All posts by futureaccess

Trina’s Journey – Part 2

Our client Trina found West Niagara Affordable Housing in 2016 and had the courage to initially share her story at our Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) event, back in 2017. She was kind enough to return to the event this year to share how her journey has continued.
Telling her story is her way of thanking the team at West Niagara Affordable Housing, but it is also her way of thanking all of you, who supported CNOY, whether it was as a walker, volunteer, donor or sponsor.

I would like to continue to share my story of hope. Hope that helped fuel purpose when I learned about West Niagara Affordable Housing (WNAH). Hope that has assisted in pushing me forward. I remember how sometimes that light gets dim and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel. As I shared last year, I was at my most dim when I first approached WNAH.

I had some very unrealistic goals set for myself initially, not realizing just how many changes would occur, how little resources I had locally (no family) and how challenging it would be to break through the metal blocks I had been forced to create to survive. To help myself refocus, I then I began looking at nature, at the four seasons and how each season has a purpose. How without the full season the ground suffers, and it can affect everything that is grown. Or the farmer who is just starting off has high hopes his first year of having a bountiful crop. But in his or her excitement missed tilling the soil, or adding the right nutrients to help boost the soil to provide the bounty at the end of the season. Bounty to nourish families, give back to communities and enable them to be self sufficient. They can either choose to give up or learn and press through for the next year.

Both resonate with me as we all need time, and if we are breaking down and repairing the walls that had kept us “safe”. We also need to replenish, rebuild and renew ourselves to be able to move forward and take those next steps to being whole again. I choose to move forward, dig deeper and hold on. Which has enabled me to be one step closer to my goals of being an Holistic Nutritionist and being able to give back and continue to serve others.

We also need to replenish, rebuild and renew ourselves to be able to move forward and take those next steps to being whole again.

This program has enabled me to start again, while providing a stable and secure environment for my children. It has been a blessing and an answer to my prayer.

I would like to thank Cheryl and Keisha from the WNAH program for providing a service that has helped me and my children start again. I would like to thank the Grimsby Benevolent Fund for their kindness and support in times when unexpected things happen. For anyone looking for an organization to help, I strongly suggest you looking at WNAH. Their services change lives, I am just one of many. Getting back on your feet literally is one step at a time. Once again from the bottom of my heart – Thank You!!!

We are still accepting donations for our Coldest Night of the Year event until the end of March. Your money stays here in West Niagara and supports community members such as Trina here in Beamsville, Grimsby, Lincoln and West Lincoln.

Please consider making a donation at https://cnoy.org/location/west-niagara.

Trina’s Journey – Part 1

Our client Trina had the courage to share her story at our Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) event, back in 2017. Telling her story is her way of thanking the team at West Niagara Affordable Housing, but it is also her way of thanking all of you, who supported CNOY, whether it was as a walker, volunteer, donor or sponsor.

I would like to speak about hope today. Hope that I found when I learned about West Niagara Affordable Housing (WNAH), formerly GAHP.

When you are struggling in a bad situation, the one thing you hold onto is hope. However, sometimes that light gets dim.

I was at my most dim when I trusted a friend with what I was going through. She was very kind and took the time to listen. She suggested I contact Cheryl at WNAH for help to see if they could assist me.

I was not aware of this program and I was so unsure, but finally reached out. It was through talking with Cheryl at WNAH that I stopped being afraid and that I dared to take a chance. I am a firm believer in prayer, and God is someone I lean on daily. However, sometimes prayer requires action. After contacting WNAH, I could begin acting. Cheryl helped me find housing, connected me with the Grimsby Benevolent Fund, provided legal suggestions, counselling suggestions, financial support suggestions. WNAH sat down with me and helped me fill out the necessary forms to become part of their program. I was so overwhelmed and felt totally lost. They were there to reassure me. They took the time to listen, encourage and provide reassurance which was very much needed.

This program has enabled me to start again, continue with my schooling, which will enable me to get back on my feet and continue to provide for my children.

Since I’ve been in the program, they have not only helped me find housing for me and my children, but they also provided access to programs to assist in rebuilding life skills. They take the time to meet with you, assist you with goals, support you with court if needed, and assist you in any way they can. This program has provided so much to so many. This program has enabled me to start again, continue with my schooling, which will enable me to get back on my feet and continue to provide for my children. It has enabled me to rebuild myself in a safe environment, removed some stress, and I just can’t say enough good things about them.

