First Christmas in Canada

Would you agree that Christmas is a favourite holiday? We start planning in July, decorating in November, sending invitations and buying gifts right after Thanksgiving. So much joy! 

We don’t always remember that for some people Christmas might be a different experience. Have you ever asked yourself how new immigrants and refugees feel at their first Christmas in Canada?

What is it like to move to a new country for a mom with five children, only to find herself isolated, lonely and dependant on an abusive husband? This was the story of one of our women who felt overwhelmed and hopeless. She had just ended a long relationship with her abusive husband, had no job and felt so vulnerable. And the Christmas season just added to the pressure. Her children, inspired by beautifully decorated malls and streets, assumed that Christmas was magic and were waiting for all their dreams to come true, now that they were in Canada. Her children wanted a room full of presents – toys, clothes, and decorations — everything they lost or never had back home that was burned down by war. 

A mother, pressured and overwhelmed, asked her Cridge support worker what should she do? She felt guilty for depriving her children of the joy of Christmas. So she wish-listed every single item of the list her children wrote to Santa (and it was a long list!). How surprised and relieved she felt when every single item from that list was purchased by generous donors from The Cridge Hamper Donor program and her children had their room full of gifts and a real Canadian Christmas!

 

This Christmas season, remember those who are less fortunate than you and share your Christmas joy by making a difference in someone else’s life. If you want to become a secret Santa for our families, email hampers@cridge.org for more information.

By sharing your love, you help children and adults and give them a little (or big) Christmas miracle.

 

This story was shared with us by a manager of The Cridge Supportive Housing. Some details of this story were altered to protect the identity of the family. 

Why Give This #GivingTuesday?

After the shopping frenzy of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it is a great time to remember those who are vulnerable and in need of our help. #GivingTuesday was created when two organizations came together in 2012 to set aside a day that was all about celebrating the generosity of giving.

This #GivingTuesday, we want to raise awareness of a problem that goes unnoticed and that some of our low-income families are facing monthly. When a family is big and resources are scarce, the grocery budget is most likely to be reduced. According to The Mustard Seed’s Spring 2018 report, 27% of all individuals accessing food bank services are youth and children. Food banks, like the Mustard Seed Street Church, provide much-needed help but sometimes it is not enough. School breakfast programs, like the one at our Childcare program, provide additional support. It helps families to stretch their budget and to ensure their children do not skip the most important meal of the day. Access to affordable and nutritious meals is essential for active and healthy lives. Access to affordable and regular meals helps with better grades, better mental health and overall well-being.

This Giving Tuesday we ask you to support our families with an unexpected gift. Donate a grocery card to a vulnerable family in need. Help us to stop the cycle of hunger!

To donate use cridge.org/donate/grow145 or add “Giving Tuesday campaign” in the comments section of the donation page. With your help, we can make this season merrier!

Why Do We Need to Remember This Remembrance Day?

This November, like every year, I see people wearing a red poppy on the streets of Victoria: old and young. A stranger asked me one day – is it your city’s symbol, the red flower everyone wears around? I felt sad. Perhaps, we don’t remember anymore – we don’t recognize symbols.

Symbols are different. In Canada, we wear a red poppy; in Post-Soviet republics – they wear a Ribbon of St. George – a symbol of Victory in the Second World War. But no matter the symbol we carry, we must remember the soldiers and civilians who sacrificed their lives for peace and the freedom of future generations.

At The Cridge Centre, we have a story that we hold especially close to our hearts. The story is about a nameless man in World War 1 and his sacrifice for the sake of a peaceful future. You have probably seen old photos where men were sitting in trenches in the rain and snow, waiting for the attack to come. One man who was waiting to get up and run held his bayonet and prayed. He suspected he wouldn’t survive the attack – so he wrote his last will on a piece of paper and stuck it in his helmet.

He was found dead on the battlefield shortly after. This man named wrote that The BC Protestant Orphans’ Home was his home and the only family he had and left all of his savings to support other orphans. He remained unnamed in history but is still remembered and honoured along with the other young men who served and were lost.

Let’s promise ourselves to remember those who gave the most valuable gift of all – the chance to live. Let’s promise to remember – but not only one day of the year. Let’s remember when having a cozy meal with friends and family; when going for a walk along the ocean on a warm sunny day; when seeing the first blossoms of the spring. Let’s remember and let’s be grateful! Lest we forget!

By Marina B.

Do We Remember?

At this time of the year, we often use the phrase ‘lest we forget’ – but perhaps we should ask ‘do we remember’? It may well be that this change of emphasis is not precisely relevant to our thinking. And yet, might it not raise the profile of our private journeys of Remembrance?

