Finding a Home for Refugee Families

The Cridge Centre for the Family’s Supportive Transitional Housing provides low-cost housing to women and children fleeing violence, and immigrant and refugee families, for a period of up to 3 years. Between our Hayward Heights and Mary Cridge Manor properties, we have 44 units of housing, ranging from bachelor suites to 4 bedroom units. The women and children that live in our housing can access the support of one of our Dovetail program staff, who help them work through the pain of what has happened and make plans for a safe and vital future.

The various stories of how individuals and families come to live in The Cridge Supportive Transitional Housing are a wonderful example of God’s guiding presence. About a year ago, we welcomed Marnie, a woman who had survived life in a refugee camp in a war-torn country for years before coming to Canada. Marnie settled into life in Victoria and was able to make a connection to our community through the support of her Dovetail support worker and others.

After several months of living with us, Marnie got word that Mary, the woman she had lived with in the refugee camp, had made her way to Canada. She immediately made arrangements to have Mary come for a visit to Victoria. The friendship that Marnie and Mary shared was an incredibly profound thing to witness. From the moment they were reunited, these two friends could not imagine being apart. Through God’s timing and provision, a new unit was made available in our housing. We were able to offer Mary housing just a few doors down from her dear friend.

The chance to be a part of the rebuilding of women’s lives after they escape violent partners or political situations is truly and honor and a blessing to us. The story of Marnie and Mary serves as an example of God’s faithfulness and the power of friendship.

Diversity and Acceptance in Children

Submitted by Janelle Breese Biagioni.

Diversity and acceptance are the same for children.
Society, in general, invests a great deal of time and money into educating people (adults) about community inclusion, which is about a person having social interactions and meaningful relationships with people who are not paid staff and that the relationship benefits both parties.

This picture shows two toddlers who are daycare buddies. The little girl approached Atticus, who uses a pacer to walk with, and offered him the doll stroller. When Atticus took the stroller, the little girl went behind him and pushed his walker so he could push the stroller. When some twigs and rocks stopped Atticus from moving, she stopped and stepped to the front clearing the debris and then resumed pushing his pacer and they were off again on their little adventure.

This little girl didn’t worry about being “politically correct” or if she would insult Atticus by taking charge to help him experience the thrill of pushing a doll stroller. In her little heart, she felt, “Atticus is my friend,” and in her mind, she said, “We can do this together.”

As adults, if we strive to emulate the love of children, we can make a stronger community that is inclusive, loving and has no barriers.

Learn more about our Childcare Services.

Karen’s Story of Loss and Rebuilding

 

February 2, 2015 is a day that Karen will never forget – it was a life changing day. While Karen was at work, the house where she rented a suite was consumed by a fire, taking with it her 3 beloved cats. At that point, Karen’s life changed.  She lost everything and began a new journey of rebuilding.

Karen Abrahamson is a Family Support Worker at The Cridge.  She has been working with our women’s programs for 15 years as a counselor, advocate and front line support worker. She also coordinates the volunteers with the Dovetail program and Transition House. Karen is a woman of great passion and integrity – a powerhouse and fierce advocate. She is the type of person who will stand in the gap and not back down until her client receives the help that she needs. Karen is dedicated and strong – someone to be counted on and trusted.  She is admired and valued tremendously.

So when Karen lost everything in the fire, we were all shaken to see her grief. This strong woman was just like the rest of us – vulnerable, hurting and broken with loss. She spent the next month living in The Cridge Seniors Centre guest suite and taking time in between work to rebuild her life. During the last 3 months, Karen has walked a hard road. She admits that in the past she was always the strong one – the one who helped others.  But now she was in need, broken and grieving – and needed help.  Even though at times she was unable to articulate that need, she says that she was so blessed to receive help and support at every turn. The love and care that showered over her from The Cridge family, and the wider Cridge community, was often overwhelming to her. She received so much and is so very grateful.

Karen knows that her journey through this painful time is not over – there is more healing to be done. But she does see that it has given her a better understanding of what the women she works with go through – she understands losing all her worldly possessions, she understands loss and grieving and the difficult and painful process of rebuilding a life. Karen would never wish such an experience on anyone, but she knows that God will use this experience to make her a stronger person and an even more compassionate advocate for women.