If there is anyone here who needs help, or who knows someone who does, I encourage you to reach out to WNAH. Both Cheryl and Keisha are wonderful to work with and they will help you in any way they can.

I would like to thank Cheryl and Keisha from WNAH for renewing my hope and for providing a service that has helped me and my children start again. For anyone looking for an organization to help, I strongly suggest you look at WNAH. Their services change lives, I am just one of many. From the bottom of my heart – Thank You!!!

We are still accepting donations for our Coldest Night of the Year event until the end of March. Your money stays here in West Niagara and supports community members such as Trina here in Beamsville, Grimsby, Lincoln and West Lincoln.

Please consider making a donation at https://cnoy.org/location/west-niagara.

READ HOW TRINA’S STORY CONTINUES….

To The Women Of Tomorrow

Dear Women of Tomorrow,

As I write this to you on International Women’s Day, two words keep running through my head, “don’t settle.” Don’t settle for inequality, racism, sexism, bigotry or intolerance. Don’t settle for less than equality. Your opinion and experiences are valid and valued. You are a change-maker. You are our future and I believe in you.
You are strong, brave and capable of anything. You can be the change you want to see in the world. It’s going to be hard but you are resilient. With every one of life’s challenges that has (or has yet to) come your way you grow. You will learn your strengths, to embrace your weaknesses and beauty of seeing new perspectives. You are unique, with each fresh perspective that is seen and voice that is heard society will continue to evolve. Discomfort inspires change. Be intersectional, be inclusive.
You are our future leaders, entrepreneurs, creators, artists, activists and more. You can can create societal and political change for the women who come after you. Know and understand what has happened in humanity’s past and strive to be better. Be better than us and those that came before us. I support you, I believe in you.

“I stand on the sacrifices of a million women before me thinking: what can I do to make this mountain taller so the women after me can see farther?”
Rupi Kaur

Written by Valerie Chalmers

www.ValerieChalmers.com

Activist, Creator & Influencer

Co-Chair of Promotions & Marketing Committee, Niagara Leadership Summit for Women

Podcast Host, Guest & Recording Engineer

Member of Promotions & Marketing Committee, NoFixed Address

Member of St.Catharines Culture Plan Subcommittee

Love is in the air… or is it?

It’s time for our Blogger Talk! We asked bloggers Slavica, Kaitlyn and Franziska about love, Valentine’s Day and more…

Slavica

  1. What is your favourite love song – and why?

“So Sick” by Ne-Yo is actually more of a break up song dealing with the heartache of loving someone still while trying to move on with your life. To me it represents the lingering feelings we all have in our hearts even after relationships end.

  1. If you could select anyone – who would be your Valentine this year and why?

It would probably be with all my single friends because Valentine’s day always made me feel especially lonesome for some reason but with my girlfriends, I know It wouldn’t bother me at all because we would have each other.

  1. Romantic gestures aside, what is one of your favourite memories of an expression of love?

Knowing my significant other was always there for me when I needed them. It made me feel a little less alone in this world.

  1. Share with us an important lesson you have learned or experienced about love.

I discovered the hard way that it’s okay to ask for a break in a relationship. When I was in the 11th grade, I was having some personal problems and being very withdrawn from my partner which greatly affect our relationship.

We decided to first take some space apart but I ended up ending the relationship instead because I didn’t know how long it was going to take for me to deal with things and I didn’t want to keep him waiting but after two months of singleness I realized that I still really loved him and wanted to try again.

It took taking the pressure away from being in a relationship to really help me understand that I still wanted a relationship. And, thankfully he still wanted to be together with me too though a year and a half later we would eventually break up but that’s okay. To this day he is still someone important to me so regardless of what happened, I don’t regret either breakup because sometimes you need some perspective to know what you want and sometimes what two people want may be two different things so it’s okay to let go.

