Giving Back – One Relationship at a Time

By  Vicki Melville Bathurst

We met at Macdonald House – The Cridge Centre’s home for brain injury survivors. I thought I might need a special code or formal permission to get inside, so I was surprised to find the door unlocked and nobody around as I walked through the large open hallway to the back of the house. It was a quiet home this Tuesday morning, a few people here and there, working on computers and around the kitchen.

The residents were all busy with their routines except for one fellow rustling through newspapers waiting for a ride. At another table sat a young woman playing crib with one of the residents. Listening to their cheerful banter, it was easy to join in. Doug was winning, his second game, he proudly claimed, and he was working hard for another “skunk”, so he told me. The young woman – Emily – bantered back.  You could tell this was something they had done many times before, and she was enjoying herself just as much as he was.

Emily was the woman I had come to interview. She tells me she has been volunteering at Macdonald House for two years. I knew she was a student at the University of Victoria so I asked her if she was volunteering for course credits. She looked at me with surprise. Yes, she is currently completing her undergrad degree, and hoping to be accepted into medical school next fall, but this is something she does because she’s always done it, because she likes to, because it is her way of giving back. In fact, Emily has more than one volunteer job, though she said she has had to cut back this year after taking on a bigger role in a student society on campus.

After finishing her crib game with Doug, she asks Hilton if he is ready for his walk. She reminds him he has time before his ride comes. Hilton is fairly mobile with the use of a walker, so the three of us walk up the road to the park. Along the way he accepts, with thanks, Emily’s gentle reminders about his posture. They, too, have a friendly camaraderie and it is obvious he is very comfortable with her.

Emily tells me that it is these relationships — the quiet exchanges, the knowing glances — this is why she volunteers. It is what she gets back. Though still very young, Emily is already wise enough to point out that it’s only a matter of minutes that separates her – indeed, all of us — from the reality of those who live at Macdonald House, those with brain injuries. This thought reminds her to be humble, she informs me, another gift she gets from volunteering.

Click to learn more about The Cridge Centre for the Family Brain Injury Services

With thanks to Vicki for her series of interviews about some of our amazing volunteers, of which she is one!

The Cridge Celebrates Volunteers!

Volunteer Recognition Week –  April 24 to 28, 2017

By Vicki Melville Bathurst

Volunteering is big business in Greater Victoria, and this is the week to give thanks for all volunteers do in our community. Volunteer Victoria’s website states that in working with over 300 local organizations in 2015 they served more than 700 volunteers, and more than 3000 new volunteers registered with them online.

The Cridge Centre for the Family is western Canada’s oldest registered non-profit society and still operates out of the same beautiful brick mansion on Hillside Avenue that was built in 1893 as an orphanage. The Cridge now has a number of locations in Greater Victoria, and it’s services include child care, supportive housing and services for families in crisis, respite care services for children with disabilities and support for their parents, a residence  for survivors of Brain Injury, as well as the Seniors’ Assisted Living Housing which is now located in the original home.

As a  volunteer  “wannabe” myself, after selling my business ten years ago, I began looking for something  to do — somewhere I could use my skills and make a difference in someone else’s life. A volunteer posting in the Times Colonist caught my eye and brought me to The Cridge Centre for the Family. I was immediately inspired by the deep and widespread roots of this organization, and the many, many people it assists and supports. The Cridge Centre for the Family has a large group of volunteers who are key to many of their programs.

My job for the past eight months has been to meet with some of these volunteers to learn about their volunteer jobs, and why they volunteer. I first met with Emily at Macdonald House, a Cridge residence for Brain Injury survivors. As Emily was a student, I assumed she was volunteering for university course credits, so was surprised to hear that volunteering is something that has always been a part of her life, not only to give back, but because of what it gives back to her.

This week you will have the opportunity to hear from some of The Cridge volunteers who offer a wide variety of services to the community. From the Moving Team, who all came to The Cridge through Glad Tidings Church, to Jessica who helps organize the annual Brain Injury Conference at the University of Victoria, and Marj who bakes weekly for the women in The Transition House, all were drawn by the desire to give back to their community – and have stayed because of the caring and compassion they found amongst the staff and volunteers at The Cridge. From the group I call “Mimi’s Happy Volunteers”, who meet monthly at The Cridge to stuff and decorate baskets for The Cridge Respitality Program, I was told that “The Cridge is the happiest place on earth, a place where people are loved for WHO they are, and not WHAT they are.”

Stay tuned for their stories – I hope they’ll make you feel good, and maybe, just maybe, they might encourage you to expand and enrich your own life by volunteering. As Marj so clearly puts it,  “maybe The Cridge isn’t the place for everyone, but I firmly believe that there is a volunteer job somewhere in this community that will make you feel good about yourself, and allow you to connect and strengthen your community at the same time.”


