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.

The Real Superman: A Local Hero

by Greg Goldberg: Brain Injury Services Activity Facilitator

Images and song lyrics from my favorite childhood movie are sunk so deeply into my long term memory that I can still sing a memorable song verbatim when I am brave enough and the streets are empty. When Dandy Dan and his team of gangsters invaded Fat Sam’s Tavern and a magical gun fight ensues, with Bugsy Malone (Scott Baio) and Tallulah (Jodie Foster) in the midst of it all, the tune silenced the room, and the crowd performs a final number (“You Give a Little Love”). It was then that I fell in love with how the movies could transport you to such a happy place.

For myself and five of my clients, all survivors of head injury or stroke, we were all magically taken to an unexpected place that brought us tremendous happiness. Thanks to a very kind manager at a cinema in downtown Victoria we would discover the type of hero that the world really needs. My failure to properly de-crypt the data in the paper regarding showtimes had me embarrassed and fearful of my clients disappointment when we realized we had come at the wrong time. Instead of going into self-imposed exile, I admitted my error to the theatre manager who, with a most gleaming-like glow, gave us free admittance into one of the empty theaters. That afternoon five survivors of unfortunate life changing experiences watched, in all three dimensions, Superman vs Batman. In our own private theatre, Batman and Superman and a number of other comic super-hero figures came alive in the Battle of Justice.

The kindness of this manager makes him a super-hero in the eyes of all of us who experienced this considerate gesture. Leaving the theatre with smiling clients who were given the ‘red carpet
experience’ will now be another one of our long term memories. Who could ever forget meeting a real life super-hero in Victoria, BC? Thanks Pierre Gauthier! You are a real superman in our eyes!
YOU GIVE A LITTLE LOVE Lyrics (Bugsy Malone Movie 1976)
You give a little love
And it all comes back to you,
You know you gonna be remembered
For the things you say and do.

Youth Connection

by Candace Stretch

The Cridge Dovetail Program provides support to the women and children living in our Supportive Transitional Housing. All of these families have recently experienced violence, either at the hands of an abusive person living in their home or through political violence in their home country.

We are fortunate to have a wonderful team of skilled support workers who connect weekly with our tenants. Among the many individual and group activities that we offer our tenants, are programs for the children and youth living in Cridge housing. Susie, our Child and Youth Worker, has a special talent for bringing just the right combination of fun, compassion, and insight to her interactions with our kids.

Recently Susie established a youth group which meets every Thursday evening. She enlisted the help of Isha, another support worker in the Dovetail Program, to co-facilitate. The group is focused on helping these kids to find confidence, friendship, and a sense of belonging in our Cridge community. The group often hang out together here at The Cridge doing activities such as baking, art and video games. But they also love to get out and explore our city together.

Over the years, there have been many successful youth groups established in our Dovetail Program- but this group has been truly remarkable. From the minute they came together, this group of kids seemed to genuinely click. They couldn’t be a more diverse group of individuals- they represent many differences in personality, gender, skills and abilities, cultural background, language of origin, and life experience. But each has had the common experience of leaving violence and coming to The Cridge to seek safety. The group has become a close-knit circle of friends. Susie and Isha have witnessed each member contributing to the group, and taking steps to share their genuine self with each other.

It is a joy to witness the young people in our Cridge Dovetail community coming together in this special way. We are thankful to God!

Owning Your Choice

In our individualistic society, we are encouraged to own our choice — to take responsibility for the choices we make and the implications and end results of those choices.  This all seems very logical and straightforward, until we start to think about how our choices may impact others. In yesterday’s Times Colonist, (Feb 14, 2016: Don’t Jump the Gun on Concussion Dangers) Lawrie McFarlane reminds us that there are always 2 sides to the debate about sports related brain injuries. He questions the depth and validity of brain injury research, implying that it is skewed as it is only testing athletes who have engaged in impact sports. Secondly, he questions whether these same athletes should be allowed to make their own choices about their livelihoods and the possible long term health risks associated with that. He concludes with this thought: “But if a small number of young men see contact sports as a ticket to a prosperous future, and willingly take the risk, don’t they own that choice?”