We are so blessed to have Karen in The Cridge family. She is an essential part of what makes us a successful and life-giving family as we continue to work in the community to serve those in need. Karen is an amazing example of our motto – that love is the bottom line.

Our Food: Fresh, Local & Healthy

Nik Milonas: Executive Chef of The Cridge Seniors Village Centre

 

When it comes to food there’s nothing better than something that is raised, harvested or produced locally. The benefits in procuring local ingredients for your table are many. To begin with, you help support our local community and economy. From agriculture to hospitality to the retail food market, the jobs are many and keeping them here ensures not only a viable local economy but also our welfare.  Secondly the food is of the highest quality: it hasn’t traveled very far therefore it retains its freshness and nutrition longer, making it taste better. You also help support biodiversity because our farmers are able to grow several varieties that are specific to our region. They all work in balance with our environment and thereby produce some exceptional products.

We are lucky to live in British Columbia where a temperate climate produces a wide range of diverse crops from apples and pears in the fall, berries and cherries in the summer to grapes that are being used to make top quality wines. Besides crops, there are local chicken farmers in Metchosin and Sooke, and in the Cowichan Valley along with local ranches that raise cattle, pigs and turkeys.

Chefs everywhere have an ethical responsibility in the management of our food supply because they buy in bulk which has a global impact on our food chain. For me, building relationships with people who grow our food is absolutely essential in providing healthy nutritious meals to everyone at The Cridge Village Seniors Centre. So sustainability is a key element in the choices we make when it comes to creating our menus and purchasing our food. This has become the trend, especially over the last ten years, as more people insist not only on excellent value but recognize the role nutrition has on our health and the environment. Many of the restaurants and hotels in Victoria feature local products, recognizing the customers demand for domestic, fresh, artisan made products. I’ve been fortunate enough to build some strong relationships with many local producers, like Cowichan Valley Meat Market who have a large store in Duncan and a family farm in Chemainus. They really take pride in how they raise their animals. They are free of antibiotics and growth hormones, and are allowed to graze on large pastures living in balance with nature. You can really taste the difference.

Another local supplier is Gavin’s Fresh Herbs who absolutely loves his craft and grows amazingly fragrant and beautiful plants. Sysco supplies us with all our seafood, primarily from Ocean Wise. This is a program set up by the Vancouver Aquarium to conserve, educate and empower consumers about the issues surrounding sustainable seafood. Next time you’re in the grocery store, look for their logo. Saanich Organics is a co-operative farming community that supplies us with some produce during the spring, summer and autumn seasons. You will find their farmers selling amazingly beautiful and delicious produce at the Moss St. Market and the Victoria Public Market, as well as various other markets. Along with GFS, Sysco and Islands West Produce we are able to acquire high quality products for the best value that we can offer our residents, guests and staff. I encourage you to make an effort and build relationships with your butcher, your baker and your farmer; I guarantee you a really tasty experience that you can feel great about!

SunFun has a new look!

Davina Antonik: School Age Care Coordinator

SunFun Logo Colour

We are excited to unveil the brand new SunFun logo and tag phrase!  The Childcare Management team, in conjunction with a graphic designer from Mega Screen Studios, have been working throughout the New Year to create a super awesome visual to capture the meaning of our summer SunFun program.  The creation process really led us to look at the purpose of SunFun and what makes our program different from the many other summer programs for kids in the Victoria area.  What we realized is that we offer A LOT, and really are a truly unique service for our community. 

Yes, we offer a fun, safe place to send your kids with cool out trips, games, crafts and more.  What really makes us unique, is that we offer a lifestyle of child-centred, faith-based, inclusive exploration for children to really play, discover, and believe in themselves and the world around them.  Hence our new tag line: play, discover, believe…  Perhaps only other grammar nerds like myself will appreciate the open-endedness of the …, but I think it really speaks to the endless possibilities children may take away from attending SunFun.  Unlike other day-camps, SunFun provides summer fun on a grand-scale.  We are so blessed by our generous grants to go on amazing out-trips like Wild-play, trips up to Youbou Lake, an overnight slumber party at a local church, and everything else you could imagine.  Many families would not be able to provide such awesome activities for their children, and we are able to offer these experiences without any additional fees for the families.  Not to mention a shiny, new fully-inclusive playground on site for our daily use! 