With thanks to Vicki for her interviews of some of our amazing volunteers, of which she is one!

Technology helps women rebuild lives

Technology is an inevitable part of our lives now. If we aren’t emailing on our laptop, then we are checking the news on our phone — or looking for information on our tablet. It has become an essential way to communicate, to gather information and to live our daily lives.  So imagine what it would be like if suddenly you didn’t have a cell phone — or your tablet or laptop was no longer yours to use. This happens on a regular basis for the women who come to our transition house — very often they cannot bring their technology with them — and even have to stop using their phones because it is unsafe. Technology can be an excellent communication tool — but it can also be a way for abusive partners to track and terrify their victims.

So often part of the rebuilding process for our women is for them to get new technology — often an expense that they simply can’t afford.  So when we receive donations of phones or laptops, we know that we will be able to find a home for them. We recently received a few laptops from Era — a company from Winnipeg that recycles technology and donates it to non-profits. We were thrilled to be able to give these laptops to women who need them in order to continue their education and engage in job searches.

If you have technology to donate that is still in excellent condition, we would gladly pass it on to a woman who will gratefully use it as she rebuilds her life.


Hanna’s Story: The Ripple Effects of Abuse

By Candace Stretch

The ripple effects of living with a violent partner are vast for women. Experiencing violence and abuse on a daily basis can lead women into drug and alcohol dependencies, cause mental health struggles, and contribute to financial challenges. These ripple effects continue for women with children, as they face the challenge of raising their children in such difficult circumstances. This can lead to Ministry of Children & Family Development (MCFD) involvement, and sometimes even removal of children from the family home.

When Hanna moved into Cridge housing and began to access the support of the Dovetail Program, she had been through years of abuse and had used alcohol to cope. Even though the abuser was no longer in her life, Hanna was still struggling through the pain of addiction. This addiction led to MCFD removing her son, and placing him in foster care. Hanna was heartbroken- she had finally found safety for herself and her son, only to have him taken away.

With the support of her Dovetail worker, Hanna entered alcohol treatment. She returned from treatment with a deep commitment to maintaining her sobriety, and a strong desire to work toward getting her son back. Hanna set up regular meetings with her social worker and did everything she could to demonstrate that she was prepared to be a full-time parent again.

Gradually Hanna was given longer and longer visits with her son. Having to go through the heartbreak of saying goodbye after each visit was a huge test of her sobriety. Yet each time she felt the urge to drink, she sought the help of her Dovetail worker and her addiction support network. Through her patience, perseverance and her enormous love for her child, Hanna showed her MCFD social worker that she was prepared to be a full-time parent again.

Hanna was finally able to see the last ripple effect of pain fade away- she was reunited with her son in early 2017 and is now living with him in our Cridge housing. And, just this past month, she celebrated 1 year of sobriety!

Please note: names and identifying details were altered to protect confidentiality

Stay Strong

We are blessed by every woman and child that comes through the doors of The Cridge Transition House for Women. And it is no surprise that the women bless and encourage each other to be strong. Imagine arriving at the transition house feeling frightened about what you just left behind and about the uncertain future ahead of you, and seeing this note left behind by a woman who just moved out – written on the chalk board in the kitchen:

You will heal. You will be able to move on.
You are capable of EVERYTHING they said you were not.
Stay strong.

Making Lemonade after Brain Injury

After someone is blind-sided by trauma recovering a sense of self, and purpose in life, can be over-whelming.

Six years ago, a brain surgery to remove a malformed cluster of blood vessels in Sara’s brainstem, irrevocably changed the direction of her life.  Due to the disabilities the surgery caused, she could not return to her job at a local university – the difference in her physical self, abilities and self-identity turned her world upside-down.

“I dwelt on how awful this change was when I had too much idle time or felt adrift.  I didn’t want such constant negativity.  Nor just to exist.  I needed a new life purpose and direction.”

Sara enjoyed writing but never had time to devote to it when her life was divided between working and raising a young family.  She learned Simon Fraser University offers an eight-month online creative writing program which Sara just completed.

Janelle Breese Biagioni, who has been working with Sara through The Cridge Brain Injury Services, believed learning how to use social media might reduce isolation and help Sara gain confidence by interacting with others.  Through the generous funding of the Zoie Gardner fund, Janelle arranged some in-home social media tutoring sessions.  In addition to learning some basics of online communication, Sara started a blog about making life easier and more accessible through her experiences.

“I am thrilled to have an outlet that gives my life purpose and meaning. I’m so thankful to Janelle and The Cridge Centre for the Family for helping and supporting me.”

Helping a survivor find a new purpose in life can help their resiliency and recovery. Social media doesn’t replace face-to-face contact, but is a step in the right direction for Sara and finding a new place in her community.  In this case, establishing and designing a different direction after an unpredictable trauma has been paramount to rebuild self-identity and integration.

