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.

The Cridge Nursery Then and Now

Hello, my name is Brenda, and I have volunteered to write a short article about The Cridge Nursery, which happens to be a part of my own story. This is my third time working here over the last 32 years, and it is interesting to reflect upon what is different and what has remained the same. I am also thinking about the stages and events of one’s life and all the programs and opportunities available here. A lot of development has been happening in the field of early childhood education. Also, parenting styles have changed over the last three decades. The reasons for choosing to work here are both personal and very much about being a part of something bigger than yourself mostly though it comes back to being about the people.

What is different between the 1980s and now? The biggest thing would be maternity leaves increasing from six months to a year. It was tricky at times to juggle the needs of infants and crawlers and walkers all in the same playroom, but I still had the energy to attend evening classes for my Infant/Toddler Diploma with “Joy Joy” (Joy Smith). The nursery program expanded from a classroom in the main building to a renovated townhouse which now houses programs for families. One of the first babies there was Paula’s West-Patrick’s son Matthew. Paula was also an infant-toddler care provider at the time, and now these many years later is the Manager of Children’s Services for The Cridge Centre.

I got married the same month as Janine Davies in 1991 (who has worked for The Cridge since 1988 herself) and moved on to new adventures including parenthood. As my son and daughter reached school age, I was ready to return first as the kitchen/laundry/lunch relief assistant and eventually as the Preschool teacher. After watching the new childcare building go up, it was exciting to move into a beautiful new classroom. My former Wiseways Preschool boss Mimi Davis was in the boardroom next door with the Respitality program. As a bus driver, there were many field trips for preschool and daycare, and occasional school drop-offs and pickups to help out. When I subbed during summers, my children attended a few weeks of High 5’s with Angela Brunwald and Marianne Jacques or SunFun with Sarah Smith and crew. My working helped us buy a house for my fortieth birthday, which led to a decade of daycare in my home.

Now my family daycare babies are in school, and my twenty-somethings are happier living in an adult-focused home. After taking a 6-month break to deal with some middle age health issues, friends at The Cridge encouraged me to try relief work. I am settling in nicely, not only am I caring for former children’s children, but even some coworkers were children formerly in my care! I look around the daycare and main office and other programs today and see many familiar faces. I am loving the freedom of subbing in a busy multicultural, multiage, diversely socio-economic organization. It’s a great place to hang out for a few years and work on my future Grandma skills.

To learn more about The Cridge Childcare Services click here.

Small Things Make a Big Difference

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

Imagine being 12 years old and fleeing to a transition house with your mom.  You are relieved to be away from your dad’s scary, angry outbursts. But now you are in a strange house, sharing a room with your mom, and parachuting into a new school – who knows for how long.  Everything in your world is upside down.

There is a bright spot, though.  Your new school is great, and the kids and teachers are lovely.  And – best of all, the end-of-year camping trip is coming up. Even though you’ve only been in the class for a couple of weeks, you’re invited to go along. Everyone in your class is talking about how fun it’s going to be.

What you don’t know, and don’t need to know is that because you haven’t been a part of the fundraising all year, your mom needs to pay the whole cost of the trip.  You don’t need to know that your mom has no way to come up with this kind of money, has asked CTHW for help, and thanks to the generous donors that make a small contingency fund possible, a cheque was made out and delivered to your school.  All you need to know is that you are going camping with your class, and you can join in the excitement of having some “kid fun.”

This is a small thing in your 12-year-old world filled with adult worries.  But what you’ll learn is that it’s the little things that will help you through.

To learn more about The Cridge Transition House for Women.

A Welcoming Space

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

The impact of having a designated Young Parent Outreach Program space where Nicole can gather with her young moms and their children has been incredible. Moms drop by to go through the clothing donations. On Thursdays, the Music Group is a big draw and moms linger afterward to gather up food picked up from the Food Share Program. Nicole and Moms enjoy having more space to meet and connect and to get applications done. Moms can come and “settle.” Space has even impacted our youngest clients. A mom dropped by with her 3-year-old little girl to go through donations and pick up some food. The 3-year-old ran into the new Young Parent Outreach Program space, threw out her arms and said, “This space is so wonderful!” How awesome to have a space to welcome them all!

Valentine’s Dinner for Seniors

A few times a year we have a very special dinner with our residents – a Candlelit Dinner in December, a Mother’s Day Dinner and Valentine’s Dinner.

For these occasions, we break with the norm and order linens for the tables, flowers, chocolates for each place setting and have a menu printed up for each table.

The menu, which is always excellent, is bumped up a notch or two as well, and wine is served for those who would like it.

Everyone enjoys the extra fanfare –  staff setting the tables have fun preparing for the event, residents get dolled up in their fanciest clothes, the cooks work so hard to prepare a fantastic meal, and there is a generally festive atmosphere.  The gasps from the residents and their guests when they walk into the beautiful room are so heartwarming to hear and certainly makes all the extra work worth every second.