Both of his questions are valid but only touch the surface of the issues related to brain injury. Traumatic brain injuries are like snowflakes — no two are alike or can be treated or diagnosed in the same way. The physical effects of brain injury can only be documented and researched postmortem, which naturally restricts research. And there is no question that more research is needed on the non-sports related population. In order to accomplish this, a nation wide data base of concussions and brain injury needs to be developed so that brain injury survivors can be tracked across their lifetimes.

But more importantly, we need to consider this question of owning our choices. At what point do our choices affect others? When a traumatic brain injury occurs, the impact is wide reaching, not just for the survivor and their family, but for our society as a whole. Consider these statistics:

  • 53% of the homeless population has had a brain injury, up to 70% of them before they became homeless.
  • 90% of marriages end in divorce following a brain injury
  • 80% of prisoners have had at least one brain injury (Mind of Homelessness: 2014)

It is not difficult to see that there is a strong connection between brain injury and the breakdown of relationships, loss of jobs, addiction, homelessness and criminal behaviour. And, of course, all of these issues produce challenges that affect our society as a whole. The financial impact alone is startling:

  • $1500 per day for acute medical care — many brain injury survivors are in hospital for months.
  • $323 per day for prison

These are our tax dollars, funding the treatment and on-going care for people who “owned their choice” to engage in highly risky activities.

With around 22,000 new brain injuries in BC every year, the financial costs become astronomical. And that is without even considering the human costs: the breakdown of families, chronic unemployment and loss of self-sufficiency for survivors, and the loss of tax payers and employable individuals. The ripples continue to widen, and that is without even considering how our culture idolizes sports figures and encourages our children to engage in those same risky behaviours. Children are receiving their first sports related concussions at earlier ages, with more frequency and with longer ranging impacts. Is this what we want for our children? Is this what we want for our society?

Who owns the choice? 

For more information: www.cridge.org/bis or call 250 479 5299

 

Chatting with Seniors

I’ve made an interesting discovery. I like seniors. Now don’t get me wrong, I never disliked seniors, I just didn’t know too many or get to hang out with them. But since starting to work at The Cridge Centre, I’ve had the pleasure to get to know many of our seniors when I am wandering through their lounge, looking for coffee. We talk about current events, what is happening that day for activities, and most importantly, what’s for lunch. As I get to know them, I learn more about where they are from, what kind of work they did and about their families. We laugh and share a joke and then I  head back to my office, feeling richer for having had those few moments with them.

A couple weeks ago one of the gentleman asked me if I would do a small presentation to a group of seniors about The Cridge Centre — the history and the current programs.  I was delighted to agree. So earlier this week, a small group of us sat together and talked. I shared with them a bit of the extensive and fascinating history of The Cridge Centre and about how the orphans home grew into the wide reaching organization that we are today. As I shared, I could see surprise and interest on their faces — they live here but had no idea what all goes on under their roof. I was asked some wonderful questions, we had a few laughs together, and we all went on our way, feeling more connected not just to The Cridge, but also to each other. What a privilege it was to have that time with them — to share with them but also to receive from them their interest and enthusiasm. I have a feeling that the longer I work here, the longer it will take to get a cup of coffee… there will be so many interesting seniors to stop and chat with. And what a blessing that is!

The Gift of Generosity

Every day at The Cridge Centre, we receive — there are donations of money, articles or items, time, efforts, and prayers.  We are constantly being blessed by other people’s generosity.  It is humbling — and incredibly life-giving. We LOVE to receive — because we also know that it means we can give. We give every day to our children, our families, our seniors, our brain injury survivors, our women leaving relationship violence, our families with children with special needs. We live to give. And we are blessed to do it — even in the midst of trauma and challenges and all the hard stuff that comes with supporting people in need, we KNOW that in giving, we are doing the work we are called to do.

At this time of the year, we see so much more generosity, so many more people reaching out to give, and so many blessings that we get to share. Today and tomorrow are Christmas Hamper days — donors are bringing in the gifts that they purchased for their families… the gifts are being piled high on tables and donors are coming with so much love to give. One donor group provided gifts and food for a family of 6 — including a beautiful new purple bike for a 7 year old girl. When the mother came to pick up the gifts, she couldn’t believe it. Her jaw dropped and she was stunned to realize that they were all for her family.  Another donor group talked about how some of the gifts were bought by families who had been recipients of hampers in the past… and how they were so blessed as a family to be able to help others whose situation they understood. And in the midst of all this generosity, of all these stories, we just receive from the donors and pass on to the families — and are incredibly blessed. We see so much love, so much care, so much generosity. We are truly humbled and honoured by the gift of generosity.

