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.

A Butchart Experience

by Candace Stetch

This year 22 women from The Cridge Dovetail Program headed out to the Butchart Gardens. What a wonderful gift to arrive at the gate, and be ushered through with complimentary passes! Some women had  never been to Butchart Gardens, while others had been last Christmas. There was much chatter during the van ride from Cridge to the Gardens, as we prepared the first-timers for how beautiful it was. There was a buzz of excitement as we made our way through the parking lot and into the Gardens.

The Gardens were covered in a dust of snow, which made them all the more magical. For some of the refugee women, this year is the first time they have seen snow. We shared stories of their previous experiences, or lack thereof, with cold weather as we walked through the Sunken Garden. Women were teaching each other the 12 Days of Christmas song… it was an old favourite for many, but a brand new song to quite a few!

One of the biggest gifts of this experience is that it provides women a chance to do something special for themselves alone. Their children are cared for at The Cridge, and they can experience the value of taking time to fully enjoy the Gardens without any concern or distraction. This is often the only time each year that our women have this type of experience, and you can see the joy of that freedom on the faces of each woman that comes. My favourite example of this is when we all jump on the carousel… the playful fun & laughter that these group of grown women experience is wonderful to see!

As we walked out, one of the women (a single mother, who recently came to Canada from East Africa) said to me: “this is the most beautiful place I have ever been.”

Government House shares Christmas with The Home

by Monica Hammond

The time around Christmas was special at the British Columbia Protestant Orphans’ Home. Food, decorations and donations were always in abundance around Christmas. Many service clubs, like the Elks Lodge, the Junior Chamber of Commerce, the Harmony Club, the Salvation Army and the Shrine Club, took part. Even now The Cridge Centre receives support all year long from so many service clubs, and we are very grateful for their help.

Between 1940 and 1960, Government House held an annual Christmas party for the children at The Home. The children would fill out toy lists, and the Lieutenant Governor and his wife would buy a toy for each child so that they had something under the tree at the Government House Christmas party.

One resident remembered Christmas this way: “Christmas was a big event. There were many special times during this season of the year, including a party at Government House with clowns, balloons, candy, presents and a nice supper. . . We hung our stockings on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day Santa arrived handing out all the gifts from under the huge Christmas tree. For deprived children it was an unbelievably happy time and we had corn flakes for breakfast.”

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.

Changed Lives at Cridge Transition House for Women

by Marlene Goley

Our “No wrong door” approach sometimes just means hanging in there with a woman at Cridge Transition House for Women.

Recently, we had a woman and her two children staying with us – I’ll call her Ramona.  Ramona’s husband and the father of her children, was frightening and dangerous.  Ramona had endured years of his abuse and it had left her very reluctant to trust anyone.  It was a hard 30 days for her.  Several times she announced she just couldn’t stay at the house and had to leave.  Each time, staff talked to her and helped her trust us a little more, and to trust her decision to leave.

Ramona hung in there, often seemingly reluctantly. Staff hung in there with her – reassuring her, encouraging her, and letting her know that the roller coaster of feelings she was experiencing was normal.  Ramona found a new place and when she left CTHW she left us a letter. We had no idea of the impact we had on Ramona and her children.  She told us that they were all so frightened to walk through our metal gate to what they saw as an uncertain future.  Then she went on to say how her children relaxed and got to be kids again with the encouragement of loving staff and “lots and lots of toys”!  She told us it meant so much to be able to cry her tears and learn that she wasn’t alone.  She said we changed their lives.

Ramona and every woman and child that comes to CTHW change our lives, too. We learn over and over how important it is for women and children to have a safe place, how healing acceptance and understanding can be, and how important it is too just hang in there even when we think we are not making a difference.


A Special Christmas Gift in 1909

by Monica Hammond

“In December 1909, the Home received a generous gift from Mr. J.M. Britton, a Seattle man who had made money in timber on Vancouver Island’s West Coast.” Mr. Britton told Mr. Ross, the owner of the food store Dixi Ross & Co to “go ahead and fix them [the orphans] up a Christmas dinner that’ll make their teeth water.”

And Mr. Ross did just that. “He supplied turkeys, candies, nuts, fruit, cakes, pudding, jams, vegetables of every kind, and cranberry sauce.” Mr. Britton paid for it all, including the cooks who made the Christmas meal and the people who cleaned up afterwards. He even sent a gift of cash to each person who worked at the orphanage.

From the early days of The Home, up to the present day, the kindness of the people in the Victoria community has enriched the lives of everyone who uses the services offered through what is now The Cridge Centre for the Family. We are truly blessed.

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.

The First Building Project 1883

by Monica Hammond

In 1881, the orphanage building needed repairs. Its roof was re-shingled and other repairs were done, at a cost of $50. This was a lot of money in those days. For example, it cost $50 to care for one orphan for six months in 1881. The building was wearing out, and could no longer fit the number of children who needed a home. A new building was needed.

On July 28, 1883, 40 members of the Masonic Fraternity of Victoria paraded through the streets of downtown Victoria to lay the Home’s new cornerstone.

The new Home was officially opened on November 29, 1883, on the site of the original building at the corner of Rae and Blanshard Streets.

Photo: Orphans and matron outside the BC POH’s Rae Street building, c1880 (BC Archives B-01570)


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.