands loss and grieving and the difficult and painful process of rebuilding a life. Karen would never wish such an experience on anyone, but she knows that God will use this experience to make her a stronger person and an even more compassionate advocate for women.

We are so blessed to have Karen in The Cridge family. She is an essential part of what makes us a successful and life-giving family as we continue to work in the community to serve those in need. Karen is an amazing example of our motto – that love is the bottom line.

The Kindness of Strangers

The Reality of Domestic Violence for Immigrant & Refugee Women in Victoria

Marlene Goley and Candace Stretch

             The Cridge Dovetail Program provides emotional support, life skill development, counselling, connections to community resources, financial literacy, and social opportunities to the women and children that live in our Supportive Transitional Housing. Over the past several years, we have had the opportunity to support several women who have come to Canada with the hope of becoming an immigrant or refugee, but who have been left in limbo because their abusive ex-partner is their sponsor. The reality of living life in immigration limbo is frightening- essentially these women find themselves cut off from any sort of financial support, and 100% dependant on the kindness of strangers.

            Take, for example, the story of Rachel. Rachel was brought to The Cridge Transition House for Women (CTHW) by police, who had been called to her home because her husband was assaulting her. After a few weeks at CTHW, Rachel was notified by Immigration Canada that her husband had pulled his sponsorship and that she was expected to leave the country immediately. Her only hope of staying in the country was to hire a lawyer and apply for refugee status. She had no money to pay this lawyer, or even to pay for rent or groceries, as she was not able to work and was ineligible to apply for Income Assistance, due to her lack of status in Canada.

            The next few months of Rachel’s journey were an exercise in faith. From the moment she walked through our doors, she was forced to rely on the kindness of strangers for her survival. Fortunately, the staff of The Dovetail Program were able to accept her as a tenant in our supportive transitional housing, and used funds from a donation account to pay her rent. She was entirely dependent on the staff of the Dovetail program, who organized furniture and clothing for her, ensured her rent and legal fees were paid each month, and gave her monthly grocery cards (also covered through donation accounts). Each day was a challenge, as Rachel dealt with the anxiety of living life in such a state of dependency, as well as her deeper fear that she would be deported and sent back to the country she had fled. By the grace of God, five months after Rachel first moved into Cridge housing, her refugee status was granted!

            The staff of The Cridge Dovetail program are privileged to be a part of the group of “kind strangers” who lead women like Rachel through the scary journey of escaping relationship violence and facing immigration limbo. For us, this is a journey that takes us from the role of stranger to the role of friend in these women’s lives. And while these women may never know the names and faces of the generous donors whose gifts feed and house them, they live with the knowledge that these “kind strangers” are their allies in the truest sense of the word!       

 kindness1

For more information about supports for women facing domestic violence click here

Volunteers: One of The Cridge’s Greatest Resources

Geoff Sing: Manager of Cridge Brain Injury Program

DSC_0163

Volunteer Canada and Investors Group has designated April 12 – 18, 2015 as National Volunteer Week .The week is set aside to recognize the tremendous contribution of volunteers across the country. As we know, volunteers are a vital valuable source of support to all programs with The Cridge Centre for the Family.  It should be noted that The Cridge Board of Directors are faithful volunteers.  Through their dedication and commitment of providing hundreds of hours annually through various board duties and committees the governance of The Cridge is well maintained making The Cridge one of the best led Societies in Greater Victoria.

Within The Cridge Brain Injury Program, Macdonald House has been greatly enriched with volunteer support.  Over the past decade, over 200 volunteers have registered at Macdonald House.  These volunteers have contributed, over the past 10 years, 4000 plus hours support to our men and enhance their quality of life.

Some of the valuable lessons we have learned from our volunteer support:

  •  They come from all aspects of our community including, professionals, university and high school students; retirees. All volunteers have their own motivation for volunteering and with it they bring a committed energy to support the men of Macdonald House.
  •  There is no limit to the support that volunteers provide to our tenants. The complexity and breadth of support provided to the men of Macdonald House is endless and includes:  attending special events in Greater Victoria, assisting with community based cooking, swimming or weight training programs, a myriad of opportunities – walks, playing cards, Wii or computer games, companion pets – at Macdonald House.
  •  Our volunteers are valued allies who have the potential to offer more than individual support to our tenants. Often volunteers have tapped into their personal networks to assist our tenants to access a service they needed or could not access. Here is another example of the potential to receive more from a volunteer:  a volunteer from several years past, volunteered because it was a requirement for a course she was taking.  However, her volunteer experience was so enjoyable that she maintained email and written contact with a tenant when she left BC to pursue a degree in nursing.  When she returned to Victoria, she and her husband continued to visit this tenant on a social basis.  This example is so valuable and heartening because this relationship is based on true friendship.  Our tenants are developing social relationships not because the other party has to but wants to.
  •  There is the opportunity for lasting mutually valued relationships. For the past 12 years, the University of Victoria Men’s Rowing team has provided a one day garden clean-up at Macdonald House.  As many as 20 rowers have come out on a Sunday in March to do various garden projects. This is a great benefit to Macdonald House as we are able to ready our garden for the upcoming growing season.  For the rowers – many of them who are of the age of the stereotypical survivor of a brain injury- who have told us this is one of their highlight days of the year, we get the opportunity to educate them about brain and just as importantly, for them, brain injury prevention.
  • It is our duty to provide both a volunteer opportunity as well as educating volunteers about brain injury. By teaching and training about brain injury volunteers are our future advocates for the brain injury community. We have had several volunteers pursue careers in the medical and social service field.  Many have told us their positive experience here led them to work in their field specializing in brain injury.

We believe we offer volunteers a good experience to support survivors of a brain injury and a good opportunity to learn about brain injury.  But as it has been listed above, it is quite apparent that we at Macdonald House are the ones who have benefited the most. Volunteers give of their time and skills so they may contribute to their community. They expect little else than a thank you, so to the many volunteers of past and present, THANK YOU for all you do.

 

 

 

 

 

Testimonial from a Young Parent

Here are the words of one young parent who was supported by our amazing Young Parent Outreach Program.

The Cridge YPOP has made a world of difference to my little family. I wasn’t driving and I was on income assistance with my daughter who was an infant. The Cridge YPOP  helped me get to the food bank food because income assistance doesn’t give much and I was breast feeding and hungry! The program gave me donations of blankets and food for my baby girl and I got direction on where to find legal advice to handle the situation with my daughter’s father. The Outreach Worker was there to talk and help me with whatever stresses and difficulties I was having. She told me where various free rooms were to cloth my baby and my quickly changing bodies (one getting smaller again and the other growing!). I was lost with no direction. I don’t really have much in the way of family as I grew up going through foster homes and since my pregnancy was unexpected and I was in the partying stage of my life when I found out i was pregnant, I lost the majority of my friends who were my party mates. I wanted to do my best for my daughter and Cridge YPOP showed me my options. My Outreach Worker was wonderful, positive and funny. It was really great to have support and encouragement from her. She was a great example and a great resource.

 

For more information about our Young Parent Outreach Program click here.

No Wrong Door

Here at The Cridge we have a “No Wrong Door” approach to services:  if we cannot help, we will support the client to find someone who can. This means having staff who are willing to go the extra mile and make sure that no one who asks for help leaves without some sort of assitance.  Here is a story about that from our Transition House for Women.

We  saw more women experience immigration challenges and threats of deportation in 2014 than ever before in one year.  It seems that the more “reforms” made to the Canadian immigration laws and processes, the more difficult it becomes for immigrant women to leave violent partners.  The public assurances that special allowances will be made for immigrant women fleeing domestic violence just don’t seem to materialize.  These women face having to   stay with their abusive husbands or face deportation because leaving the abuse means having no status.  No status means no eligibility to work legally, receive income assistance, medical benefits, or public education. 

We helped 7 women in 2014 get safe and survive this “no status” limbo.  When we have shared some of these stories of courage and survival with colleagues in the community, the response is always, “It’s a good job they found The Cridge!”  We have been working so hard to help these women survive and stay safe, we forgot that we really have been the “no wrong door” for them.  We are so grateful to be part of an organization that enables us to be on “no wrong door” auto-pilot!

 

Sharing Christmas Joy through the Generations

 christmas village 2014

Christmas is time of joy and wonder for children and adults alike.  The lights, the colours and the happy celebration of the birth of a special child fill our hearts with warmth and compassion. 

This year as we prepared to welcome the season and decorate the Child Care Centre we were approached by the grandparent of one of our children.  She wondered if she could share a special gift for the children this year.  For many years her mother in-law had collected and lovingly displayed a tiny Christmas village in her very tiny living room.  Since her passing the village had been kept packed and stored and this year her daughter-in-law lovingly set-it up for our families to enjoy.