The support and prayers from our Board of Directors, Management Team of The Cridge, and local Churches provide a rich foundation that many clients wouldn’t notice, but we know is a true God-send.  Our high-caliber and well-rounded summer staff is another aspect that sets our program apart from others.  The Cridge Centre attracts quality people and we are proud to have a staff comprised of certified teachers, future teachers, a future doctor, and a future natural biologist.  The skill set of this amazing team enriches our programming beyond belief so that each person can bring a new passion to programming and help engage a wide spectrum of children’s interests.  We are truly blessed.

Summer day-camps have become a very competitive market.  Compound this with low-enrollment across the city and you can see why we have set ourselves a lofty goal of being fully-enrolled for each week this summer.  Keep an eye out for our new logo in Island Parent Magazine, Kids In Victoria website, CHEK News website and other spots around town.  Even with this new ad-campaign we have always found it is word-of mouth referrals that provide the best advertising.  Our past and current clients and community partners are our best sources for success stories with new families.  During the current registration time we are blessed to hear such wonderful referrals on an almost-daily basis.  Please share about the awesome experiences SunFun can offer families with children Kindergarten to Grade 7.  Thanks for all your support in making SunFun 2015 one for the books!

To register, click here.

Who Do We Serve?

Do you ever wonder who it is that benefits from The Cridge Centre for the Family?  Who is served and where they receive these services?  And exactly how many are served in a year?  Wonder no more — check out our handy dandy infographic below to answer all your questions….

 

Who Do We Serve (1)

A Sharing Economy

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Let me start by saying that I moved away from Victoria in 1997 and that for the intervening time, I have mostly lived in the developing world.  So my perspective on Victoria and Canadian culture is not the same as someone who has lived here all their life. I have lived in places of great poverty — both physical and emotional — and I have returned to Victoria with a great deal of gratitude and appreciation for all that life as a Canadian has to offer. And so, when I hear the ambulance sirens passing by my door, I breathe up a prayer of thanksgiving that there are hospitals and ambulances and first responders to care for those in emergencies.  When I go to the library with my kids, we still leave with armloads of books, amazed that they are free to borrow. When I walk down the street, I am grateful for the safety of my  neighbourhood. I enjoy taking the bus because it is clean, safe and reliable. I constantly marvel at the services available to me and my family — and I am so thankful for them.

It’s been a year and a half since we returned to Victoria, and a year and a half of gratitude. I’m sure that eventually this feeling will fade as it all becomes normal again — although I hope that I will never take it all for granted… however it is quite likely that I will. But today I wanted to write about the “sharing economy” I see in Victoria.  The phrase “sharing economy” was one that I came across recently — and I wrote it down to remind myself that this is a topic worthy of a blog post. I see this idea, of sharing and participating in our local community, as one that really typifies Victoria.  Every day when I read the paper, I see examples of people and businesses reaching out to help — whether it is a local business serving breakfast at Our Place, or someone making a donation to The Cridge, or the Lieutenant Governor and her staff wearing purple to raise awareness about epilepsy. We are a city that cares and isn’t afraid to let the world know about it. And how amazing is that?  I LOVE it!

But I also see a lot of hurt and need in our city — the young man who begs at the stop light, the women who access our transition house after leaving a violent relationship, the refugee families who are so grateful to be in a safe place but so bewildered about how to make a life here. The fact that there are so many homeless people in our city is an absolute tragedy — in the midst of so much wealth, it astounds me that so many people don’t even have a place to live. And I often wonder what it would take to change this — what would it take for all of us to share and give enough that there wouldn’t be homelessness anymore. What would it take for our food banks to close for lack of need? What would it take for our children to go to school with full bellies and the physical ability to learn? What would it take, Victoria?

