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.

The Joy of Nature

Submitted by Tanya Kuhn, Nature Preschool Teacher

I have worked with children with special needs for over fifteen years. I have worked in traditional classrooms, Reggio Emilia classrooms, in the schools from kindergarten to grade twelve, and in daycare. Five years ago, The Cridge Centre for the Family’s Preschool program transitioned from a traditional indoor program to a nature-based one. I will admit that I was skeptical regarding what this transition would mean for the children with diverse abilities that I work with.

This is what I have discovered. In Nature Preschool we have taken the idea of play-based learning to the extreme. We believe in long periods of free and uninterrupted exploration. It allows the children with diverse abilities take the time they need to work on the skills that they find difficult while engaging with their friends and enjoying the play. I had one student that was working diligently on his fine motor skills. In his intervention program, he would be working with a crayon and paper but very much disliked the activity. In Nature Preschool, he sought out opportunities to colour and paint on vertical surfaces, namely the sides of rocks and decorating trees. Same skill — a different level of enjoyment. Another child worked with his physiotherapist to learn how to walk up and down the stairs, whereas at Nature Preschool this child developed core muscle strength by regularly walking up and down large rocks.

Lastly, I believe the most important things that happen in Nature Preschool are the friendships. When children are enjoying fresh air and sunshine, exploring the world in a way that is meeting their individual needs their social interactions are effortless. Kids talk more when they are moving. They cooperate when they have to accomplish difficult tasks. I see so many more friendships develop while working in Nature Preschool compared to any other class I have worked in before. The children treat each other as equals. Differences in abilities disappear. It is heart-warming!

To learn more about The Cridge Nature Preschool

Go Play Outside!

My Respitality Night

By Gyneth Turner, Respite and Respitality Coordinator

My overnight bag is packed; I hope I remembered to pack at least a spare pair of undies and my book. I can always grab a toothbrush from hotel housekeeping, right? I send a quick text to the babysitter to check her ETA. I am counting the minutes now…

I wanted to check-in early, but my son’s inhalers are suddenly MIA – missing in action. There is no way I can leave him with a babysitter overnight and not have at least two on hand. So maybe the hotel will offer a late check-out? I make the required trip to the pharmacy.

The list of necessary reminders is on the fridge, I have also texted the list to Amanda, but the handwritten one on the fridge is the back-up in case her phone battery dies. I’m all about the back-up, I have Plan B’s for everything. The list is next to the list of primary phone numbers for her to call if she needs help, but mine is the one at the top, and to be honest, I want her to call me first. I must be there if my son has a problem. There is a good chance that I will get called and need to come home.

John’s dinner is in the fridge, along with snacks, breakfast, and tomorrow’s lunch. I know that Amanda could prepare it for him, but I just have not had the time to show her how, so I did it last night at around midnight. John has so many life-threatening allergies and food aversions that crafting the meals he needs is time-consuming and challenging. He has a gruelling surgery in three weeks, and it is important that he does not lose any more weight.

I am so pleased that John is crazy about Amanda! For the first time since his 6 month stint at Vancouver Children’s Hospital 2 years ago, he is ok with being away from me overnight. Being a single parent means that I am always “on duty.” Being John’s single parent means I am responsible for keeping him alive. It sounds dramatic, and of course, all parents are responsible for keeping their kids alive. For John and I the difference is that his allergies could kill him, an asthma attack could kill him, a seizure could kill him. He needs constant vigilance, medications & interventions to prevent his death – 24/7.

A soft knock at the door and Yay! Amanda has arrived! John looks at me, and we communicate without words, I kiss his forehead, “love you,” I say. Ten minutes of chat with Amanda later and I am in my car.

My Night Out

No phone call comes from Amanda.

I sip red wine in a bubble bath, I watch a movie, I remembered my toothbrush, I read my book. Best of all, I sleep all night with no interruptions in a king size bed with fresh sheets. I open my gift basket and play solitaire with a deck of cards, I eat one of the Rogers’ Chocolates – maple nut. I sleep in and order room service breakfast; they even put a rose on the little service table. I read some more, I call home, everything is fine they tell me, they are having fun, don’t rush home. I check-out early in the afternoon and drive home, stopping for gas and groceries. I plan to make a favourite of John’s for dinner, it’s one of my favourites too.

It was only one night, but I feel refreshed and ready to face another day… week … month of caregiving for my precious son.

To learn more about the Cridge Respitality program and ways to help visit

 Heart Attacks at Cridge Transition House

Written by Marlene Goley.

Kathy is a wise and creative social work student who did her 4th-year practicum at Cridge Transition House for Women. She observed all the residents working hard to get housing applications done, applying for income assistance, dealing with lawyers and the legal system, and doing the millions of other tasks needed to launch a new life free of violence.  Kathy observed how hard staff were working to keep everyones’ To Do List updated and being immersed in all the busyness.  With her fresh perspective, she also saw what was missing – taking a little time to appreciate and encourage each other.  That’s when the Heart Attacks started.

Each week, Kathy cut out paper hearts and chose which resident most needed a Heart Attack. Then she handed out the paper hearts to all the other residents and staff and asked us to write a little note of encouragement or appreciation on our hearts.  She gathered them all up and then taped them to the recipient’s bedroom door. Each recipient was delighted to see her door covered in hearts and read all the uplifting and encouraging messages.  The hearts remained on the door until the resident left, taking her hearts with her.

Kathy successfully completed her practicum in early July.  Responsibility for the Heart Attacks has been eagerly taken on by one of our amazing volunteers.  We are so grateful to Kathy for all she did during her practicum, not the least of which was reminding us how important it is to take a moment to appreciate each other.

Some heart attacks do not require our CPR skills – just a bit of construction paper and a few kind words.

Learn more about the Cridge Transition House for Women.

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!