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.

Breakfast Program: Kevin the King of the Kitchen and Kids

I’d like to introduce you to Kevin. He is 34 and has been living with a brain injury for the past 7 years. Kevin started volunteering at Macdonald House – our home for brain injury survivors – and last fall he moved into our supportive housing. Kevin has been participating in the Bluesheet Clubhouse (a support group for survivors), Kale Kings (a social enterprise for survivors) and most recently with our Hot Breakfast Program. Kevin completed our food services training and has been serving breakfast twice a week at The Cridge Child Care program as part of the team involved with the Hot Breakfast Program.

Kevin is a character! He is a very outgoing and friendly guy – when he was selling chocolate fudge kale cookies at the markets, he was unquestionably our best salesman. Kevin knows how to engage people and draw them in. We knew he would be a terrific fit to work in the Hot Breakfast Program as he also loves kids. Kevin has benefited from this program in several ways. First of all, it has given him structure and purpose for his day: being accountable for his time and arriving at work on time and ready to work is an important part of building his daily routine. Kevin finds it challenging to schedule his time and to ensure that he takes care of the essentials of life (eating especially). Having the responsibility of a job gives him a reason to manage his routine and strive to be productive with his time.

Kevin has also benefited from the program by giving his natural leadership skills a wonderful outlet. He feels acceptance and admiration from the children and enjoys the connection he has with them. This has been a real boost to his self-esteem and confidence. Alongside this, the protected work environment has allowed Kevin to work productively and still be supported to deal with the challenges resulting from his brain injury.

We are super proud of Kevin and the great strides he has taken to make positive choices in his life and in dealing with the effects of a brain injury. We believe that his work with us is merely a stepping stone as he continues to grow and learn new ways of living with a brain injury.

This is what INCLUSIVE looks like

In our child care program we have many special children — in fact, they are all special in our eyes. But our children with diverse abilities are extra special because our staff take extra special care to ensure that they are included and active to the best of their abilities. One of our sweet boys is Atticus — he has been a part of our program for over a year and has overcome many challenges during that time.  As he has grown and developed new skills, his peers and friends have grown and developed new skills too. And so have the staff. Last week the staff had a new invention for Atticus to try out.  They knew that Atticus loves balls and to roll things, but is not able to get enough strength and leverage to get things to move as far as he would like. So as a team, they figured out how to make a small ramp that Atticus can use to roll toys – and he was absolutely delighted! But even better, his friends all gathered around to help him and celebrate with him. It was a celebration of staff and children working and playing together, making sure that everyone gets to have fun and celebrate their successes. This is what inclusive looks like. We are so proud of our child care staff and the love and commitment they show to each of our children!

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Safe Home = A Precious Gift

“A safe home is a gift that should never be taken for granted”

This is a truth that so many of the tenants of The Cridge Supportive Transitional Housing know from their own personal experience. Tenants of our housing at Hayward Heights and Mary Cridge Manor have all had experiences of leaving homes that are unsafe; either because a violent individual lives there, or because it is located in a war-torn country. For many of these families and individuals, The Cridge may be the only safe home they have ever known. It is a privilege for us to witness the joy and peace that can come from having a safe home.

Yet, the process of setting up their new homes is a huge task! We are blessed to have wonderful partnerships with Women In Need Society, Bungalow Gift Shop, and Bed, Bath & Beyond who donate household items and furniture for our tenants. The pride that these tenants show in their homes is truly special.

Recently, many of the tenants at Hayward Heights have had the desire to put the same care into the outside of their units as they do to the inside. Two of our staff members, Beata & Marilyn, have started a weekly gardening club where tenants can gather to get inspiration for how to transform their backyards into beautiful and functional spaces. We are fortunate to have many tenants with natural talents in this area, and the group is flourishing.

We know that there are many in this city who are struggling to find a safe home to call their own. We pray often for God to create new opportunities for housing in Victoria. Yet, we know that we have an amazing gift in the safe homes we can offer families at Hayward Heights and Mary Cridge Manor- and we don’t take that for granted!

 Candace Stretch

Spring Break and Butterflies!

by Mandy Wilson

What is Spring Break Camp at The Cridge? It’s two weeks of fun, faith and friendship. It’s going on adventures and trying new things. It’s playing games, making crafts, baking cookies and so much more. It’s waking up each morning filled with excitement as you anticipate the day ahead and going to bed exhausted with a brain full with new memories.

Each morning the children are greeted with a smile as they enter The Cridge child care facility. They are invited to find a favourite toy to play with or book to read. As friends arrive, the energy grows. Soon a leader invites some children to come outside to play on our playground. At 9:30 everyone gathers and the day truly begins. After a healthy snack from home, the children prepare to go on an out trip such as to Butterfly Gardens! Everyone enjoys learning about all of the beautiful butterflies and other creatures that live there. As the leaders supervise the group, the children are able to wander around the facility at their own pace. Some are mesmerized by the resident iguanas and flamingos while others are fascinated by the colours on the wings of the butterflies.

After awhile the children start to get hungry and it’s time to get back into the vehicles and head to a nearby park for lunch. The children are offered choices in their activities and on this afternoon they must choose between a hike in the forest, some structured games on the park’s field or free play on the playground. At 2:30, it’s time to head back to The Cridge as parents start to arrive shortly after 3. Once back at The Cridge, the children are offered a healthy snack – today it’s Ants on a Log (celery, cream cheese and raisins). They spend the rest of the afternoon either playing with the toys at the child care facility or enjoying our wonderful playground again until it’s time to go home. At The Cridge, we strive to be as inclusive as possible in all of our activities so that children of all abilities can participate and have fun.

Spring Break 2016 was filled with many highlights. This year we celebrated St Patrick’s Day by baking cookies and on our final day the Easter Bunny left us some treats. On other days we went hiking at Goldstream Park, saw a science show, played Bigger/Better (a trading game) at Mayfair Mall, enjoyed the playground at Gyro Beach and watched the Peanuts Movie at Cinecenta. One fun afternoon was spent styling each others’ hair at The Cridge using purple and blue (washable) hair gels and fancy elastics.

All of the fun activities during Spring Break 2016 have left everyone anticipating Sun Fun 2016.

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.