Joy of Learning – Spring Break

Do you remember the excitement and wonder of learning new things? As we get older, we sometimes forget what an amazing thing it is to discover something new that surprises and amazes us. It is truly one of the great parts of spending time with kids — especially in an educational setting — to have the opportunity to experience that wonder through the eyes of the young.

Over Spring Break, our child care programs have been busy with the kids — having  a lot of fun, but also learning some new exciting stuff.  Check out this video of a science experiment  — I just love hearing the excitement of the kids as they learn.

Science video

The Kindness of Strangers

The Reality of Domestic Violence for Immigrant & Refugee Women in Victoria

Marlene Goley and Candace Stretch

             The Cridge Dovetail Program provides emotional support, life skill development, counselling, connections to community resources, financial literacy, and social opportunities to the women and children that live in our Supportive Transitional Housing. Over the past several years, we have had the opportunity to support several women who have come to Canada with the hope of becoming an immigrant or refugee, but who have been left in limbo because their abusive ex-partner is their sponsor. The reality of living life in immigration limbo is frightening- essentially these women find themselves cut off from any sort of financial support, and 100% dependant on the kindness of strangers.

            Take, for example, the story of Rachel. Rachel was brought to The Cridge Transition House for Women (CTHW) by police, who had been called to her home because her husband was assaulting her. After a few weeks at CTHW, Rachel was notified by Immigration Canada that her husband had pulled his sponsorship and that she was expected to leave the country immediately. Her only hope of staying in the country was to hire a lawyer and apply for refugee status. She had no money to pay this lawyer, or even to pay for rent or groceries, as she was not able to work and was ineligible to apply for Income Assistance, due to her lack of status in Canada.

            The next few months of Rachel’s journey were an exercise in faith. From the moment she walked through our doors, she was forced to rely on the kindness of strangers for her survival. Fortunately, the staff of The Dovetail Program were able to accept her as a tenant in our supportive transitional housing, and used funds from a donation account to pay her rent. She was entirely dependent on the staff of the Dovetail program, who organized furniture and clothing for her, ensured her rent and legal fees were paid each month, and gave her monthly grocery cards (also covered through donation accounts). Each day was a challenge, as Rachel dealt with the anxiety of living life in such a state of dependency, as well as her deeper fear that she would be deported and sent back to the country she had fled. By the grace of God, five months after Rachel first moved into Cridge housing, her refugee status was granted!

            The staff of The Cridge Dovetail program are privileged to be a part of the group of “kind strangers” who lead women like Rachel through the scary journey of escaping relationship violence and facing immigration limbo. For us, this is a journey that takes us from the role of stranger to the role of friend in these women’s lives. And while these women may never know the names and faces of the generous donors whose gifts feed and house them, they live with the knowledge that these “kind strangers” are their allies in the truest sense of the word!       

 kindness1

For more information about supports for women facing domestic violence click here

Ride for Refuge is coming!!!

On a cool October day last Fall, over 300 cyclists set out on the Ride for Refuge. It was cloudy and threatened rain, but the cyclists — some in full cycling gear, others with bikes that looked like they hadn’t been ridden in a decade — were not put off. They were riding for the greater good. Each of them came with a purpose and a charity they were passionate about supporting. Seventeen local charities who work with the displaced, the vulnerable and the exploited benefited that day — over $100,000 was raised and an excellent new event for Victoria was started.

Not only was that an exciting day for the community, but it was also a rewarding day for the organizers who had laboured to plan the event and make it happen. And this year will be no different — already  we are making lists (and checking them twice), mapping out routes (and cycling them) and looking for volunteers to help us make this year’s ride another fabulous event. We are currently seeking people to take on leadership roles, to lead teams and to get involved with the grass roots planning of the event.  If you have a couple hours a week to give, and a heart for making this a fabulous event, please contact Joanne (250 995 6419) or jspecht@cridge.org to discuss how to get involved. We are so excited about this event — and we need your help to make it happen!

R4Rgroup

To see photos of last years ride and get more info about how it all works, check out this link

2015 Ride for Refuge on Saturday, October 3 — Mark your calendar!