The Gift of Home

by Candace Stretch

The Cridge Transition House for Women (CTHW) is a place for families to come and be safe, after the immediate crisis of leaving violence in their home. Yet, it can be difficult for the women and children who come through our doors to feel at home at CTHW. Walking out of your own home and into a strange place full of people you have never met before is challenging, and it can take time for women and children to feel comfortable.

At CTHW we are fortunate to have a welcoming team of staff, a friendly group of volunteers, and a lovely old house… all of these things help women and children to settle in and feel that they are home at least for a while. We often hear from women that there is warmth and a sense of safety that they experience at CTHW that is truly unique.

Feeling at home is especially important at Christmastime, and we work hard to make the House feel like a place where people can relax and enjoy some of the spirit of the season. Recently, I connected with a teenage girl who had spent a Christmas at CTHW when she was 9 years old. She shared: “that was one of my best Christmases ever. The Christmas tree, all the people, and the Christmas dinner… it was really special.”

The fact that CTHW could be such a special home for a child at Christmastime is evidence that God’s presence is there. He has gifted us with a special place, and special people, who together make up a very special home.

Our Jennie Butchart Garden

by Sarah Smith – Manager of Seniors Services

I wanted to share a story about how a donation intertwined with some other great community partners to impact our program this past year.

It all starts with Jennie Butchart. A brief history: Jennie and her husband bought the land at Tod Inlet for the limestone buried there to use for a cement plant. Once one quarry was emptied and abandoned, Jennie decided to create a garden. With the help of some of her husband’s quarrymen and several tonnes of local top soil brought in by horse and buggy, she began her project. It took from 1906 until 1921 until it was complete, but this adventurous and determined woman made it happen. (side note: Jennie Butchart was a certified Chemist who loved hot air ballooning and flying – quite a woman in the early 1900’s!) During that time, and later as she developed the Italian and Rose Gardens, she and her husband were known for their hospitality and had people – friends and strangers alike – travelling from all over to see their beautiful gardens. At first, they served every visitor (expected or otherwise) tea, and it is estimated that in 1915 alone over 18,000 guests were served! Among those fortunate, and frequent, guests were the past residents of the BC Protestant Orphan’s Home, or The Cridge Centre for the Family, as we are now known.

In 2006 both The Cridge and Butchart Gardens received Lifetime Achievement awards for our longevity and contribution to this community. In honour of the sharing of that award, Butchart Gardens donated all the revenue from their seasonal ice rink that year to our Seniors’ Centre. In honour of THEM, we put the money towards landscaping and named the lovely side garden the Jennie Butchart Garden as a token of our thanks, for the donation, and equally for Jennie’s compassionate support of the young children who lived here so many years ago.

Fast forward a few years and we realized that there was much more room for colourful flowers and plants than we had originally anticipated. After some research, the cost and time involved in filling out the garden was just too much. UNTIL two things wonderfully collided! Our department received a wonderful donation AND we had a call from a group of volunteers from Glad Tidings Church and Saanich Baptist Church who were participating in a Day of Service and wanted to do something for us.

Research was done, (many) plants were purchased, top soil was delivered, and the day arrived! For our garden project alone we had between 15 and 20 volunteers who distributed 5 yards of topsoil to the entire side garden and then planted over a hundred perennials in that space. And the day was magical. I was so inspired to see older generations of church volunteers teaching younger ones how to plant a plant, and everyone working so hard together for a big chunk of time to create something beautiful that we would never have been able to do on our own.

Please stop by next year in the early summer and walk by the Jennie Butchart Garden to see how a combined blessing made it into a space worthy of the name.

 

Transition House Thank You

It is not often that we can talk about the clients in the transition house — their precarious safety means that we work under the strictest confidentiality. Taking photos and telling stories has to be done so very carefully. But today we have a lovely letter to share from a woman who stayed with us. English is not her first language so the translation is a bit awkward — but the feelings certainly come through. Enjoy!