Do we remember those countless thousands, seemingly invisible civilians who were lost in appalling air-raids, those homeless multitudes wandering the devastated countries of our destruction, the patient quiet of all these who, at the very least, supported, even encouraged, our Services in the conflicts of the last century?
And just who are ‘they’? They are the Civilians whose unremitting, often invisible, service gave very many of us the privilege of today’s Remembrance. Their generosity, hope and confidence in the cause as each deemed it to be.
May we keep faith with respect and service in our remembering.
Let us love one another!

By: A senior citizen who served her country

A Good Life after Brain Injury at Mary Cridge Manor

By Greg Goldberg

After I sustained a traumatic head injury, I wanted to do something important to give back to other head injury survivors. Throughout the years, The Cridge Centre for the Family Brain Injury Services has given back to several brain injury survivors and communities by paying it forward with creating The Bluesheet Clubhouse, a support group for head injury survivors in Victoria, BC.

With their help, The Bluesheet Clubhouse is a support group we started eight years ago to provide education, social and physical needs to head injury survivors at Mary Cridge Manor. This support group does a wide variety of activities on a weekly basis from physical outings, social events, book clubs and puzzle creations. There is still much more that can and will be done, but here is what we have been up to recently.

As brain injury and stroke survivors we are always busy creating, developing and working with our projects to better others and ourselves.

Our latest project produced by The Bluesheet Synapse Gang is a new podcast called ‘Time to Talk Traumatic Brain Injury.’ focusing on living a productive and quality life after sustaining a head injury or stroke. The objective of this podcast is to provide other survivors with the opportunity to listen and learn from individuals who are travelling or have travelled the road of recovery post injury.

The brain injury survivors producing this podcast are having fun, socializing, improving their language, technical, communication and cognitive skills and giving back to the community. These survivors are on the air, while on their own flight path to recovery. Our motto for the Bluesheet Clubhouse is “Working with and Giving back to others”.

Some of our recent projects that were of great success included one this summer called ‘The Bump Cap Campaign’ Here we donated to golfers and maintenance staff at several golf courses Victoria (Mount Doug, Henderson, Prospect Lake, Cedar Hill and Uplands) 5 Bump Caps each to use for the safety of staff and guests to try. This bump cap uses a lightweight, protective shell that makes the stylish cap comfortable to use but also hard enough to protect their head is right on par with local golfers and maintenance crew safety needs. Bump caps for our campaign were donated by Acklands Grainger Safety Supplies right here in Victoria.

Once a month the members of the Bluesheet Clubhouse, are still producing challenging and fun jumble puzzles that the entire community of Victoria enjoys. These word jumbles are published in our local Mind X Magazine. It is available on newsstands across the city. A variety of our self-created word jumbles are used for every issue.

For us, making these word jumbles are a great way to improve our cognitive functioning after a brain injury and also help develop new and fun relationships with other Mary Cridge Manor residents.

Speaking of Jumbles, once a week, our Bluesheet team visits The English Learning Centre on The University of Victoria Campus to facilitate ‘Giant Word Winder’. This is a huge board game given to us by David L Hoyt (the most published puzzle make in North America) after he was informed and saw many of the jumbles that our head injury survivors were producing, publishing and using for their language and cognitive development.

International students from around the world are now enjoying learning the English language using this interactive game with other English language learners and our club’s head injury survivors. Our members of the Blue Sheet Club facilitate this game with a vast amount of players from around the world. Everyone is enjoying themselves socializing and learning all about new cultures from others happy to share.

As well as all of these activities, there is always fun and learning to have at our weekly Clubhouse gathering. Socializing while sharing snacks and stories over the hour always fills the room with laughter and smiles.

We are happy to take advantage of events happening around our community. This year’s clubhouse is filled with sports fans and we continue to go to many sports events across the city. The Victoria Royals, UVIC Basketball teams and The Victoria Shamrocks have given us complimentary tickets for the gang to go and check out lots of the live action. For the survivors to have the opportunity to go and see these games live is a real treat.

The Clubhouse makes its own fun as well. Monday Movie Nights, Karaoke contests, photography outings, theatre visits, crab fishing trips and gatherings just to be together made for a special place for survivors to participate, socialize, learn, smile and have fun living a productive and healthy life once again.

 

To learn more about The Cridge Brain Injury Program click here.

 

When Compassion Meets Innovation: A Cridge Respite & Respitality Story

By Candace Stretch, Manager of The Cridge Supportive Housing & Family Services

The Cridge Respite & Respitality Services are all about caring for the caregiver. These two companion programs help stressed-out, worn-out parents, who are raising children with special needs or a mental health diagnosis, take a meaningful break. For the past several years, two amazing women- Mimi Davis & Gyneth Turner- have worked together to provide Respite & Respitality Services to families with a wonderful blend of compassion and innovation.

