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.

A Recipe for Recovery

Submitted by Janelle Breese Biagioni

Although Matthew Jack looks serious in this photo, his smile will light up a room. Matt began working in the kitchen at The Cridge Centre for the Family in February 2018. His journey to get here was challenging.
On September 30, 2008, Matt was walking to work at the Embassy Inn. It was only his third day on the job as a cook. Prior to this job, Matt had worked as a Sous Chef at the Sticky Wicket for 9.5 years. While walking, Matt suddenly suffered a generalized tonic-clonic seizure and fell to the curb, hitting the back of his head. The hit to Matt’s head resulted in an epidural hematoma (collection of blood that puts pressure on the brain). Matt underwent surgery that day to remove the hematoma. On October 1st, Matt underwent a second craniotomy because of oozing and blood collecting again.
The road to recovery was long. Matt was in a coma for three weeks. When he woke up, his mom was there, and it was the week before his birthday. Although Matt was in and out of consciousness, he recognized the ICU and remembered thinking he was back in “the fishbowl”. At 5 years of age, Matt underwent surgery to treat an abnormal connection between the esophagus and the trachea called a tracheoesophageal fistula. Matt suffered many bouts of pneumonia growing up, so hospital stays in the ICU were not unfamiliar to him.
Over the next three months, Matt worked hard to recover. He suffered from short-term memory, attention, and concentration issues. His balance was impaired, and he struggled with fatigue and word-finding. On Christmas Eve in 2008, Matt was discharged and went home to his family.
Matt’s family is a very close and loving group. He is one of 9 children. Matt’s brother stepped in and found Matt a new place to live which is close to Victoria General Hospital. He and his cat still live in this unit. Matt’s brother lives close by, so he gets to help with his nieces and nephews and help with chores like cutting the grass for his brother and sister-in-law.
Matt knew he wanted to return to cooking. Leonard Regan from Infocus Rehabilitation Services was working with Matt and knew of the Kale King project at the Cridge. With the blessing of Chef Nik, survivors in the Cridge Brain Injury Services adapted Chef Nik’s much-loved Flourless Chocolate Fudge Cookies to include kale to sell at outdoor markets. Leonard made the introduction and Matt joined the team. Not only did Matt become a star baker for the team, he went on to help prepare, cook and serve meals in the Breakfast and Lunch Programs for the Cridge Daycare and Pacific Christian School.
When asked what attracted him to cooking, Matt replied, “I knew since Grade 5 that I wanted to be a cook. At school, we had to do a project that showed what we wanted to do when we left school. I joined in with a group to make chocolate chip cookies. I think I wanted to be in the group because of the number of girls (insert impish grin) but it also sounded like fun. When I came home from school that day, I told my mom that I wanted to bake cookies for the rest of my life. My mom says I was always in the kitchen after that.”
Although our cookie and food program team were sad to see Matt move on, everyone knew Matt could do more and if he stayed where he was, he wouldn’t reach his maximum potential. When a job as the cook came up in the Cridge kitchen, Matt jumped at the chance to apply.
“I love working at the Cridge. I get to do a lot of different things: cooking, baking, and organizing. I also get to be creative and have input. For example, if my duties for the day are making the vegetables, I can prep and cook them any way that I want. I like that.”
Matt sees himself staying with the Cridge for a long time; however, he holds a dream very close to his heart. Matt would like to open his own place and call it Think Café. His menu will be designed to provide the best nutritional sources of fuel for a person’s brain!

I Want To Be a Rocket Ship

Submitted by Marlene Goley, the Manager of Cridge Transition House and Outreach Services.

A woman at Cridge Transition House for Women told a story about when she was a little girl she would tell anyone that asked, that she wanted to be a rocket ship. At first, she was not deterred by adults telling her how impossible this was. But as she grew up, she did abandon her dream as the realities of a difficult childhood and then an emotionally precarious marriage consumed her.
When she came to Cridge Transition House, she was afraid and hopeless. After a few weeks of feeling safe and supported, the memory of wanting to be a rocket ship came back to her. She excitedly reclaimed that powerful feeling of zooming to the stars. For the first time in a long time, she felt in control of her life. She started making plans to go back to school and imagining what her life could become. In her words, she found her “muchness”.
Being a rocket ship can have some setbacks but this amazing woman showed us how it’s done!

