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.

A Butchart Experience

by Candace Stetch

This year 22 women from The Cridge Dovetail Program headed out to the Butchart Gardens. What a wonderful gift to arrive at the gate, and be ushered through with complimentary passes! Some women had  never been to Butchart Gardens, while others had been last Christmas. There was much chatter during the van ride from Cridge to the Gardens, as we prepared the first-timers for how beautiful it was. There was a buzz of excitement as we made our way through the parking lot and into the Gardens.

The Gardens were covered in a dust of snow, which made them all the more magical. For some of the refugee women, this year is the first time they have seen snow. We shared stories of their previous experiences, or lack thereof, with cold weather as we walked through the Sunken Garden. Women were teaching each other the 12 Days of Christmas song… it was an old favourite for many, but a brand new song to quite a few!

One of the biggest gifts of this experience is that it provides women a chance to do something special for themselves alone. Their children are cared for at The Cridge, and they can experience the value of taking time to fully enjoy the Gardens without any concern or distraction. This is often the only time each year that our women have this type of experience, and you can see the joy of that freedom on the faces of each woman that comes. My favourite example of this is when we all jump on the carousel… the playful fun & laughter that these group of grown women experience is wonderful to see!

As we walked out, one of the women (a single mother, who recently came to Canada from East Africa) said to me: “this is the most beautiful place I have ever been.”

Government House shares Christmas with The Home

by Monica Hammond

The time around Christmas was special at the British Columbia Protestant Orphans’ Home. Food, decorations and donations were always in abundance around Christmas. Many service clubs, like the Elks Lodge, the Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Harmony Club, the Salvation Army and the Shrine Club, took part. Even now The Cridge Centre receives support all year long from so many service clubs, and we are very grateful for their help.

Between 1940 and 1960, Government House held an annual Christmas party for the children at The Home. The children would fill out toy lists, and the Lieutenant Governor and his wife would buy a toy for each child so that they had something under the tree at the Government House Christmas party.

One resident remembered Christmas this way: “Christmas was a big event. There were many special times during this season of the year, including a party at Government House with clowns, balloons, candy, presents and a nice supper. . . We hung our stockings on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day Santa arrived handing out all the gifts from under the huge Christmas tree. For deprived children it was an unbelievably happy time and we had corn flakes for breakfast.”

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.

Changed Lives at Cridge Transition House for Women

by Marlene Goley

Our “No wrong door” approach sometimes just means hanging in there with a woman at Cridge Transition House for Women.

Recently, we had a woman and her two children staying with us – I’ll call her Ramona.  Ramona’s husband and the father of her children, was frightening and dangerous.  Ramona had endured years of his abuse and it had left her very reluctant to trust anyone.  It was a hard 30 days for her.  Several times she announced she just couldn’t stay at the house and had to leave.  Each time, staff talked to her and helped her trust us a little more, and to trust her decision to leave.

Ramona hung in there, often seemingly reluctantly. Staff hung in there with her – reassuring her, encouraging her, and letting her know that the roller coaster of feelings she was experiencing was normal.  Ramona found a new place and when she left CTHW she left us a letter. We had no idea of the impact we had on Ramona and her children.  She told us that they were all so frightened to walk through our metal gate to what they saw as an uncertain future.  Then she went on to say how her children relaxed and got to be kids again with the encouragement of loving staff and “lots and lots of toys”!  She told us it meant so much to be able to cry her tears and learn that she wasn’t alone.  She said we changed their lives.

Ramona and every woman and child that comes to CTHW change our lives, too. We learn over and over how important it is for women and children to have a safe place, how healing acceptance and understanding can be, and how important it is too just hang in there even when we think we are not making a difference.


A Special Christmas Gift in 1909

by Monica Hammond

“In December 1909, the Home received a generous gift from Mr. J.M. Britton, a Seattle man who had made money in timber on Vancouver Island’s West Coast.” Mr. Britton told Mr. Ross, the owner of the food store Dixi Ross & Co to “go ahead and fix them [the orphans] up a Christmas dinner that’ll make their teeth water.”

And Mr. Ross did just that. “He supplied turkeys, candies, nuts, fruit, cakes, pudding, jams, vegetables of every kind, and cranberry sauce.” Mr. Britton paid for it all, including the cooks who made the Christmas meal and the people who cleaned up afterwards. He even sent a gift of cash to each person who worked at the orphanage.

From the early days of The Home, up to the present day, the kindness of the people in the Victoria community has enriched the lives of everyone who uses the services offered through what is now The Cridge Centre for the Family. We are truly blessed.

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.

The First Building Project 1883

by Monica Hammond

In 1881, the orphanage building needed repairs. Its roof was re-shingled and other repairs were done, at a cost of $50. This was a lot of money in those days. For example, it cost $50 to care for one orphan for six months in 1881. The building was wearing out, and could no longer fit the number of children who needed a home. A new building was needed.

