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.

Derrick — from jail to healthy living

Derrick’s Story

by Janelle Breese Biagioni

Derrick is a survivor of brain injury. His story is real. It’s disturbing. It’s heartbreaking. It is also filled with promise because once Derrick received the supports and services he needed, he emerged into the honest, trustworthy, kind and hardworking man that he is today.
When listening to Derrick share his story, one gets the impression that as far back as he can remember his life has been in turmoil and that his adult life was a constant struggle with addictions, committing crimes to support those addictions, and serving time in prison. “The last time I was released from prison before the car crash, I really believed I was done with jail,” Derrick reports. “I was finished parole, living with my girlfriend and her two children and working. I really believed I had done my time and was finished with criminal life.”
Life took yet another turn on May 15, 2009 when Derrick was driving home from work and a 5 ton truck smashed into the passenger side of his car. He went home to his girlfriend who crazy-glued the cut on his forehead. Two days later he went to the hospital; however, Derrick was turned away because of his past history. Within a month, he lost his job, his girlfriend and his home.
Out of desperation… craziness… fear… hopelessness… or whatever else you want to call it, Derrick made the conscious decision to commit a crime so he could go back to jail. He knew he could get help in jail so he did what he had to do. He broke into a Surrey jewelry store and was sentenced to three years.
In jail, Derrick was finally diagnosed with having a brain injury and sent to the prison hospital for a 90 day assessment. After steady improvement over the next year – and with good behaviour meaning he had no write-ups or warnings – Derrick was reclassified and sent to William Head Institution.
“At William Head, I met with the psychologist three times a week, I learned to cook and how to buy my own food,” Derrick recalls. “In preparation for my release, I started to look for community resources.”
Following his release from William Head, Derrick moved to the Salvation Army shelter. After two years in the Salvation Army shelter, Derrick was still unable to work due to health issues so the psychologist helped him to get on PWD (Persons with Disability). Derrick was then accepted into Mary Cridge Manor’s three year program.
Derrick will soon graduate from Mary Cridge Manor. During this time, he has made friends, attended AA meetings, undergone therapy, found work, and engaged in healthy activities. He realizes that this care plan is a lifelong commitment, but for Derrick there is also no turning back!
There are many exciting things coming up for Derrick in life. He is in the planning stages of creating a non-profit recovery house for people with brain injury and other afflictions, such as addictions.

Sometimes It’s Just Knowing You Are Not Alone

— by Marlene Goley

There are no “typical” days in the life of Nicole, Cridge Young Parent Outreach Worker.  As she updates me about the young moms in her program, I hear about the support she gives one young mom to manage her own ADD and parent a baby; another mom trying to understand attachment; facilitating access visits for moms with children in the care of MCFD; countless trips to the Food Bank and every appointment imaginable (and some beyond imagining!).  The range of needs that Nicole responds to is staggering.  In the midst of all of this, she tells me about a young mom with a baby who really just needs Nicole to drop by her home and have a cup of coffee with her.  Mom needs some adult conversation, someone who appreciates her joys and understands the challenges of raising a baby in a tiny basement suite on her own.  She just needs to know that being on her own does not mean that she is all alone.

 

Check out Nicole’s facebook at www.facebook.com/cridgeyoungparent

 

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Young Parent Outreach Worker making a difference… one life at a time.

by Marlene Goley: Manager of Women’s and Family Services

Eileen found The Cridge Young Parent Outreach Program 3 years ago.  She was 19, had one baby, was pregnant with a second, and knew she needed to leave her abusive partner.  She had not finished high school, had no job skills and was scared, depressed, and hopeless.  Her future looked very bleak.  Nicole, our Cridge Young Parent Outreach Worker has faithfully supported Eileen to get out and stay out of the relationship with her partner and to stabilize her health. With lots of encouragement and support, Eileen has completed an employment program, participated in the Cridge Asset Building Program for Youth, and is now taking one of the high school courses she needs to graduate.  She stays connected to Nicole as an “anchor” to help her stay focused on creating a safe, stable, happy future for herself and her children.  We are so proud of Eileen’s accomplishments and the work that Nicole does to help young moms and their children thrive.

 

 

No Wrong Door

by Candace Stretch: Assistant Manager of Women’s Services

I had a call from Sophie, a woman desperate for help as she supported a friend who is at high risk of violence at the hands of her partner. Sophie was so worried about her friend that she called police, victim services, and several women-serving agencies. Essentially she was told that there was nothing they could do for her friend unless the friend called them directly. By the time she got through to me, Sophie was feeling hopeless and exhausted.

Thank God for our website, because I was able to direct her to the safety planning documents that we have posted in the Cridge Transition House for Women Resources section. These documents serve as a guideline for anyone who wants to help a woman create a safety plan. I also told Sophie about our 24 crisis line and asked her to give her friend the number. I encouraged Sophie to find a time when her friend might agree to meet with our outreach worker.