To learn more about Sara, visit her blog at

From a tent to housing… to home.

By Christine Wosilius

It was a Friday afternoon in mid summer when a gentleman appeared on the steps of the Child Care building. I was on my way up to the main building, however since he wasn’t a familiar person I stopped to talk with him (for security reasons we always speak with new adults who walk in the building).

He told me that a social worker at The Salvation Army had recommended that he come and see us and we might be able to help him with housing.  He then began to tell me a bit of his story, how he and his family had moved to Vancouver from another province with the promise of a job, how the job had quickly vanished leaving him, his wife and their 2 children without any resources.  They moved to Victoria with the help of some friends but now all 4 of them were living in a tent.

I work in Child Care and I have no idea how long the wait list for our housing is or how the application process works but I knew that I was not going to let him leave without speaking to someone in our Dovetail program.  So he and I walked up to the main building and waited in the lounge.  Karen A was the star of the day who dropped what she was working on, made time for him and began the interview with him.

On October 1 when we had our event celebrating Overcomers with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge I saw him and his family watching and cheering and was struck by how good God is and how wonderful His timing is.  This gentleman, his wife and their 2 children waving to William and Kate had been living in a tent only a short time before this, but thanks to our Dovetail program were safely housed, their youngest child in our daycare program allowing both parents to now go to work. Home at last!

For more information about our housing:


A generous gift for a new building

by Monica Hammond

In May 1891, The Home received the entire proceeds of the estate of John George Taylor – $32,500.00, which would be over a million dollars today.  This gave The Home enough money to buy a large site and build the three-story brick building that still stands today near the corner of Cook Street and Hillside Avenue in Victoria.

Where John Taylor got all this money  is a bit of a mystery. He left Ireland to follow the gold rushes in California and Australia, and may have had some success there. In his years in Victoria, he worked as a police constable and later as a city councilor. Neither of those occupations makes a person wealthy.

John Taylor sat for eight years on The Home’s General Committee. As the Editor of The Daily Colonist wrote in 1882: “The memory of this kind-hearted man will be honoured as long as the building created by his money endures.”  The cornerstone was laid with much fanfare on June 24, 1893 and the building was officially opened on November 18, 1893.

The 1893 building is still well-used to this day. It now houses The Cridge Village Seniors’ Centre and the administrative offices of The Cridge Centre for the Family.


Photograph taken after the laying of the cornerstone ceremony, 1892 (BC Archives E-01296)



This piece is based on the work of Vernon Storey, Terry Worobetz and Henry Kennedy in their book The Home: Orphans’ Home to Family Centre: 1873 to 1998. Copies of the book are available for purchase at The Cridge Centre for the Family.

Christmas Generosity in 1958

by Monica Hammond

The Victoria community was especially generous to The Home around Christmas time. The notes kept by The Ladies’ Committee tell us that in 1958 that generosity was abundant.

“A party for 22 girls was given by the Oak Bay Brownies and Guides. Each girl received a gift. Then all the children went to the Lieutenant Governor’s party at the Empress Hotel this year. Each child received a gift. The Lieutenant Governor also gave a Hi-Fi record player to the Home. A turkey supper was given the children by the Shriners as well as a gift to each one. Sunday Dec. 22 CKDA Radio arrived with Santa Claus and each child received a gift. In the evening the B.C. Electric brought a gift of clothing for all and held a sing-song after which refreshments were served.”

That spirit of generosity continues to this day — The Cridge Centre receives many gifts of support for our families at Christmas.

Christmas 1955 at The Home

by Monica Hammond

The Ladies’ Committee kept notes of everything that was going on at The Home. Things were especially busy around Christmas.

In 1955, the Shrine Band gave a Christmas concert at The Home. They brought a toy and a candy for each child. The B.C. Telephone Co. gave gifts for the tree, and the Junior Chamber of Commerce decorated The Home. Col. Matthews from the Gordon Head Camp made sure that each child had a stocking full of gifts.

All of the children would go visit Santa – “Mr. Mercer will take the tiny ones in his car, and Gwen & Bessie will take the 4 yr. olds on the bus”. What an adventure for them!

1955 was a busy year for Christmas parties at The Home – the Salvation Army, Government House, the Shrine Club and the Junior Chamber of Commerce each held a Christmas party for the children, all in the same week.

The generosity and kindness of the community in and around Victoria continues to bless The Cridge Centre for the Family to this day. We are so grateful to be a part of such a caring community.

This piece is based on the work of Vernon Storey, Terry Worobetz and Henry Kennedy in their book The Home: Orphans’ Home to Family Centre: 1873 to 1998. Copies of the book are available for purchase at The Cridge Centre for the Family.