The village was set up at the children’s level with the intent that it could be an interactive display.  The children were trusted to move the tiny porcelain pieces around the display.  We would often find Santa on the roof top of a tiny house, the picket fences moved from home to home or a tiny sled in a tree.  The children were trusted with something delicate and in turn treated it with great respect without having to be reminded to “be careful”.

When Grandma returned to pack the village up again all the pieces were there and intact.  The family had been able have the gift of knowing their loved one’s passion had been shared with others.   All the children, including the great grandson of the lady who had so lovingly set up the display in her home year after year for her family, had been able to experience the opportunity to be trusted to interact successfully with something beautiful and delicate.  Grandma shared with us that her mother-in-law would be smiling down on this.   This was a special gift of joy which really celebrated the warmth of the Christmas season and the sharing of love through the generations.                

 

A Christmas blessing from a former client

One of our former Cridge Transition House for Women clients attended the Healthy Relationships luncheon last week, and shared a bit of prose that she wrote in gratitude. I took a few stanzas out to share with you.  A lovely Christmas blessing to us!

“The real miracle of Christmas visited me during my adjusting year 2012!
Lessons taught to me; instilled by strangers, volunteers, and especially workers of The Cridge Centre.
It was MY Christmas, after all the tribulations of many years of silent abuse.
The burdened heart found freedom, the soul replenished so that today Christmas is cherished with continuing hope!
Asking for help is the most precious gift given to me!
Thanks to the management, staff, volunteers, and unknown patrons. Through your dedication and tireless support, we are happy! Merry Christmas”

What is Respitality?

Respitality volunteer preparing baskets for our families

Respitality is one of the beautiful ideas that grew into a vibrant program based on a need that was evident in our community. It is a combination of respite care and hospitality, wrapped up with love, and provided to the families of children with special needs. We have over 450 families registered through the program — they each get one night a year to stay in a local hotel and receive a basket full of treats.  For many of our families, this is the only chance they will get all year to get away and have their batteries recharged. We hear over and over again, how grateful the families are – how much they needed and appreciate the break. Parents everywhere can identify with that crazy need sometimes to escape the kids – imagine how hard that would be if your child has special needs that make a regular babysitter impossible. Our families often face exhaustion and isolation — they need a break. And so, here at The Cridge, we are so thrilled to be able to give them that much-deserved break – to bless them with that opportunity to take a breath, relax and know that their child is well cared for. We are also so grateful for the hotels who provide their rooms free of charge, and the local businesses who provide us with gifts and other products with which to pamper our families.

Learn more about the Cridge Respitality program and its services.

Our Vital Volunteers

For the past 20 years, The Cridge Transition House for Women (CTHW) has benefited from the wonderful work of volunteers. Over the years, dozens of talented women have volunteered their time at CTHW to offer a listening ear to a woman or child, help with cooking meals and keeping the House tidy, provide transportation to  important appointments, pick up and sort through donations, and countless more tasks!

Our volunteers come with a wide-range of skills, personal experiences and talents to share. The staff team at CTHW includes a volunteer coordinator who recruits, trains and coordinates these volunteers so that they can make use of their unique set of gifts in the work they do with our women and children. Here are just a few snapshots of the vital work that volunteers do at CTHW:

  • Marj has such an encouraging heart. Her favourite thing to do is just sit and chat with the women and children at CTHW, and she can often be found sharing a cup of tea with a resident in the eating area. She is also always willing to offer practical help, and is the first to offer to help a resident cook dinner or do the laundry. A favourite memory of Marj was the time she put on the Raffi Christmas CD and danced around the Christmas tree with all of the children!
  • Our faithful volunteer Evie comes each week on the night before our groceries are delivered. She dutifully goes through our fridges, tosses old leftovers, and creates AMAZING meals out of whatever ingredients remain. Her ability to create something delicious from nothing is such a valuable gift to us. Evie also has a green thumb and can often be found in the backyard, helping to keep the garden alive and the weeds at bay!
  • Melody has been our Wednesday evening volunteer for many years now. As such, she has an essential role in getting our weekly Cobs Bread donation from the storefront to the House. It is a huge job, as there are many many bins full of bread each week that must be picked up, packaged and brought back to CTHW. Because of Melody’s commitment to volunteer, women at CTHW as well as families in our Supportive Transitional Housing are able to access free bread each week.

These are just a few examples of the vital volunteers that give of their time and talents to enhance the lives of women at CTHW. We are so thankful!