Twenty years ago, Mimi’s heart of compassion for caregivers led her to create The Cridge Respitality Program. She reached out to local business owners and shared stories of burnt-out caregivers in our community with them. Moved by Mimi’s deep care for parents, hotel after hotel, restaurant after restaurant, and business after business donated their services to families. Through her love, empathy and support, Mimi left an indelible impression on the parents she served, and on the Respite and Respitality Services that she believed in so deeply.

Seven years ago, the Respite & Respitality services encountered a beam of light and energy in the form of Gyneth Turner! Gyneth’s experience in the hospitality industry and her passion for using technology to help families were invaluable. She brought new ideas about how we could maximize our resources. Through this innovation, Respite & Respitality Services were able to expand to serve double the number of parents!

The unique combination of compassion and innovation that we found in these wonderful staff members has transformed Respite & Respitality. Mimi entered her well-deserved retirement in December, and Gyneth will embark on a new career path in October. We wish them each the very, very best. We have been so blessed to have this Dream Team serving our families, and we value the legacy of compassion and innovation that will continue to shape these vital programs!

Learn more about The Cridge Respite and Respitality Services here.

Rock Hunting Adventures 2019

By Angela Brunwald, The Cridge Childcare Services

Do you know the best way to spend summer? The Cridge Childcare children have been participating in the Sooke to Sidney Rock Hunt (SS Rock Hunt for short) all summer using The SS Rock Hunt Facebook page. Rock Hunt means finding and painting rocks with acrylic paint. After rocks are painted and dry, we take them with us when we go on field trips. Our children hide the rocks in the community for everyone else to find. One 5-year-old told me that “when people find our rocks it makes them very happy!”

We love making people around us happy. Let me share with you some of the stories:

In July, we hid 6 rocks around the grounds at Fort Rodd Hill.  The same day, we asked our followers of Facebook to find them. We received: “My granddaughter was at Fort Rodd Hill the other day and found her very first rock at the lighthouse!!  She was thrilled to bits!!  She brought it home and wants to keep it – I hope the artist doesn’t mind?”

At Island View Beach Hi-5’s hid 6 rocks along the beach. They watched as one adult and three children found a few of our hidden rocks. Our children were excited watching them! “I guess we just made their day”, one of Hi-5’s said.

In August, we hid a few rocks at Beckwith Water Park. Later, the same evening on the SS Rock Hunt website I found a photo of a little boy holding one of our rocks. The note said that he found the rock (all by himself!) at Beckwith. His mom shared that the little guy’s name is James and he’s almost 3. He’s actually been carrying it around the house all morning so the joy continues.

Hi-5’s have found a few rocks themselves at different locations. They were VERY VERY excited when they discovered rocks hidden all around The Cridge Childcare building! A BIG thanks to whoever hid the rocks for Hi-5’s to find!

What a great way to get the children looking & hunting for exciting things in our community… Do you want to join us in Rock Hunting? Share this story and go for a hunt! We would love to see and hear about your rock hunt adventures!
Happy Painting & Hunting!

Angela 🙂

A Childcare Journey Worth The Taking

By Elisabeth Bomford, School-Age Care/Sunfun Program

“Idiot!”

I was just in the middle of asking which child I was going to be paired with for inclusion for the summer, and before my colleague could answer, my new little buddy made himself known to me!  I walked over and introduced myself, but, like the child, he had just been yelling at, my name didn’t matter. “Idiot!” he screamed back at me.

We talked it out, got a ball returned, and apologized for our language. I say “we” and “our” because immediately it was a team effort.  It had to be, I had to become his best friend, and he quickly became mine. The rest of the day was fine, transitions were difficult, but they always are on the first day of camp.

The next day started more smoothly. On our out-trip to Fort Rodd Hill, we had a great bus ride, sat with friends, ‘played’ guitar, and even took pictures of the scenery. But then we had to eat lunch. To him, that didn’t mean eating lunch; it meant ending play, which was, at the very least, unacceptable. “Stop,” he screamed at me, while I sat cross-legged with his lunch in front of me.

“What am I doing that’s frustrating you?” I asked.

“You’re blocking my hits, and I just want to punch you!”

I almost laughed. It was such a strange transition, from being upset about us needing to eat and sit in the shade, to being upset that I wouldn’t let him hit me.

“I can’t let you hit me, it hurts, but when you’re done, we can eat and start playing again.”

For a while, that became our script. He would run away, and I would stand in his path. He would knock over my block tower; I would ask him to build it back up with me. He would hit a ukulele against the ground, and I would stop singing with him. Give and take, right?

Within a couple of weeks though, there was a shift.

“Can we go play, just you and me?”

“I need to go for a walk.”

“Can we build a tower together?”

Finally, we were becoming a duo. He ate parts of his lunch, and I’d let him crunch my eggshells. He’d narrate a message for mom, I’d write it on a picture he drew. He joined the group art projects, sat with more friends, played more games.