Dear all staffs and members of this house

On the first day when I moved from hospital to this house, I did not know anyone here. However, I was warmly welcomed by the staffs working in this house. I really appreciate your kindness. I know you are a government’s worker so I would like to send my sincere thanks and best wishes to you. I hope good-hearted people like you will receive the best of this life.

When my cancer is absolutely cured, I would like to return to this house once or twice a week to work as a volunteer (no salary or allowance), for example, cleaning or cooking, etc.. I would like to contribute something out of charity. I can cook quite well so I desire to serve the staffs and members here. My words are not able to transfer what I would like to say but l hope that you understand my feeling. 1 am not a rich woman in terms of money but I am a rich person in terms of love. From bottom of my heart, I really want to contribute my work for charity. I do not mind to do any kind of job in this house.

 

For more information about our transition house, click here.

The Why of Respitality

By Gyneth Turner

I got a thank you email this morning; always an awesome start to my Monday.  It was from parents to say thanks for their Respitality night.  Again, I was floored to hear just how much a night away meant to them.  I mean it’s just one night, right?

Here’s what they wrote:

Dear Respitality,

I had the luxurious pleasure of staying at the Royal Scot Hotel & Suites Friday night with my husband through your Respitality program and I must say, I had the time of my life – it was up there in the top 5 fabulous nights of my life (including my wedding night).  What a great opportunity for parents to have that 1 night away – although I would re-name it from getting away from the stress of having a special needs child to “getting re-acquainted with your spouse night.”  My husband is a stay-at-home father during the day (so I can go to work full-time) and when I get home in the late afternoon, he goes to his part-time job.  So, my husband and I are either working or constantly worrying and/or caring for our son who has Angelman Syndrome and we forget to take time for his parents (us).  I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you for the opportunity.  It was such a treat!

Kind regards,

S & T

I sipped my tea and looked out my office window through the gold and green leaves of the Garry Oak outside.  It is October now and those leaves are falling; soon my view will include the little hilltops of Oak Bay and on a clear day, the snow capped peaks of the Olympic Mountains.  My pleasure in the letter was dashed when I answered my phone and spoke to Beth, another one of our lovely Respitality mums.  Beth had some sad news to share with me.  Another family had lost their sweet girl.  She passed away very early that morning from complications of her disability.  The moment I hung up the phone with Beth, the phone rang again.  I answered on auto-pilot, it was Jane calling to say her husband had just gotten his deployment details; he would be leaving in two days, four days shy of their Respitality night.  I made a note to cancel the reservation and told Jane to call me and let me know when she wanted to re-book.  Jane was disappointed but stoic, as always.  They had planned to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary.

My thoughts drifted back to the heart broken mum who held her daughter’s hand as she died this morning.  I reflected on how so much of my experience with our 500 families was like this, a heart-warming note from a parent to tell me how much they had enjoyed their Respitality stay, a light-hearted chat with mum to give her the confirmation number for her hotel stay while her kids giggle and squeal “Muma Muma” in the background, and then the heart-breaking phone call from a parent about their marital separation, a reservation cancelation due to a child’s surgical date – the sixth that year, and the worst call, to share the news of a fragile child’s death.

Humans are born to ask WHY, in fact, it is practically the first thing little ones say when they have the language to do so…WHY WHY WHY?  Adult humans become reconciled to the fact that many of our WHY questions go unanswered.  I am lucky – I get my WHY answered all the time at work.  I never wonder why I do what I do or why it matters.  Every thank you note, every phone call, every email answers the question – Why Respitality?

You see, Respitality is more than a complimentary night in a hotel.  It is an uninterrupted dinner with the partner you love who finally has a moment to tell you they love you too.  It is a quiet space to grieve. It is an opportunity to celebrate special milestones like wedding anniversaries.  It is an expression of caring from the PEOPLE behind the hotel donations, like June Dagnal at the Fairmont Empress and Joan Zimmer at Chateau Victoria.  It is a reminder that everyone should have some sweetness in their lives, and when life is so bitter, Cridge Respitality is a community that holds your hand and cries with you for your loss.

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.