Toni’s new life in the kitchen

Story by Dale Breese.

Toni came in today to pick up her paycheque.  She was a client that Cridge Brain Injury Services supported over a year ago. She told me how much she is loving the cooking program with us. She is doing the hot lunches in the school and will be moving over to the markets this summer.  When Toni wakes up each morning, the first thing she thinks about is cooking. She is loving every day!

The most amazing part about this story is that when I met her, her #1 goal was to start cooking meals. She had never cooked a meal since her stroke. She had lost her sense of smell and experienced double vision and was too afraid to cook in case she couldn’t smell it burning or she left the oven on. Now, Toni wakes up thinking about cooking every day. We are so proud of her!

A Life Redesigned

When Mike finally got his pink slip at work, he wasn’t surprised but he was devastated.  He knew that he wasn’t able to do his job properly since his car accident 10 months ago. He knew his time there was coming to an end, however, it didn’t make the blow any easier to take. That was what his last few months had been like – one blow after another. His job was just the last in a long line of losses: his wife and kids, his home, his friends… everything was lost. He knew that he had changed after the accident – he just couldn’t manage things like he used to and it was so frustrating. So scary. So confusing. Mike sat at the bus stop and tried to figure out what he was going to do next – how would he survive? Who would help him get his life back?

The answer is simple: The Cridge Centre.

Mike’s brain injury is unique to him, and yet his story is common. Survivors of brain injury suffer from a physical injury that often results in a string of losses: home, relationships, employment, and sense of self. These losses can result in mental health issues, poverty, addiction and criminal behaviour. Unless Mike receives some support, he will likely end up on the streets, as another homeless person.

The Cridge Brain Injury Services has been supporting survivors of brain injury for the past 25 years, preventing homelessness one life at a time. We provide housing, support, community engagement and the opportunity for retraining and employment.

Your support provides survivors of brain injury with the opportunity to re-engage in their lives and community, to be healthy and productive members of our city and to find dignity and respect.

A Story of Healing Hearts

When Fahad and Mara arrived in Victoria, their faces were blank with exhaustion. The endless flights combined with 2 sick children, had sucked all emotion from their bodies. Or was it the years of fleeing war, of refugee camps, of fear and desperation? Their physical bodies had arrived in their new home, but their hearts had been broken and left behind in their home country. Picking up the pieces and starting over seemed like an insurmountable task. Where would they live? Would they be accepted? Would there be work and a community for them? How would they learn a new language and support their children in becoming Canadians? Who would help them with all these challenges?

The answer is simple: The Cridge Centre.

Over the years we have welcomed many families like Fahad and Mara’s – families that have faced incredible violence, fear, and deprivation. We have seen the brokenness and have welcomed them into our community, providing a home, support and a place to belong. Slowly, over time, we see them healing, learning and finding hope.

One of the first opportunities we offer our refugee families is to have their children placed in our childcare. It gives the parents the chance to concentrate on their mountain of tasks and allows the children a safe and welcoming place to play, learn a new language, and become integrated into Canadian culture. Very often the children learn to speak English first and then help their parents to learn as well. As the children play and make friends, the healing begins. As the parents see their children adapt, hope begins.

Your support is giving hope to a family – and healing the broken pieces.

A Story of Hope

Jenna was more afraid than she had ever been before. Sitting in her car, with her 18-month-old daughter in the back seat at 2 am was not where she wanted to be. Her partner had finally fallen asleep so she was able to grab her daughter and quietly escape the apartment without waking him. Her head was still aching from when he slammed her against the wall… the beating was worse than it had ever been before. What will she do now? Where will she go? How will she support her daughter? How will she ever be safe again? Who will help her?

Jenna’s story is not unusual or even particularly brutal. We meet many “Jennas” who come to us with nothing but the clothes on their backs, afraid and desperate. Sometimes the stories are much worse. The threads that run through the stories are the hopelessness and desperation: WHO WILL HELP?