On July 28, 1883, 40 members of the Masonic Fraternity of Victoria paraded through the streets of downtown Victoria to lay the Home’s new cornerstone.

The new Home was officially opened on November 29, 1883, on the site of the original building at the corner of Rae and Blanshard Streets.

Photo: Orphans and matron outside the BC POH’s Rae Street building, c1880 (BC Archives B-01570)


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.


The Children’s Schedule

by Monica Hammond

At the BC Protestant Children’s Home, a set schedule meant that the children’s lives flowed as smoothly as possible from one day to the next.

The children got up no later than 7:00 a.m. during the summer, and 7:30 during the winter. Breakfast was at 8:00 (8:30 during the winter), and cleaning chores were done before breakfast so that the building was neat and tidy (The Home: page 47).

After breakfast the children got ready for school. High school children made their own lunches and helped care for the younger children. The younger ones came home for lunch, and everyone came back to The Home right after school.

Dinner (which we now call lunch) was at noon, and tea (which we now call supper) was at 5:00 p.m.  Bedtime was between 6 and 8 p.m., depending on the age of the child and the time of year.

After supper, much like what happens in our own homes today, the younger children went to bed and the older ones did their homework.

Even today, a set routine provides a sense of certainty, whether you are a child or an elderly person, or somewhere in between.

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.

A Woman Helped

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!

Click here to see resources

Rules of The Home

by Monica Hammond

As the number of children being cared for grew, the people running The Home realized that a strict set of rules was needed. By the mid 1880s, a list of 21 rules governed the children’s behaviour.

The children were to be taught the 3 R’s along with sewing and general household affairs. Domestic work was “a most important part of their education”. (Home: pg 45). They were to be taught to wash clothing and dishes, scrub floors, and attend to the younger children.

Scripture readings were to be held every morning and evening, and Grace was to be said before and after each meal. The children were to go to church every Sunday morning, and attend Sunday School at The Home every Sunday afternoon. Children were to be allowed visitors from 2-5 on Saturday afternoon, and at other times with special permission. Permission was also needed if friends wanted to take the children off the grounds.

Each child was to have a bath at least once a week (with warm water and soap!), along with daily cleaning.

Girls who left The Home to establish themselves in the community were to be welcomed back. If they came back, though, they were to be kept separate from the other children in case they had been influenced by negative behaviour in the community.

Having a set of rules meant that The Home could operate well and fairly, and continue to provide much-needed services to children in 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.

Boxing Day Parade, 1873

by Monica Hammond

The British Columbia Protestant Orphans’ Home was successful in raising money to operate the Home. On Boxing Day 1873, it held a fundraiser of a different sort.

“Disguising themselves with masks and fantastic clothes [some gentlemen] procured a small cart, and harnessing a donkey, proceeded to collect subscriptions from passers along the street. In the cart one of the party rode and turned the crank of an organ, grinding out notes…The side of the wagon was embellished with clever drawings descriptive of orphan children, and the donkey wore a blanket on which was inscribed ‘Charity covereth a multitude of sins!’ The get-up caused many a hearty laugh and the ‘quarters and halves’ rattled into the boxes right merrily.” (Home: pg. 44)

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.

The Girl With Kaleidoscope Eyes

by Gyneth Turner

You won’t notice them until you look closely… Rae has kaleidoscope eyes.  Pretty shades of brown, like the fizzy buzz of root beer, the darker hue of bitter-sweet chocolate, and the golden flecks of a cat’s eye.  Surrounding her pupils are geometric triangles of colour and sparkle, kaleidoscope eyes.

Look Closely

Or you will miss all the subtle details of colour and shape, you won’t see the animation in those beautiful, unique and complex eyes.  You will miss out on seeing something rare and beautiful.

Who is Rae Thomson?

Rae is a young adult, freshly graduated from high school, who did a volunteer practicum with us last spring.  Rae proved to be a master at document disposal, shredding the detritus of written work that was no longer needed by staff at The Cridge Centre for the Family.  We were very happy when Rae agreed to return to The Cridge Centre this Fall to continue her work.  Rae receives a monthly honorarium for her service.  In addition to her kaleidoscope eyes, Rae is unique in that she has part of a third copy of chromosome 21, as a result of a chromosomal re-arrangement known as a Robertsonian translocation; this is one of the chromosomal arrangements which leads to Down syndrome.

In Rae’s Words

Rae says the best thing about her job is meeting new people.  The hardest part of her job is fixing one of the temperamental shredders that has a tendency to jam.  Rae says that she likes to tell people that she has an amazing boss.  She knows that she brings many skills to her work, such as her deep understanding of the confidential nature of document shredding, and that she takes her job very seriously.  She plans to save her money so that she can enjoy taking her friends or parents out to dinner, a movie, or a hockey game.