  1. Should children give Valentine’s at school? Yes, or No, please explain.

I always enjoyed Valentine’s day cards, I still have a collection from my elementary school days so I don’t have a problem with the cards because they are for everyone so no one is ever really left out. My problems were always the candygrams because you never know if someone was going to buy you one. I remember being really disappointed when I didn’t get one, like people didn’t like me or something. It always felt like a popularity contest to me.

  1. Love gone wrong……..what was your worst Valentine’s Day ever? What did you learn from it?

Probably when I was in grade 11 because me and my ex had been broken up for 2 months and it was the first Valentine’s day in two years where I was by myself and I realized how much I really wanted to have spent it with him which I did, along with my other friends, but not as a couple. A week later we ended up back together. It took the day of love to help me realize how badly I still wanted to be with him so I guess you could say that this was both my worst and best Valentine’s day.

  1. The big Valentine’s debate…….which is better, receiving heart shaped chocolates or flowers? Why?

This one is hard because I’m not that particular on flowers, I genuinely like all flowers and as much as I love chocolate, if someone buys me a chocolate from a brand I don’t like, I’m not really going to eat it. I think they’re both great…so if I got a chocolate shaped rose then I would be satisfied. One of my friends gave me one last year and I loved it. Chocolate shaped flowers are the best of both worlds.

Kaitlyn

If you could select anyone – who would be your Valentine this year and why?

I select my partner. It’s cheesy. It’s vomit-inducingly cliché. However, this is the second Valentines’ day I’ve celebrated (in the ‘traditional’ sense) in my 27.5 years. I have never been bitter about Valentines’ Day. I am not against it. It doesn’t spark a particular chord of excitement in me. But this year and last, I have had the pleasure of celebrating with a man who walks beside me in all life’s endeavours. Shares his support, encouragement and love. And receives mine humbly in return. That, to me, is worth celebrating on Valentines’ Day. And that is why I select no one else but my partner as my Valentine.

What should REALLY be celebrated and highlighted is Galentines’ Day! And I select ALL my best friends, family, and amazing women in my life who consistently inspire me!


The big Valentine’s debate…….which is better, receiving heart shaped chocolates or flowers? Why?

This debate (like many) has gone terribly wrong! It’s way too BINARY! Haven’t we learned there should be more than two options by now? 😉
We cannot assume that others want to be treated as we do – we must ask how they would like to be treated. How they would like to be shown love. Have you heard of Love Languages? There are 5. So the question becomes not “Which gift is better to receive?” but rather “Does my partner even LIKE receiving gifts as a show of affection?” Maybe they’d rather Acts of Service, Words of Affection, Physical Touch, or simply (my favourite) Quality Time. Skip the flowers and chocolate, unless we can both enjoy them together.

(That being said…I got both this year. The answer is definitely both.)

How do you plan to spend this year’s Valentine’s Day – February 14th?
I spent a week and a half leading up to Valentines’ Day alone in my apartment in a new town feeling quite isolated. (Okay – I DID leave my apartment to go to work and get groceries and do laundry…) While it was quite lonely, it gave me time to plan a scavenger hunt. So my plan is to see how good my partner is at solving riddles…

Franziska

If you could select anyone – who would be your Valentine this year and why?

Hawaii Five-O’s Commander Steve McGarrett because he is HOT! 

My amazing husband because he is my one and only Valentine 🙂


Share with us an important lesson you have learned or experienced about love.

The big Valentine’s debate…….which is better, receiving heart shaped chocolates or flowers? Why?

If it is not both, he clearly does not love you.

A New Year And A Not So New Society

By: Slavica Mijakovac

I find it interesting how when we talk about the New Year we speak as if we as people have somehow been reborn into something else, that somehow things aren`t the same anymore. That just because it`s January 1st someone’s able to change their whole behavior, routines and life instantly.

If that were true I wouldn’t be cringing after I read every #MeToo post on the internet or seeing articles upon articles of women and girls being the denied the justice they deserve because they somehow aren’t victim enough or their abuser has the power to shut them down like Harvey Weinstein did for 20 years.

When my parents moved to this country, they envisioned a better life for me than theirs. A life where I could get a post-secondary education, get a well-paying job, live in a house, get married, have some kids and live happily ever after with no worries. Unrealistic in so many ways but that’s all any parent wishes for their child.