I received this card from a family member of a resident today: “As I was walking past the dining room, I had to smile. The tables were being set for dinner. The table settings were a marvel: homemade paper flowers and napkins in hues of pink. I know how hard you all work to involve your seniors – to give them a sense of fun, to care for their health and their spirits, and to let them know – in so many ways – that this is a special place they call home.”

A special place called home? I honestly don’t think we could do any better than that.

 

To learn more about The Cridge Centre Services visit cridge.org

Difficult Choices

By Joanne Linka, Manager of Communication and Fund Development

There are times when parents need to make difficult choices. Choices about schools, caregivers, access to digital media, or diet. The decisions are pretty much never ending – some easier than others, but always more to be made. For many of our families, the decisions are often either/or decisions. Do I buy fresh fruit or pay for my child to go on a school field trip? New shoes or cold medicine for the 5-year-old? A bus pass to get to work or a birthday present for the 10-year-old? These are hard decisions in the no-win situation of living in poverty.

Recently one of our families had to make an extremely difficult decision. Would they pay for childcare for their child with special needs OR pay for essential medical care for their other child that isn’t covered under our medical services? How does a parent choose between the real and significant needs of their children?

It is in situations like this that we are grateful and honoured to be able to step in and offer a helping hand. Supporting that family with the costs of medical care was an obvious solution that would help both children get what they need and remove the stress of financial worry from the parents. In the grand scheme of things, it wasn’t a massive amount of money – but it had an enormous impact on that family. Being able to share our resources and offer support to people in need is just one of the things that The Cridge Centre does with a great deal of joy and gratitude.

To support any of The Cridge Centre programs click here.

Christmas Generosity

By Joanne Linka, Manager of Communication and Fund Development

Imagine leaving your war-torn country, your extended family, your home and job – leaving it all to hope for a better life here in Canada. Imagine travelling all that way with two small children, unsure what you were travelling towards, but hoping for safety and security. Imagine struggling to learn a new language and culture, all while looking for housing, schools, and a place to belong. Imagine that a year or so later, just when life starts to feel almost normal again, you start to notice angry looks from your neighbours and a sense of animosity from your landlord. He says that your children are too noisy and that you need to look for a new place to live, in a city where there are few affordable units for a family of 5. Imagine the fear and stress – not knowing if you and your family will be homeless and insecure again.

This is a story that we have heard on more than one occasion – families facing immense stress as they try to rebuild their lives in Victoria. We see fear, isolation and hopelessness in their faces as they struggle to overcome all the barriers that are facing them. One of our families came to us with this need in November. They were desperate and afraid, not sure who to turn to for help. As we worked through the issues with them, we realized that in the midst of the stress of dealing with housing, they were not going to be able to provide a Christmas for their children.

Enter in an incredibly generous family, committed to making Christmas special for one of our families.  This family had decided to forgo giving gifts to each other, and instead provide gifts for a family in need. And provide they did! In an incredible outpouring of generosity, they bought gifts for the children and parents, gift cards for stores and services – even a gift card for a local restaurant so that mom and dad could have a date night. They came with boxes of treats and wrapping paper and bows – everything packed with love and care and words of support.

We were honoured to receive this bounty from the donor and then to pass it on to the family. It was an experience of pure joy for us to see the generosity of the donor and the immense gratitude of the family. There were tears, wonder and humble gratefulness from everyone concerned. And that is what Christmas is all about.

 

To become a donor click here.

Why I am a Respite Care Provider

By Susie Scott, Child and Youth Support Worker

Because of THOSE times. Those times when you can see, hear and feel just how much the care providers need a break; so that they can be their best as care providers.

Those times when I know, he is getting a much-needed break at the same time.

Those times when I know, I am helping to relieve stress and provide care. But — it is the relationships I have built that matter the most. What started as a respite position for me has evolved into a deep-rooted friendship.

 

I have been a respite care provider for the same family for the past five years. His foster family is able to go on much-needed breaks and vacations, knowing that a capable and caring worker is there in their place. He can get the time-outs he needs: go to the beach, look at spiders, play video games, or go on bike rides (even for Ride for Refuge)! After all these years, it is still a rewarding part of my life.

I look forward to our times together. I am happy to see him grow and mature. I am happy to see the family unit have the space needed to be cheerful and stress-free.

I am happy to call him family. I am happy to help.

To learn more about the Cridge Respite Services.

No Wrong Door Story: Safety and Mathematics

By Marlene Goley, Manager of The Cridge Centre Transition House for Women

Police gave Cindy the number for Cridge Transition House for Women (CTHW) after they arrested her boyfriend for assaulting her and threatening to kill her. She came to CTHW traumatized and terrified about what her future would be.

How would she stay safe when he was released? How would she manage to support herself working a minimum wage job? Who could she turn to when all her family and friends lived far away?

