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.

Sharing Christmas Joy through the Generations

 christmas village 2014

Christmas is time of joy and wonder for children and adults alike.  The lights, the colours and the happy celebration of the birth of a special child fill our hearts with warmth and compassion. 

This year as we prepared to welcome the season and decorate the Child Care Centre we were approached by the grandparent of one of our children.  She wondered if she could share a special gift for the children this year.  For many years her mother in-law had collected and lovingly displayed a tiny Christmas village in her very tiny living room.  Since her passing the village had been kept packed and stored and this year her daughter-in-law lovingly set-it up for our families to enjoy.

The village was set up at the children’s level with the intent that it could be an interactive display.  The children were trusted to move the tiny porcelain pieces around the display.  We would often find Santa on the roof top of a tiny house, the picket fences moved from home to home or a tiny sled in a tree.  The children were trusted with something delicate and in turn treated it with great respect without having to be reminded to “be careful”.

When Grandma returned to pack the village up again all the pieces were there and intact.  The family had been able have the gift of knowing their loved one’s passion had been shared with others.   All the children, including the great grandson of the lady who had so lovingly set up the display in her home year after year for her family, had been able to experience the opportunity to be trusted to interact successfully with something beautiful and delicate.  Grandma shared with us that her mother-in-law would be smiling down on this.   This was a special gift of joy which really celebrated the warmth of the Christmas season and the sharing of love through the generations.                

 

A Christmas blessing from a former client

One of our former Cridge Transition House for Women clients attended the Healthy Relationships luncheon last week, and shared a bit of prose that she wrote in gratitude. I took a few stanzas out to share with you.  A lovely Christmas blessing to us!

“The real miracle of Christmas visited me during my adjusting year 2012!
Lessons taught to me; instilled by strangers, volunteers, and especially workers of The Cridge Centre.
It was MY Christmas, after all the tribulations of many years of silent abuse.
The burdened heart found freedom, the soul replenished so that today Christmas is cherished with continuing hope!
Asking for help is the most precious gift given to me!
Thanks to the management, staff, volunteers, and unknown patrons. Through your dedication and tireless support, we are happy! Merry Christmas”

What is Respitality?

Respitality volunteer preparing baskets for our families

Respitality is one of those wonderful ideas that grew into a vibrant program based on a need that was evident in our community. It is a combination of respite care and hospitality, wrapped up with love, and provided to the families of children with special needs. We have over 450 families registered through the program — they each get 1 night a year to stay in a local hotel and receive a basket full of treats.  For many of our families, this is the only chance they will get all year to get away and have their batteries recharged. We hear over and over again, how grateful the families are — how much they needed and appreciate the break. Parents everywhere can identify with that crazy need sometimes to escape the kids — imagine how hard that would be if your child has special needs that make a regular babysitter impossible. Our families often face exhaustion and isolation — they just need a break. And so, here at The Cridge, we are so thrilled to be able to give them that much deserved break — to bless them with that opportunity to take a breath, relax and know that their child is well cared for. We are also so grateful for the hotels who provide their rooms free of charge, and the local businesses who provide us with gifts and other products with which to pamper our families.

Come and support this amazing program this Wednesday (Dec 3) at our Stuff the Stocking Fundraiser — and give a family a much needed rest. We are stuffing the stocking with checks and cash donations to keep this vital program running for the coming year.

Stuff the Stocking — Grande Lounge at The Cridge Senior’s Centre
8 AM – 11 AM for Refreshments and some holiday cheer!
1307 Hillside Ave.

Our Vital Volunteers

For the past 20 years, The Cridge Transition House for Women (CTHW) has benefited from the wonderful work of volunteers. Over the years, dozens of talented women have volunteered their time at CTHW to offer a listening ear to a woman or child, help with cooking meals and keeping the House tidy, provide transportation to  important appointments, pick up and sort through donations, and countless more tasks!

Our volunteers come with a wide-range of skills, personal experiences and talents to share. The staff team at CTHW includes a volunteer coordinator who recruits, trains and coordinates these volunteers so that they can make use of their unique set of gifts in the work they do with our women and children. Here are just a few snapshots of the vital work that volunteers do at CTHW:

  • Marj has such an encouraging heart. Her favourite thing to do is just sit and chat with the women and children at CTHW, and she can often be found sharing a cup of tea with a resident in the eating area. She is also always willing to offer practical help, and is the first to offer to help a resident cook dinner or do the laundry. A favourite memory of Marj was the time she put on the Raffi Christmas CD and danced around the Christmas tree with all of the children!
  • Our faithful volunteer Evie comes each week on the night before our groceries are delivered. She dutifully goes through our fridges, tosses old leftovers, and creates AMAZING meals out of whatever ingredients remain. Her ability to create something delicious from nothing is such a valuable gift to us. Evie also has a green thumb and can often be found in the backyard, helping to keep the garden alive and the weeds at bay!
  • Melody has been our Wednesday evening volunteer for many years now. As such, she has an essential role in getting our weekly Cobs Bread donation from the storefront to the House. It is a huge job, as there are many many bins full of bread each week that must be picked up, packaged and brought back to CTHW. Because of Melody’s commitment to volunteer, women at CTHW as well as families in our Supportive Transitional Housing are able to access free bread each week.

These are just a few examples of the vital volunteers that give of their time and talents to enhance the lives of women at CTHW. We are so thankful!

 

DF’s Story: Celebrating Success

brainInury IconDF came to live at Mary Cridge Manor (MCM) just over three years ago. He was homeless, living in a shelter, and had spent the majority of his adult life in and out of prison. He is a recovering alcoholic and addict. When he arrived at MCM, DF took methadone daily under the care of a doctor.

