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.

Lauren’s Story: Turning Assets into Opportunities

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Three years ago, Lauren was 20 and had a new baby girl. She was in a relationship with her baby girl’s fatherShe had hoped that when she got pregnant he would stop using drugs, hitting her and calling her awful names. He didn’t. Then she hoped he would stop when the baby was born. He didn’t.

Lauren had a cousin who tried to stay connected to Lauren. When her baby girl was born, Lauren’s cousin made a deal with Lauren: leave the boyfriend and she and the baby could stay with her cousin until Lauren could get on her feet. Lauren realized that her boyfriend was not going to change and that taking her cousin up on her offer was her best chance to make a life for herself and her daughter. Shortly after Lauren and the baby moved in with her cousin, she heard about The Cridge Young Parent Outreach Program (Cridge YPOP) from her midwife. Lauren gave The Cridge Young Parent Outreach Worker Nicole a call.

This was the beginning of Lauren’s three year journey with Cridge YPOP.

Nicole connected Lauren and the baby to a supportive housing program for young moms. While she was in that housing program, Nicole helped Lauren get her baby girl into Cridge daycare and to register for an employment program. Lauren started to dream of a bright future. She got excited about going back to school, entered a college course, and got into permanent subsidized housing.

When Nicole offered the first run of the Cridge Asset Building Program for Cridge program youth, Lauren signed up. Lauren used the skills she learned to save and keep saving after she completed the program. She saved enough to realize her dream of buying a small car to make getting baby to daycare, getting herself to school, and doing errands like grocery shopping easier. She stayed in school, too.

Lauren will graduate from her college program this month. Cridge YPOP helped Lauren with these big steps and with lots of little steps, too. Nicole was there for Lauren when the baby was sick and when Lauren was confused about immunization schedules and developmental markers. She shared Lauren’s delight in the first tooth, the first step and the first words. She made her computer available when school assignments were due.

Lauren’s story is the story of many of the young moms who have relied on the support of The Cridge Young Parent Outreach Program. Some of the other young moms have had smaller successes, some are still struggling. Nicole never gives up. This quote from one young mom says it all: “This program plays a pivotal role in my life with my children and I would be lost without it.”


The Cride Young Parent Outreach Program is grateful for the support of The United Way of Greater Victoria and The Victoria Foundation for funding.

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Robin’s Story: The More We Get Together …

Do you remember that simple tune from childhood?

The more we get together, together, together
The more we get together the happier we’ll be.

(If’ the song is not stuck in your head yet, check out this Raffi video)

That song evokes the kind of morning we have once a year when all members of The Cridge Centre for the Family Society are invited to breakfast – a time of sharing stories and appreciation for the service of our society members.

In between the welcome, the grace, the thank you speeches and the dismissal lies the meat of the morning – the bacon, yes, but more importantly the client presentation. Including stories straight from the mouths of those we serve is inspiring, moving and rewarding.

Robin and Geoff

Robin (L) with Geoff Sing (R), Manager, The Cridge Brain Injury Services.

This year’s presenter Robin Bienvenu has been a client of the Cridge Brain Injury Services for the past 5 years. Seven years ago today Robin, an otherwise healthy young adult with a secure job, a thriving business, and a brand new baby son, slipped into an unanticipated coma.

After 48 days Robin woke up, the myelin in his brain and nervous system so destroyed by acute disseminated encephalomyelitis (ADEM) that he felt like little more than “a head on a pillow.”

With few functioning nerves in his body, Robin couldn’t even feel the weight of himself in his bed.The seven major areas of Robin’s brain were all impacted by ADEM, impacting his memory, motor function, sight, emotions, and more. Because he didn’t fit the model of who ADEM generally attacks, it took four years for Robin to be diagnosed. He considers himself lucky in some ways – the myelin in Robin’s body regenerated so that he is now mobile and active. He remains legally blind though, and this unavoidable brain injury took Robin’s relationship and his livelihood.

Connecting with The Cridge Brain Injury Programs was “a god-send” for Robin. He spent two years living in Mary Cridge Manor, which offers independent living with support, and even though he has moved on to his own independent housing, Robin stays connected with the community kitchen and community garden programs. Working with other brain injury survivors, both on staff and with his fellow clients, Robin has relearned much of what the ADEM had stolen from him in his physical recovery. He has also grown as a leader, developed new passions, and returned to school.

