Hope in Action
This is the season of new beginnings. Through your support of Ray of Hope, you provide the people we serve with vital resources to help them rebuild their lives. And the most important thing you give them is hope.
In this issue, learn how you are assisting Community Centre guests to recover from addiction and giving young people tools to succeed in the workplace. Thank you for helping to create brighter futures, even in the middle of a pandemic.
Making meals, memories — and a brighter future
Meet Anna, a recent graduate of Ray of Hope’s Youth Employment Program. After completing her external placement at Sobeys, the company hired her full-time. Now she’s looking forward to starting college this autumn. In this interview, Anna talks about her experiences in the program.
“After I got laid off from my part-time job because of COVID, I had a really hard time finding another job. I was familiar with Ray of Hope as my friend had used their services, and I decided to give it a shot.”
“The best part was the hands-on experience and the fact that they taught you stuff you will actually use in real life. [Staff members] Rebecca and Sharlene always took the time to explain each step in detail and would answer questions the best they could. It was very helpful, especially having only four participants in the program at the time. It felt more tailored to each of our individual needs.”
“I learned a lot of hard and soft skills during the résumé workshops, health and safety training, practice interviews, etc. I also learned a lot of social and people skills when I was working in the internal placement [at Morning Glory Café and Catering]. When I helped out making meals for homeless people at Ray of Hope’s temporary shelter, I gained experience on how the real world works and how people are. Even though it’s not always sunshine and rainbows at the end of the day, you feel good about yourself because you are contributing to society and gaining experience as a young adult.”
“Right now I work at Sobeys full-time but I got accepted to Conestoga College for a one-year medical office practices program. It is not where I planned to be at the start of the program but it’s a good change.”
“It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It sounds corny but I have learned so many things and made a lot of memories. I would highly recommend it to anyone considering applying to the program. And if I ever win the lottery, I will donate some money to the program because I enjoyed it so much. Thank you to Shar, Rebecca, and friends for making this experience possible for me.”
Addiction support group offers a lifeline during the pandemic
For people recovering from addictions, groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Celebrate Recovery offer vital support. But due to the pandemic, many of these groups have moved from in-person meetings to online sessions — a delivery method that many people living in poverty can’t access.
That’s the reason Ray of Hope launched a weekly addiction support group at the Community Centre (ROHCC) last fall. Baiba Wilde is the services coordinator who facilitates the small, socially distanced group. She sees the positive impact the group has had on participants.
“We have some people at the Community Centre who are very serious about their recovery. And that’s a very difficult thing to do by yourself. We were created for community with God and with each other. So, for those who are trying to get into recovery, and then stay in recovery, this is a very difficult time.”
For people like Harry*, the group offers a chance both to maintain his own sobriety and help others as well.
“Harry was so excited to find out that we’re holding these meetings regularly because he’s been involved with Celebrate Recovery. But he doesn’t have access to a computer and the Internet, so he was on his own,” Baiba says.
Because of Harry’s leadership skills and experience, Baiba often asks him to lead the group discussions.
“That’s helpful because we want the group to be peer-driven rather than staff-driven,” Baiba says. “Harry has a lot of empathy and he listens effectively, which keeps the conversation flowing.”
While the ROHCC’s addiction support program is an informal group that doesn’t fall under the umbrella of an organization like AA, it does follow the 12 Step program structure.
“In a meeting, we might watch a testimony and then talk about what impacted us most about that story,” Baiba says. “There might be questions in regard to a particular lesson on one of the 12 steps. We talk about what hurts and why we’re there. We hear from participants who are more seasoned in recovery, and those stories are really necessary for people new to recovery. They need that promise and that hope.”
For many people, hope has been in short supply this past year. Ninety-eight people in Waterloo Region died from overdoses in 2020, a 56% increase over the prior year. Group participants know some of the victims and the deaths hit them hard. And for many people living in poverty, addictive substances are constantly present, making recovery even harder.
“When you’re living on the streets, as some of our guests are, this kind of service is vital for providing hope and support,” Baiba says.
“If they don’t find support quickly, then we’re going to lose them. They’re going to fall back into addiction because very few people can [get sober] all on their own. That’s why this program is so important.”
*Name has been changed to protect privacy.