The answer is simple: THE CRIDGE CENTRE.

Not only will Jenna and her daughter be safe in our transition house, but our staff will also help her develop a safety plan and find housing. Her daughter will have access to our childcare program and Jenna can receive the support of our Young Parent Outreach Worker. She may move into our supportive housing where she can start to rebuild her life in our community. She may also receive support from our Brain Injury program when she realizes that she has sustained an injury from the repeated abuse. Our services and programs will support Jenna – there is no wrong door at The Cridge Centre.

Jenna doesn’t have to be afraid or hopeless or alone anymore. She has The Cridge Centre for the Family standing with her as she starts her journey toward health, safety, and stability.

From the Beginning

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

Young moms find Nicole and the Cridge Young Parent Outreach Program in lots of different ways.  Many are referred early in their pregnancies from midwives, nurse practitioners, or family doctors. They are often alone, unsure of their future and how they will care for a new baby.  Nicole reassures, connects them to resources, and helps them with whatever it is they need to be ready to face the daunting responsibilities ahead of them.  Others have known Nicole for a while and have stayed connected or re-connect when they need a supportive hand through another pregnancy.

However, they find Nicole, whatever the help they need, the connection they make with Nicole is truly special.  Nicole has been requested to be present at births or been called to be one of the first visitors when a new baby arrives.  She spent a lot of the Christmas holidays in the maternity ward at the hospital.  Two young moms had babies on December 25 and another on December 27.  These were followed by births in February, March, and April!  All these new babies were received with joy and love.  Nicole was able to celebrate these births with the new moms.  And for some, she has been able to help them go through with the hard decision to give their baby to an adoptive family.

The stories about the young moms in The Cridge Young Parent Outreach Program are all about the resiliency, courage, and love that is so evident when they launch safe, stable lives for themselves and their children – and is just as evident from the very beginning.

We are so blessed to be included in these precious lives.

Comfort in the Darkest Time

Candace Stretch: Manager of Supportive Housing and Family Services

We have been working with Marianne for several years. When she moved into our housing, she had just left a 20-year abusive relationship and was struggling to overcome the addiction that she had developed as a coping mechanism. There have been many ups and downs on the road to recovery and healing for Marianne, and there were a few times when we weren’t sure that she was going to be able to stick with our program.

Over this past year, Marianne has made significant strides in her journey. She is now connected to a wonderful recovery program and is attending college. Recently, she texted her Dovetail support worker to say: “I love feeling safe and comfortable… you have helped me in my darkest time. Glad you can see the outcome!”


UVic Rowers Making a Difference

By Sarah Molder, a practicum student

Saturday, March 17, 2018 marked the 15th consecutive year of the UVIC Rowers Work Party at The Cridge Centre for the Family. Each year, in collaboration with the Cridge Brain Injury Services program, the University of Victoria Men’s Rowing Team volunteers their manpower to complete landscaping tasks. For the first 12 years, rowers devoted their efforts to landscaping the grounds of MacDonald House, a residential facility for survivors of brain injury. In recent years, the volunteers and team have tackled larger scale projects on the main property of The Cridge Centre for the Family.

This year, with almost 40 energetic rowers in attendance, in collaboration with the Brain Injury Services team and under the direction of Mr. Organic of Friendly Organics (aka Dave Friend), three major garden/landscaping projects were completed in record time.

Project #1. Kale King Garden Reconfiguration

With help from our Brain Injury Survivors, the rowers successfully transformed the garden into a visually appealing and fully functional food growing area, complete with ample growing space and a practical teaching area.

In April each year, the garden is transformed into a learning space for children of the daycare centre. Throughout the spring and summer months, staff and survivors facilitate weekly food growing workshops that educate, encourage, and empower children to learn and connect with organic food growing principles.

In addition to providing valuable learning to children, the garden provides interim employment opportunities for survivors of brain injury who are, as part of their lifelong rehabilitation, taking preparatory steps to achieving employment skills that will benefit them in community-based work settings (punctuality, time management, responsibility, etc.).