As of this fall Robin will be studying at the University of Victoria with the hopes of becoming a registered counsellor who works with people with disabilities. His good humour (Robin cracked that Christmas shopping with his white cane is like being Moses parting the Red Sea), his optimism, and his appreciation of life will be great assetts for Robin as he takes this next step in his schooling and as he continues to bless the clients and staff he meets at The Cridge Brain Injury Services.

We are blessed with faithful and committed society members, and a driven and passionate Board of Directors. Having them all in the room to hear Robin’s story is one small way of showing them how important they are.

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Dovetail Story: From Broken Hearts to Strong Hearts

Valentine’s Day can be a particularly challenging time for women who are rebuilding their lives after abuse. Society’s focus is so intensely focused on romantic love, especially during the month of February, and women can easily feel isolated from the celebrations.

The staff of The Cridge Dovetail Services has embraced Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate love, especially the love that women have for themselves, for their children, and for their friends. This year the women who access Cridge Dovetail Services were invited to celebrate Valentine’s Day by spending an evening “shopping” for beautiful jewelry and accessories (donated by Bungalow Gifts) while enjoying delicious desserts and the company of friends. It was a lovely way for the women to truly celebrate their own uniqueness by giving themselves a special gift.

Meanwhile our monthly Healthy Relationships group, which brings tenants and outreach clients together to enjoy lunch and a group discussion, focused on the theme of “How to Be Your Own Valentine.” A delicious lunch was served as women discussed the value of loving yourself, and the need to take time to care for yourself.

Valentine’s Day at The Cridge Dovetail Services has indeed offered us a unique opportunity to guide women from broken hearts to strong hearts.

Bill’s Story: A Novel Recovery

The cover image if Caught in the Crosshairs

Cover image of Caught in the Crosshairs

Story By Janelle Breese-Biagioni

William (Bill) Cawker is a father and grandfather with a newly developed passion for writing. Bill is also a brain injury survivor. He is a twin and was born prematurely and needed to have open heart surgery at 5 weeks of age. He has spent most of his life dealing with health issues.

Although Bill endured many challenges, he completed Grade 12 and a course for residential-care aid. As Bill’s health declined, he was no longer able to continue with this line of work. Not to be defeated, he went on to work in picture framing shops and eventually owned and operated his own framing business. In 2005, Bill had a cerebral cyst removed. The following year he needed a permanent shunt placed in the brain for drainage. In 2010, he experienced significant hearing loss and was no longer able to work. This left Bill to find a ‘new life’ for himself.

Bill has been residing at Mary Cridge Manor and participating in the brain injury rehabilitation program for the last two years. During this time, a character with the name Tony Marconi popped into Bill’s head one day. He decided to explore who the character was and what kind of story he could create. With the encouragement of Greg Goldberg, who is also an author and contracts as a mentor in the program, Bill developed Tony Marconi’s character and story line. He has now completed and self-published a 166 page novel titled Caught in the Crosshairs.

“I wanted the character and the book to be positive,” explains Bill. “So although the character was in the Mafia, he does change. He attends a funeral and this makes him reflect on his life and the crimes he committed. During his reflection he has an encounter with God, so to speak, and turns his life around.”

On February 26, 2014, Bill will celebrate this accomplishment with a book launch and signing. He is already working on the sequel and has plans for many more books, including a series of children’s books for his granddaughter.

Childcare Story: “Let’s sing and dance and shout!”

Last year as Pre-school wrapped up in June, Child Care Manager Paula West-Patrick had a discussion with Christine, a pre-school teacher, about ways they could incorporate more music and present more Christian content into our programs. Christine reminisced about the days when child care staff and children  would gather in the gym for Praise Days. At that point they decided that this would be a goal for September.

The department purchased a small keyboard, and Tanya  (Christine’s pre-school teaching partner) and Christine set about creating a program of celebration of God’s love for each of us through music, movement and story. The plan was to combine day care and pre-school classes twice a month for 15 minutes to start and work up to half an hour each time.

The program has been quite successful. Children who were uninterested in September are now asking when the next Praise Day is. Each class has been provided with a CD and the children are singing the songs every day. “Let’s sing and dance and shout!” is the opening song and one of the children’s favorites.

At the last session Christine read a story about prayer. When she asked the group what they thought prayer meant one little 4 yr old boy who is very shy immediately put his hand up and when asked to, said “It is when you’re scared and you can talk to God and he makes you not be afraid anymore.” It is so good to hear these comments from the children and know that God is making an impression in their lives.

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Preschool Teacher Christine shares her musical talents and love of God.