When you immigrate to a new country, the dream of a better life is all you care about. I don’t know if my parents are disappointed with how things ended up turning but seeing how my dad thinks just me getting an undergrad will mean a high paying job means he clearly still believes in the dream. Makes me laugh because when my dad was growing up, that’s all he really needed. Now we need connections, experience, volunteer hours, we need anything that makes us unique, special.

Older generation think we spend too much time online and that’s true but what we’re doing is selling our brand, an image of ourselves to the rest of the world. This will help companies and organizations have an understanding of who we are as people, to see if we are the type of person they want to represent them and their organization, really what we’re building are connections but not everyone is an Internet celebrity, most people have practical jobs.

That’s why I find people’s displeasure with Canada’s raised minimum wage ridiculous because it truly means nothing when companies end up raising prices on items while cutting back hours. $14 nowadays is worthless because the cost of living keeps increasing. The time when a quarter meant you were a king is no more. Now it just means that you’re below the poverty line.

Being a woman makes things harder because as much as our former Prime Minister Stephen Harper liked to pretend that equality of the genders had been reached here in Canada, that’s not the case. The reality is when I enter the work force the likelihood that I will be paid the same as my male co-workers is slim to none, the probability of me being sexually harassed or even assaulted is high. Me being a woman, run by a world dominated by men makes anyone who doesn’t fit this pinnacle of idealness; rich, white, heterosexual, cisgender, able bodied, etc., an “Other”. This means that there are obstacles in my way created by our institutions that will make my progress of “success” much harder because I don’t fit the ideal society wants.

What I’m trying to say is that I may have citizenship status now but that will never erase the fact that my parents had to immigrate to Canada. They had to leave their lives in a place they knew to a brand-new country while having to learn not only a new language, but a new culture and history just to prove their “Canadian” enough to live here. It’s not easy. I am not a new me somehow because I’m Canadian. I will forever be both an immigrant and a citizen and that’s okay but as a woman living in this current political climate I wonder how a first world society can still be so backwards in how it views women and people of different races even after 150 years of existence. Clearly, society still has a long way to go before equality is truly achieved, let alone equity.

 

Dealing with trauma

“I don’t want to keep retelling my story.”

“I’m tired of being bounced from service to service.”

“How am I supposed to trust helping professionals if they never give me the support I need?”

I regularly hear these comments from the people I serve; and having worked for a number of organizations in Niagara over the past 20 years, hearing them still breaks my heart, even after all this time. Presently, I work with individuals living with the impact of sexual violence and intimate partner violence. I consider it an incredible privilege to support others in negotiating the daily impact of the harm they have endured, and it has been some of the most rewarding work I have ever engaged in. I also believe that working with survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence has fostered a new appreciation of why the above comments are significant and deserve further consideration.

Victim Blaming

Sexual violence and intimate partner violence are significant and widespread; the outcomes of both are far reaching. Although a number of statistics exist indicating who is most at risk and/or who is primarily affected by these concerns, I have learned in the course of my work that sexual violence and intimate partner violence do not discriminate. And for multiple reasons, many people do not report their experiences or reach out for assistance. Individuals who have endured such pain are often reluctant and anxious about telling their story for fear of what others might say or do. They are regularly told to “get over it” or “move on”. They are shamed into feeling they did something to bring the violence upon themselves, or end up being criticized and judged about how they chose to respond. These reactions from loved ones, friends, and helping professionals cement for me the notion that abuse tends to exist in a shroud of secrecy and fear. Is it any wonder when people continue to be silenced and blamed for circumstances beyond their control?

Dealing with trauma

The impact of sexual/partner violence extends beyond one’s mind or body; one’s very spirit has been violated as well. When someone is wounded in these ways, their ability to feel safe and trust others becomes compromised. They struggle with a number of crippling physical, emotional, cognitive, and behavioural reactions that are often confusing, frightening, and exhausting. A person’s experience of the world becomes forever altered, and the harm that has been perpetrated insidiously seeps into every crevice of their life. It shows up in the most unexpected ways, and causes significant damage to the relationship with oneself and others; because at its very core, trauma is relational.