DF settled into the routine of MCM quite quickly; however, initially he seemed reserved and shy and rarely came to the office or attended functions. Although it was somewhat concerning to the team, the protocol was to keep building the trust and relationships in hopes of getting him to engage. What soon became apparent to the team was that DF was not “avoiding doing the work of rehab” but rather he was “celebrating” that he had a home. DF was thrilled beyond belief that he was no longer on the street and declared, “I haven’t had a home in five years.” He was extremely proud of his apartment, the furniture and belongings he had gathered, and simply wanted to enjoy the surroundings he had always longed for, but never had.

In following the “whatever it takes” (WIT) model, the team worked with DF to flesh out his three-year goals and to develop a plan to achieve them. DF’s goals were similar to other client’s (e.g. return to work), but he had one we had yet to encounter: DF wanted to come off methadone. He knew this would be challenging, but he also knew and believed whole-heartedly that it was something he had to do in order to move forward with his life so he could live the way he wanted.

With the dedication of skilled team members, and in consultation with DF’s physician, medical and support agencies, a one-year plan was devised to continually and slowly reduce DF’s methadone until he was no longer taking it. DF worked hard with his physician and team members to complete the process and to find other meaningful ways (e.g. mindfulness) to help him cope day-to-day.

DF works several days a week in the MCM employment project, which consists of building and shipping greeting cards. He is always ready to lend a hand in the card project and with other events happening at MCM. His care and concern for others is second-to-none and he demonstrates every day that anyone can turn their life around when given the supports and services to do so. 

DF is looking forward to the next chapter of his life. He is exploring options to return to school for training as a Community Support Worker. His future goal includes opening a recovery house for addicts. DF has the drive and heart to help others and we have no doubt in his ability to work hard and achieve this goal. 

Cridge Respite Connect- A Wonderful Tool for Helping Familes!


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Imagine being the parent of a child with Asperger’s syndrome: supporting your child through the daily routine of life leaves no time for self-care. Because of your child’s complex needs you have no one in your circle of friends and family who is willing to provide childcare, yet taking a break is crucial for you to have the energy to be an effective parent.

The Cridge Respite Program seeks to connect families to qualified respite care providers (RCP’s), so that parents can take a much-needed break knowing that her child is well cared for.

Over the course of the past year, the staff of The Cridge Respite Resource Service have developed a dynamic tool for helping families and RCP’s to connect. The tool is called “Cridge Respite Connect” and is an online platform that allows families to post detailed profiles of about their child and their childcare needs are. It also allows RCP’s to post their specific qualifications, interests, and availability.

Families can then look through the profiles of RCP’s and contact those that will meet their specific needs. The Cridge Respite Program coordinator manages and monitors Cridge Respite Connect and helps both families and RCP’s to create profiles that will be effective in creating a great connection.

Since the launch of Cridge Respite Connect, many success stories have emerged of families who have found just the right person to care for their child:

  • One mother emailed: “Just to let you know that a very wonderful person called me up who had seen my profile online. He started working today! I am very excited to have him, I think he will be great!”
  • Parents of another child wrote: “Thanks to you, we have found great care providers. You can remove our profile and we will contact you in the future when the need arises.”
  • A grandparent caring for a child with special needs shared: “I would like to thank you for submitting my profile to your respite care website. I have received three interested people and would like at this point to have my ad taken down as I do not want to be overwhelmed by talented respite caregivers (so hard to choose!)”

We are so proud of the impact that Cridge Respite Connect is having in the lives of families with children with special needs!

A Seniors’ Story: Gratitude

Icon SeniorsWe thought we’d share with you this letter from a resident in the seniors’ centre:

A message of gratitude to my Cridge family,

Every morning, after thanking God for His gift of a new day, I sing quietly in my heart but loudly in the great outdoors, “I am full of joy, ALLELUIA, knowing deep peace at the Cridge, my home!”  My nine decades of living have convinced me that all my memories; joy and sorrow, success and failure, doubt and faith, tragedy and comedy; are seeds of hope.

In my time here my life experience has already proved a reality. In three and a half months all of my Cridge memories are seeds of hope producing everlasting flowers of peace and joy, or courage and compassion, of laughter and song, and of fine food and gentle, cheerful service.

In 2002, when macular degeneration started the deterioration of my eyesight, I experienced deep fear. Soon, however, I realized that my near blindness is one of God’s greatest gifts to me because through it I meet caring, compassionate people whom I would never have met if my eyesight were perfect. Here at the Cridge I am even more aware of the importance of God’s gift because were I not nearly blind I might not have chosen the Cridge as my home. How foolish I would have been! How blessed I am!!!

My family, there is no way you can possibly understand how deep is my appreciation of your caring love and service.

Gratefully.

Anna’s Story: Smiling through Closed Doors

Icon Transition House

The past couple of months we have had the privilege of working with Anna, a recent immigrant to Canada, and her adorable toddler son. After suffering months and months of physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her husband and her in-laws, Anna made the decision to seek safety at The Cridge Transition House for Women. Since that time, she has been an example of how frequently our system closes the door on women fleeing abuse.

Anna has experienced system failure with Income Assistance, who refused to cover the cost of her much-needed dental work. She has experienced it with Legal Aid, who assigned her a lawyer who belongs to a male rights group, and who has not been willing to take legal means to keep her safe. Legal Aid would not approve a change of counsel request, nor have they been willing to pay for an adequate translator to help her understand the process. She has experienced it with Canada Immigration who have given her a condition of having to remain with her husband for two years. Staff are currently trying to support her through the difficult process of trying to have this condition removed from her Permanent Residency. If we are unsuccessful, she will face deportation.

Through all of this, Anna has kept a smile on her face and hope in her heart. She is moving forward with her life, and plans to move to our Supportive Transitional Housing program in July. She is a loving mother to her son and a delight to work with. We are so pleased that we have been her open door!

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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