We were both lucky. SunFun 2018 was hot, smoky, and long, but we were both beyond blessed to have the support we needed. The teams at Cridge and Queen Alexandra were full of resources to try, and sometimes discard, but we had fun mixing it up and finding a pattern that worked for us.

Finally, our last week came. I was constantly on the verge of tears, remembering the beginning of our summer and how much had happened since then. Just as I was about to ask another leader to give me a break so I could rinse my teary face, my buddy came up to me. He held out a pool noodle, and I hesitated to grab it. What would it be today? A horse? A sword? A walking stick?

“Hold it to your ear,” he told me. Oh, a telephone.

“What are you going to do? I need you to be gentle with my ears, or they can hurt.”

At this point, he rarely acted out for a reaction. Sometimes though, we did need to be reminded that even playing can hurt someone if they’re not ready.”

“I won’t scream.” He looked up at me, more seriously than I’ve ever been looked at before. “I promise.”

I made a show of raising the ‘phone’ to my ear, and, although I trusted him, got ready to pull it away just in case. He whispered something, but I couldn’t hear it.

“I’m sorry, can you repeat that? It was a teeny bit too quiet for me.”

He looked at me as if I’d asked him to run up Mount Doug. With a sigh, he raised the other end of the pool noodle to his mouth.

“I love you, idiot.”

 

To learn more about SunFun, click here.

Ally’s Story

By Marlene Goley, Manager of The Cridge Transition House and Outreach Services

Ally was 19; she was about to graduate and really wanted to go on to Camosun College.

Ally’s son, Jamie, was a busy, happy 2 ½ year. He had been going to school with his mom and attending the on-site daycare while she had persevered to get her Dogwood Diploma.

Staff in the daycare knew that Ally had no family around her and that her only support was Jamie’s father. They also knew that his support was sporadic and unreliable.  They suspected he was abusive to Ally. They wanted to see her succeed, so encouraged her to call Nicole, The Cridge Young Parent Outreach Worker. They knew that Nicole could pick up where they left off in helping Ally to launch a hopeful future for her and Jamie.

Nicole met Ally at a Tim Horton’s – a frequent meeting place for Nicole and young moms in her program. When Nicole asked Ally if she was safe at home, Ally burst into tears and said she was afraid of Jamie’s father. He was using drugs, spending all of their money, and last night he scared her when he punched a big hole in the wall right beside her head. Nicole talked to Ally about her options, and they started making plans.

For the following year, Ally and Nicole met every week. At first, it was about getting Ally safe.  Then over the next months, Ally relied on Nicole to be her sounding board and her anchor. Ally relied on Nicole’s help to register for Camosun to take the business course she wanted.  Nicole helped her navigate applying for the Single Parent Initiative, daycare subsidy, and finding daycare. She took Ally to a food bank, sourced clothes for both Ally and Jamie, gave her bus tickets when she was short.  And she listened. Ally needed someone to bounce ideas off of, to celebrate her successes, and to prop her up when she was discouraged.

Ally is looking forward to finishing her business diploma and getting a good job.  Nicole is looking forward to staying connected to Ally and Jamie for as long as they need an anchor to stay the course to a bright future.

To learn more about The Cridge Young Parent Outreach Program, click here.

Small Things Make A Difference

Tom came home, fuming. His mom could see his anger as soon as he stepped off the school bus. It took some prodding and time to get it out of him, but eventually, his emotions got the better of him, and his frustration exploded out of him. Tom LOVES grapes. And he was so mad that his grade 4 classmates were chucking grapes at each other during lunch. Tom knew that grapes are expensive because his mom rarely bought them – for Tom, grapes were a huge treat. So seeing his classmates throw them around and squish them underfoot just made him angry. Why could some kids afford to waste grapes when his family couldn’t even afford to buy them? Life was not fair, and Tom was mad.

Sometimes it is the smallest things that make a child aware that they are not as “equal” as their peers – the food in their lunch box, the second-hand clothing, or perhaps not being able to go on a field trip because of the cost. These small things can become very big issues when a child is identified by their peers as being “poor” and are treated differently or bullied as a result, or it can result in the child losing their self-confidence and considering themselves to be less than their peers or even being incapable of success. Small things can become life-changing events for children facing challenges.

At The Cridge Centre Childcare program, we work hard to make sure that all children are loved and supported to reach their full potential. We go out of our way to make sure that children facing barriers are not excluded or defined by their challenge. For example, the breakfast program is for all the kids, not just those who don’t get a healthy breakfast at home. Everyone should get to enjoy grapes!

Giving kids a healthy and secure start to life is one step to growing a stronger community, one precious life at a time. We need your support to make sure that all our children have equal opportunities to grow, learn and thrive. Please give generously to help kids like Tom!

To support children like Tom click donate.