Sophie told me at the end of that conversation that she got more help from The Cridge than from any other place she had called that day. Honestly, I did not do anything special- I simply gave her some tools to walk away with. I don’t think that these tools will 100% solve the problem, but at least it’s a start!

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A Senior Faces Change

by Sarah Smith: Manager of Seniors’ Services

Mr Smith arrived here at the Seniors’ Assisted Living Centre after his Parkinson’s worsened and it was no longer safe for him to be on his own at home. He had had a few falls while trying to do some things for himself (showering, dressing, standing to cook his meals) and that was a huge concern for his family.

Mr Smith was and is a very independent man. He doesn’t like to ask for help and, honestly, often doesn’t believe that he needs it. He finally conceded to come to The Cridge under much pressure from his family and was clearly and vocally unhappy about it. He told me within a week of moving in that he was miserable about having to be here, but that if he has to be anywhere other than home, this was the best around.

He has now lived here for 2 months and the change is astounding. He has Beacon Services helping him with his showers and dressing, and is enjoying our fantastic meals and having his suite cleaned every week. His family is relieved and the visible tension in him is now gone.  In his own home, when he wanted to see his friends, or be social, it involved arranging transportation with others and often seemed more trouble than it was worth. Now he is able to come downstairs from his suite and find someone to play Cribbage with, enjoy a meal with, watch a movie or listen to an entertainer – do all of the things that seemed impossible before.

He has purposely come to me to tell me how glad he is now that his family “encouraged” him to make the move, and that he had no idea what it would be like to be relieved of so many of the daily tasks that were causing him stress.

The Cridge Respite Service: Highlighting the Difficult Realities for Parents of Children with Special Needs

 

The Cridge Respite Service is committed to helping families who have children with special needs and mental health challenges find a qualified respite care worker. The parents of these children are truly an inspiration- the daily routine of caring for their kids is one that requires patience, energy, compassion and determination.

Having a caregiver with the training and skills to work with these precious children is a fundamental need for parents. Yet, so often, they are unable to get the support they need as they slip through the cracks of a system that is over-burdened. Here are some examples of the struggles parents face:

  • Rachel is a single mom of 4 young children, 2 of whom have complex medical needs. Recently, she has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and will require intense treatment. Rachel is desperate to go away for a few days with her husband before treatment starts. Even though she has secured a qualified respite care provider through The Cridge Respite Service, she has not been able to secure enough respite funding to pay for this care
  • Lamar is a happy, energetic boy with ADHD. Recently, Lamar’s mother got word from the week-long summer camp he will be attending that his needs exceed the capabilities of just one staff member. In order to attend the camp, he will require an additional support worker.  Neither the camp or Lamar’s mother have the funding to pay an additional worker, and thus his ability to go to camp is dependent on finding someone who can volunteer their time to support him
  • Susan is a single mom who of a daughter with a learning disability and nerve paralysis. Time and time again, Susan’s daughter seems to slip through the cracks of any funding opportunities. The frustration and fatigue that Susan is experiencing is palpable. She recently shared with a staff member: “I think someone needs to point me in the way of advocacy… I’m tired of sitting silently waiting for something to happen!!”  

The difficult reality for these parents is that the systems that are set up to support their children are over-burdened. The pain, frustration and exhaustion that we see in these parents’ experiences is heartbreaking. Yet the tremendous love that they have for their children, and their steadfast dedication to them, is the most powerful and inspiring part of the work we do!

For more information Respite and Respitality Services or Donate Now.

Finding a Home for Refugee Families

The Cridge Centre for the Family’s Supportive Transitional Housing provides low-cost housing to women and children fleeing violence, and immigrant and refugee families, for a period of up to 3 years. Between our Hayward Heights and Mary Cridge Manor properties, we have 44 units of housing, ranging from bachelor suites to 4 bedroom units. The women and children that live in our housing can access the support of one of our Dovetail program staff, who help them work through the pain of what has happened and make plans for a safe and vital future.

The various stories of how individuals and families come to live in The Cridge Supportive Transitional Housing are a wonderful example of God’s guiding presence. About a year ago, we welcomed Marnie, a woman who had survived life in a refugee camp in a war-torn country for years before coming to Canada. Marnie settled into life in Victoria and was able to make a connection to our community through the support of her Dovetail support worker and others.

After several months of living with us, Marnie got word that Mary, the woman she had lived with in the refugee camp, had made her way to Canada. She immediately made arrangements to have Mary come for a visit to Victoria. The friendship that Marnie and Mary shared was an incredibly profound thing to witness. From the moment they were reunited, these two friends could not imagine being apart. Through God’s timing and provision, a new unit was made available in our housing. We were able to offer Mary housing just a few doors down from her dear friend.

The chance to be a part of the rebuilding of women’s lives after they escape violent partners or political situations is truly and honor and a blessing to us. The story of Marnie and Mary serves as an example of God’s faithfulness and the power of friendship.

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!       

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