Project #2. Daycare Pumpkin Patch

In this part of the project, rowers and our team dug a 12 by 20-foot rainbow-shaped pumpkin patch in front of The Cridge Centre for the Family property. As workers shoveled and hauled dirt out of the patch area, they piled the soil into a neighbouring 3-foot bank that mimicked the pumpkin patch’s rainbow-shape. The idea was to utilize soil dug from the patch to simultaneously build a food-growing area to maximize space for growing and education. Talk about efficient use of resources!

Come October, The Cridge will host a highly anticipated Pumpkin Festival where children can pick and carve their very own pumpkins.

Project #3. Front Lawn Beautification

In the last phase of our work, the team and rowers did a complete restoration of the bush area on the front lawn. Workers trimmed overgrown branches and removed debris and roots obstructing the walkway to spruce up the remaining area.

In closing, we wish to extend a huge thank you to the young men (and one woman) from the UVIC Men’s Rowing Team! Your consistent efforts and enthusiasm for community involvement are highly valued by everyone here at The Cridge Centre for the Family. We look forward to working with you again!

We are especially grateful to David Friend aka Mr. Friendly Organics for on-going support!


From Syria to SunFun: a Story of Hope at The Cridge Centre



In a week where the latest news out of Syria is that chemical nerve agents appear to have been deployed against a civilian population in the province of Idlib, (with children disproportionately among the dead) it is worth reflecting on the little stories of hope and renewal for the Syrian diaspora in our own backyard. One of these stories involves a large extended refugee family – seven children in all – and their experience of the SAC-SunFun program in the summer of 2017.

When the children first came to The Cridge, they were insular and liked to test boundaries and rules – even to misrepresent their comprehension of English when it suited them!  The SunFun leaders were quick to recognize that their shared experience of trauma and fear in Syria and the refugee camps (combined with their familial and cultural bonds) had made them dependent on each other and wary of outsiders, and set about patiently building relationships of trust with the children. This deliberate effort on the part of the leaders, against the background of daily excursions and adventures with SunFun, bore fruit by the end of the summer. One leader reflects that this period may have been the first time the family had been together under such happy circumstances — in which they were free from fear, relaxed, and at peace. Correspondingly, she watched them blossom into outgoing and humorous characters, eager to spend time with the leaders in particular. The positive attention and affirmation gave the leaders credibility with the children which translated into trust in difficult moments. SAC Coordinator Tim Latour recounts one episode from a trip to Youbou, where the children witnessed Royal Canadian Navy divers practicing dropping from a helicopter into the lake. One of the older girls seemed close to a panic attack, but Tim and another leader were able to reassure them and explain that these were the ‘good guys.’ The seven of them ended the day cheering for the divers from the dock!

The socialization of the children was also promoted through their experience of the program. Leaders noted how their language and communication skills improved over the course of the summer. This development was supported by an ESL instructor coming in several times a week to meet with them at the end of the day in the Childcare building. Whereas at the start of the summer the children would often act out in frustration instead of asking for help or mediation, by the end they were comfortable enough and confident enough to approach the leaders with their needs, wants, and problems.

Perhaps most importantly, the children and their families increasingly came to see Canada as home. One leader recalls playing catch with one of the girls and looking up to see her father at the top of the hill laughing with joy at the spectacle! Another remembers one of the older boys on the drive up to Youbou staring wistfully out the window at sprawling green farmland and stating: ‘One day, I will live here.’ Those leaders who have been lucky enough to be responsible for pickups and drop-offs at Quadra Elementary this school year have been greeted not just with hellos, smiles, and hugs from all the cousins but with the sight of the children continuing to realize they are not just welcome here, they belong here.

In the midst of the horror the headlines out of Syria inundate us with, and our seeming helplessness in the face of the terrible human cost of the ongoing conflict, we can take heart in the fact that The Cridge Centre for the Family quietly goes about making a difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable victims of that conflagration. Truly, The Cridge community is a place of security, hospitality and care for those who need it most, a place where children and adults alike are encouraged to flourish. It is a place where the love of Jesus Christ is indeed manifest, and seeds of hope are sown in a broken world.

Respectfully submitted,

Simon Teague

School Age Care and SunFun Worker