I’ve come to appreciate the complexity of trauma whether it’s childhood sexual abuse, recent sexual assault/rape, or intimate partner violence because the brave souls I encounter in the course of my work somehow find the courage to reach out for support. It is incredibly difficult to cope with the aftermath of these forms of trauma. The impact to one’s mental health is significant and people often engage in coping strategies that are labelled “unhealthy”. I struggle with framing coping in this manner because if people were able to manage their pain in another way, I’m convinced they would. People don’t intentionally try to make their situation worse. They do what they need to do to survive. And it’s is easy for us (i.e., external others) to judge how they manage the outcomes of their harm, particularly when we haven’t walked in their shoes. No one has the right to judge or shame; these responses cause as much, if not more damage, than the original violation.

Systemic Challenges

It is equally important to recognize that the complexity of an individual’s circumstances is often compounded by the way in which various systems support them. The pitfalls that individuals encounter within systems they access are numerous, oppressive, and cause considerable harm to someone who is already struggling and incredibly vulnerable. Although these systems are in place to support individuals in addressing the outcomes of their trauma in a meaningful way, more often than not, I have found these systems to be inadequate and ineffective. As a result of my work, I have come to believe that systems, not the people they support, are the problem.
I encounter few people who sing the praises of the systems that address various aspects of trauma. And I don’t blame them for this one bit. It’s not that people are ungrateful for the support they receive. If anything, I would argue they have come to believe that substandard support is what they are entitled to because they encounter it so often when attempting to engage in services that are supposed to help. But the people I serve deserve better. They deserve more. They deserve care that is accessible, timely, compassionate, and integrated. This means the systems people utilize in their efforts to get back on track need to work together to streamline support and put their clientele at the center of care. Trauma’s goal is to disconnect and fracture, and it does this incredibly well. We cannot expect to assist people in healing from the harm they have endured if we ask them to accept support that is fractured and disconnected. If we do, we run the risk of perpetuating the same harms that we are tasked with standing up against. Instead, connection and collaboration is required across systems and in conjunction with the people we are responsible for serving.
I have deep affection and admiration for the people I serve. And I respect the guts it takes to reach out from the darkness when it would be much easier to hide in the shadows. Every single day, the people I work with teach me about what it means to negotiate interpersonal harm; I am surrounded by the courage it takes to share one’s story and I am blessed with multiple opportunities to witness the endless possibilities that exist for healing. I am regularly reminded about the resilience of the human spirit and feel incredibly honoured to walk with people through some of their toughest moments. It is with gratitude that I engage in supporting others who are struggling because I am acutely aware that how I choose to engage matters. Because the way in which we respond and connect to others, without question, makes all the difference.

If I only had more time, I would…

Blogger April writes about volunteering

If I only had more time, I would…

Travel. Spend time with family. Exercise. Spend time with my kids. Go for a walk. Vacation. Read. Work harder. Make something. Build something. Start a business. Change the world. Give. Live. Be. Volunteer.

There is one thing in this life that is precious. Continue reading

The 5 W’s of International Women’s Day

WHO?

International Women’s Day celebrates women from all over the world. The logo is purple and white, and features the symbol of Venus. Venus is a symbol itself for female.

WHAT ?IWD-Poster-2013-Artwork

International Women’s Day is a global celebration that focuses on the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. Various women, political, community, and business leaders, as well as leading educators, inventors, entrepreneurs, and celebrities, are usually invited to speak at various events on this day. Events may include seminars, conferences, luncheons, dinners or banquets.

WHERE?

Events are held worldwide.

In some countries Women’s Day is a national holiday:

Aintwdfghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Eritrea, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nepal (for women only), Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, Zambia

WHEN ?

March 8th. However International Women’s Day has been recognized since the early 1900’s.

WHY?

2nd_feminism_quoteWe celebrate this day because it is a time to keep past women’s achievements alive, recognize challenges, and focus attention on women’s rights and gender equality to inspire all people to join in, and do their part.

If we all think globally and act locally we can make a difference. It is important to do your bit to ensure a equal, safe and enriching future for women and girls.