CTHW staff helped her figure out a safety plan and how to take back control of her life.  Cindy found a new apartment that she could afford with the help of the Homelessness Prevention Program (HPP) funds that CTHW has to distribute.  She was inspired by another resident staying at the transition house to go back to school so she could get a better paying job.

Cindy left CTHW determined, focused and with a plan.  Beata, CTHW Outreach Worker, stayed in touch with her for ongoing support and to keep her connected to the Homelessness Prevention Program.

Cindy enrolled in a trades program.  It was a big leap of faith for her, and she was really nervous about passing her first math course.  Beata has taken on many “other duties as may be required” in her job as an Outreach Worker. This time it included being a math tutor!  It just so happens that Beata was a mathematician in her first career. Cindy aced her course!

Not only did Cindy pass at the top of her class, but she also found confidence in herself that had been buried for a long time.  She and Beata are still connected, but Cindy is feeling confident enough to forge ahead without further tutoring right now.

Cindy is safe and working towards a secure future.  We are so blessed to have been a part of this remarkable woman’s journey.

To learn more about the Cridge Transition House for Women.

Neil Henderson – A Helping Hand in the Community and the Forest

Submitted by Janelle Breese Biagioni, The Cridge Centre Brain Injury Services.

Neil Henderson has been a contractor in the Cridge Brain Injury Services for approximately four years. He came to us with a passion for serving and helping those, who live with the outcome of a brain injury. He didn’t choose this as being something he just thought would be rewarding – he chose it because he understood it in a way that most others wouldn’t. Neil suffered a brain injury at nine years old when he was hit by a car while riding a bike. Neil knows firsthand the struggles a survivor faces when working to recover from what can be a devastating and often, lifelong challenge.

As a Community Support Worker, Neil works with our most complex clients. These clients have all suffered a brain injury. Some struggle with the additional challenges of mental health issues and/or addictions. Some are involved in the criminal justice system and require support to ensure they meet conditions in the community. All of them benefit from having a worker who is focussed on building strategies and coping mechanisms to help them move life forward in the most meaningful way possible. Neil can meet these needs by quickly building trust with our clients and meeting them “where they are at in life” with a sense of commitment, understanding, and acceptance. The clients we serve in the community thrive under Neil’s care.

Earlier this year, Neil was honoured at the VIHA Heart of Victoria Awards as the first non-VIHA worker for his dedication and passion to his work with vulnerable and complex adults in the community, who live with a variety of challenges such as addiction, homelessness and involvement with the criminal justice system.

This summer, Neil stepped up to offer his services and was deployed to Burns Lake as to assist in saving our province from the devastating wildfires with BC Wildfire Services.

To learn more about Brain Injury Services click here.

Having Fun TOGETHER Matters

By Gyneth Turner, Respite & Respitality Services

Somewhere along the line, our family stopped having fun together because it was very hard to actually have fun. Outings always seemed to end up in disappointment, tears, and tantrums. Picnic at the beach? Pass. Family birthday dinner? Sorry, we are “busy.” Check out the cool new exhibit at the museum? Yah, no.

Our oldest son has an Autism diagnosis, and my husband and I are fully committed to devoting the time, resources, and patience he needs to live his best life; we wouldn’t have it any other way. To do that we both realized that we needed a break from caregiving pretty early in our parenting journey. We did date nights twice a month, and we each took a day for ourselves once a month.  But fun together as a family seemed out of our reach. All of our attempts to do fun stuff as a family was just too much work and not much fun. All this changed after I went to a respite workshop with a friend in Seattle. The workshop leader asked us to look at respite in a new way. She challenged us to see respite not just as time away from the person we cared for, but time with them without the caregiving. She asked us to use our imaginations:

I wondered, what would it be like to go to a family dinner and not have to leave early because we pushed the envelope too hard and Evan was DONE and having a melt-down and Alex was in tears over leaving before birthday cake and presents? What would it be like to go to the Fall Fair and see both kids get to enjoy the day in the way that worked for them? What would it be like to pack a picnic, get kids ready, enjoy the day and get home all without becoming so exhausted and stressed that I wanted to cry?

I realized I was envious of families who have fun together. To me, a family who had fun together was a family who was thriving, and I saw our family as just surviving. Then the workshop leader challenged us to brainstorm how we could make our dream vision of respite possible.

Today, respite looks a lot different for our family. My husband and I still take time as a couple, and we schedule in some alone time now and then. But we both agree the best “rest” we get is fun together with our kids. We have a respite care provider, Karen, who helps us with the preparations, so we aren’t done before we’ve begun. Karen comes to family parties and helps our son manage the busy, loud environment, and if need be, takes him home early allowing us to stay longer if we want to. Last month we went to the Fall Fair, and Karen made getting ready and out of the house a breeze. We looked at the animals together, then Karen and Evan went home for a few hours of quiet time while we did the midway rides with Alex. Karen and Evan came back for dinner and some music in the evening. It was such a great day for all of us – we had FUN TOGETHER!

To learn more about Respite Services and ways to support the program click here.