Hope in Action
This month, we’re excited to welcome Tonya Verburg, our new CEO, who joined us earlier in August. You can read about her first impressions of Ray of Hope and how she’s settling in, below. Then, learn how our staff are training to deal with compassion fatigue, a condition that often affects those who work with traumatized people.
As always, we are grateful for your support as we care for hurting people in our community—and the people who care for them.
Meet our new CEO
Our new CEO, Tonya Verburg has been on the job almost a month. We sat down to talk about what attracted her to Ray of Hope and the thing that struck her most during these first few weeks.
Q: How did you get into the not-for-profit world?
Tonya: I have just been so blessed in my career. I grew up on a farm near Goderich. I went to Renison at the University of Waterloo for social development studies and specialized in community development. After I graduated, I got a job right away at the women’s shelter in Goderich as a community development advocate and my career has grown into management and leadership, which is what I love.
Q: What drew you to Ray of Hope?
Tonya: I’m a Christian and I’ve always been in leadership roles. But there was never an opportunity to completely meld the two together. The chance to be a leader in a Christian organization is what really drew me to the posting originally.
That was never as formalized in my past roles. But at Ray of Hope, it’s right there in the mission statement: to demonstrate the love of Christ with those who are disadvantaged, marginalized, or troubled. Christianity is enmeshed in the culture here, from the top level down. You have people with similar faith backgrounds who believe in the same mission and vision and who pray for you and think about you. That’s comforting because as a new CEO, I need lots of prayers!
Q: It’s early days yet, but can you tell us what your impressions are so far?
Tonya: It’s always hard to follow a leader like Harry, who was well-liked and grew the agency so much. I definitely understand that I have big shoes to fill. But I’ve just felt so welcomed already and so impressed by the scope of the work Ray of Hope does. You know, you can read about it and you can hear about it, but once you start getting into the trenches, you really start to understand the broad scope of the ministry here.
Q: What kind of things have you been doing these first few weeks?
Tonya: I’m meeting with everyone, from front-line staff to management, individually. And I’m going to do shadow shifts at all of the locations. I want to learn more before I even make any suggestions.
I always have ideas, but I also want to learn what’s already been tried and tested. I’m going to take my time to learn and grow and see where God wants to lead the organization and myself.
Q: What would you like readers to know?
Tonya: I’d like people to take the time to get to know the vastness of Ray of Hope. To really understand all of the places that Ray of Hope reaches. That’s been a real eye-opener for me. And be open to what life has to bring. My motto is “embrace the change.” I imagine that will come up at Ray of Hope, too!
When caring hurts
“All of us who attempt to heal the wounds of others will ourselves be wounded; it is, after all, inherent in the relationship.”– Charles Figley
So many of the people Ray of Hope serves have had traumatic life experiences in the past and many continue to live with violence and fear. Being exposed repeatedly to suffering and loss takes a toll not only on them but on our staff, as well.
And, because society often doesn’t value people like our guests, who often struggle with poverty, addiction and mental health issues, staff may not feel able to talk about their experiences outside of the workplace.
These factors can lead to compassion fatigue, a condition that frequently affects those working in the helping professions, from nurses and therapists to police officers and ministers. Its symptoms include physical and emotional exhaustion, irritability, feelings of inadequacy, sleeplessness, headaches and more.
As part of Ray of Hope’s wellness initiatives, staff recently attended a workshop from TEND, an organization that offers resources and training to address the complex needs of high stress, trauma-exposed workplaces. In the workshop, staff learned how to how to recognize and address situations that lead to compassion fatigue. In addition, Ray of Hope’s Health and Wellness Committee has introduced a number of ways that employees can practise self-care, including weekly check-ins/debriefings with their supervisor and coworkers, and encouraging them to participate in physical exercise (running, weightlifting, yoga, etc.), make time for hobbies, family and friends, and maintain a healthy diet and sleep schedule.
We recognize that many volunteers and supporters who help care for our guests and clients may also be affected in some way. The TEND website has a list of resources to help you, or someone you know, combat compassion fatigue. Here are just a few of those resources:
We are so grateful for the work you do and encourage you to take care of yourselves.
Please see our Careers page for more details on these positions:
Youth Work Experience Member; Youth Addiction Worker (Part-Time); Youth Addiction Worker – Day Treatment; Advocacy and Programming Coordinator; Youth Care Worker (Part-Time); Cook (Part-Time) – Youth Justice Facility; Community Treatment Worker (Addictions Counsellor); Program Support Worker – Refugee Services; Catering Assistant; Catering Driver.