2013: The Year of the Feminist

2014. New year, new goals, resolutions, and a fresh start. For a lot of us it’s a time to think about what lies ahead and to consider what we would like to accomplish. But it’s also a time to look back and to – hopefully – see how far we’ve come.
In an interview with Barbara Walters Lawrence asked,  “if
we’re regulating cigarettes and sex and cuss words,
because of the effect they have on our younger generation,
 why aren’t we regulating things like calling people fat?”

From a woman’s standpoint, there’s no doubt in my mind that this year was a pretty great one for feminism. From the glorious Jennifer Lawrence speaking out against her pressure to diet to the release of GoldieBlox, an engineering toy created for young girls, 2013 had a lot of feminist moments. I think back to last year when Katy Perry announced – in her Woman of the Year acceptance speech at the Women in Music awards – that she is “not a feminist”, but she “does believe in the strength of women”. Kelly Clarkson set us back 40 years when she said “I think when people hear feminist it’s like, ‘Get out of my way, I don’t need anyone,” and caused millions of heads to bang to the table.

Zooey Deschanel in her hit series, New Girl. She also is the
co-fonder of the Women’s Blog, Hello Giggles

This year though, feminism has become kind of trendy. Hail to Lena Dunham, creator of the TV show Girls, who – despite her controversy – has brought feminism into the mainstream media discussion.  And to Beyoncé who proudly proclaimed that she is a modern day feminist. And to Amy Poehler and Tina Fey kicking butt at the Emmys. I don’t think that the importance of the advocacy of these celebrities can be understated. I remember not too long ago reading a MacLean’s article where a 15 year old girl’s response to feminism was “Ewww, yuck.” I remember writing a blog about redefining feminism, and the challenge of making feminism “cool” for the younger generation. These celebrities are getting through in ways that parents and teachers can’t. Jennifer Lawrence recognizes the influence her role as Katniss in the Hunger Games has on young women. She was adamant that she would not lose weight for the role; “I think that our industry doesn’t take enough responsibility for what it does to our society, about having these unrealistic expectations, and I don’t want to be part of that.” This smart, gorgeous, Academy Award winning actress is a fabulous advocate for women’s body issues.

“There was a time when women social activists asked 
men to stand up for their rights, but this time we will do it by ourselves.”

If 2013 saw a rise in celebrity feminists, it also gave us one of the most powerful female voices of this generation, Malala Yousafzai. Her UN speech last year left the world in awe of her wisdom and her bravery. Malala’s fight is not one that any one in the Western world could relate to. But, she has the remarkable ability to inspire woman of all ages to fight for what we deserve. One can’t help but think if this young woman can stand up to the Taliban, what can’t we do?  

I know that internationally and at home there is a lot of work to be done. But I also know that it can be detrimental and sometimes even unhelpful to dwell on negativity. If we don’t take stock to reflect on success, no matter how small, how can we expect to carry on? I look forward in 2014 to seeing what great things Malala will accomplish and what other strange and awesome things Jennifer Lawrence will come up with next. What laws might be changed, what movements may start… A Jezebel post found that 42 percent of women under 30 call themselves feminists – the highest percentage of any age group, and I think that’s pretty great. 

Don’t Forget the Cause

As Christmas approached, I was bombarded by requests to give to various charities. When I went to the mall I heard the ringing bells of the Salvation Army kettles. I received requests in the mail from Covenant House and the Christmas Wish Foundation, looking for a donation. There were many pleas from the Food Bank to help stock their shelves.

Now that Christmas is over and a New Year has begun it’s got me thinking about the plight of the less fortunate. Will they still get their basic needs met? Do people get back to their daily routine and forget about the needy when there’s nobody constantly reminding them?

As we move into the new year, let’s not forget that poverty doesn’t take a break. Let’s not forget that there are children and adults going to bed hungry in this country. There are people who have to choose between paying their bills and putting food on the table. There are people living in shelters who rely on others to help them make it through this difficult time in their life.

We need to work together year round to bring awareness to the plight of those who call the shelter their home. We need to remember that others depend on the kindness and generosity of strangers to help them meet their basic needs.

As we head towards Valentine’s Day let us find it in our hearts to remember to donate what we can to our community to better the lives of others. May we all continue to show our giving spirit throughout the year.

Let’s not forget the cause now that Christmas is over. The families that rely on the shelter are depending on all us.

Written by our community blogger, Marilyn.