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Our Stories

Rachel's Story

Rachel's Story

We’d like you to meet Margaret, Bill and Rachel. Margaret and Bill are grandparents and guardians to Rachel, a clever 6-year old who loves crafts and reading. Rachel means the world to her grandparents, but Margaret and Bill would often feel overwhelmed as Rachel would grapple with their expectations. Rachel struggled in school, both socially and academically, and there were many meetings in the principal’s office. It seemed that everyone was running out of patience.

This year, however, something changed for this family…a Carizon program was introduced at Rachel’s school called Families and Schools Together (F&ST). F&ST helps children to be successful in all aspects of life and strengthens families through structured, research-based activities that support parents and connect families, school and community. Recognizing Rachel’s struggles, the school encouraged the family to attend F&ST.

Rachel was excited for the new experience, but Margaret and Bill felt apprehensive and fearful of being judged as parents, not only because of their age, but because of their continuing challenges with Rachel. Their concerns dissipated the first night when during parent time, Margaret and Bill connected with other parents and felt affirmed in their parenting skills. Margaret and Bill were also linked with a community partner who helped them access resources to support Rachel. Most importantly, Rachel blossomed in the program. She gained new friends, learned social and communication skills, and bonded with the teachers and staff. Rachel beamed with pride the week that it was her family’s turn at F&ST to serve the evening’s meal to her newfound friends.

Today Rachel manages her emotions much better in the classroom and at home. She loves school and her only visits to the principal’s office are to say “hello” or share an important happening in her life. Margaret and Bill are feeling confident in their parenting and have a new sense of belonging within the school and their community. “It’s nice to hear how other parents deal with situations at home and different perspectives” was one of the sentiments they shared with Carizon about their F&ST experience. While the family completed their 9 weeks of the F&ST program, they are staying connected through F&STWORKS, an ongoing group for families where they can continue to receive support from each other.

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Ali's Story

Ali's Story

She’s only twelve, but Alison was holding the weight of the world. When Ali first came to Carizon she was quiet, sad, fragile and extremely shy to the point of barely being able to say, “hello.” Ali had been experiencing a variety of trauma symptoms such as nightmares, crying, bed-wetting, and feelings of inadequacy. She lied a lot, withdrew into herself and didn’t have friends.

 

Through counselling, Alison’s story was told. Alison’s mother struggled with an addiction and was in an abusive relationship with her boyfriend. Ali witnessed her mother being physically, sexually and emotionally abused. Ali adopted the role of protector for both her five-year-old brother and her mom. But even as protector, Ali saw herself as a failure. When her mother threatened to leave the relationship, her boyfriend began beating Ali’s mom. Her mom screamed at Ali to run to the neighbour’s. But, Ali froze in fear and was unable to go for help. Ali blamed herself for what happened.

Through counselling and community supports, Ali’s life has taken a significant turn. Ali’s mom was connected with the Family Violence Project of Waterloo Region, has left the abusive relationship and is dealing with her addiction. Through the use of trauma treatment, Ali’s symptoms have decreased significantly, her self-esteem has improved, and she understands that she is not responsible for anything that happened. Ali is excelling academically, has joined the running club at school, and has found a friend who survived a similar situation and can relate to Ali’s experience.

In a perfect world, every child would have a safe, happy and healthy childhood. But, sadly, Alison is just one of many children that come to Carizon for help. We all have a role to play in making life a safe, happy and healthy experience for all children. As a Carizon supporter, your donation provides the critical foundation that allows us to help children and families dealing with trauma.

During this holiday season, please consider donating to Carizon’s Trauma Client Assistance Fund so that we can continue to support children, like Ali, and help families to find solutions.

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Justin's Story

Justin's Story

Justin is a three-your-old child – intelligent, expressive, creative, polite, friendly and curious. As an infant, Justin was diagnosed with a number of anaphylactic allergies. Justin’s parents, Scott and Eva, both hard-working and loving individuals, faced a number of challenges as a result of Justin’s life-threatening allergies.

The family lived in isolation as they could not go to certain family members’ homes, participate in community programs or attend friends’ birthday parties. They could not even venture into the community for simple tasks, such as grocery shopping, for fear that Justin would have an allergic reaction. Upon returning home from any activity outside the home, Scott and Eva showered and changed clothes to prevent transferring allergens to Justin. Family members could only kiss Justin on the top of his head as kisses on his cheek would often break out in hives. Trips to the hospital made Justin fearful of anything that reminded him of hospitals -doctors, stethoscopes – even bubbles used by the Child Life Therapist as a calming tool in the hospital created anxiety for Justin. These episodes also led to feelings of guilt and responsibility as Scott and Eva believed they should have been able to prevent what happened.

Feeling overwhelmed, Eva contacted Front Door, a joint initiative of Carizon and Lutherwood, and  enquired about the Zero2Six Program, an intensive, home-based service offered by Carizon and Lutherwood that supports families. Bernadette was assigned to the family and made weekly visits to the family home. The treatment goal was to provide Justin and his parents with strategies to manage their anxiety. Together they worked on calming strategies including breathing exercises, mindfulness, kids’ yoga, and developing a calming kit for Justin. They developed an emergency plan to have in place and discussed the strengths that each family member would bring to medical appointments and situations. Bernadette provided a number of tools, like implementing a “worry box” and  she connected them with a number of additional supports for the family in the community.

Eva and Scott came to recognize how their own feelings of anxiety would impact Justin and contribute to his anxiety. They also began to take proactive steps to expose Justin to some new situations with the hope that he would be able to attend school the following year. They started with programs at the library, then tried swimming, then soccer. Justin underwent some additional food challenge tests, some he passed, but unfortunately, a couple of reactions led to a few more trips to the hospital, and Justin began to refuse to eat believing his parents were giving him things that would cause him to react. But, both Eva and Scott were feeling better prepared to manage these situations, and knew to reach out when they needed help.

Eva now says that she is finally “getting her confidence back” and that she feels like she and Scott are better advocates for Justin. They continue to get out as a family to places such as the park, the Butterfly Conservatory, the Aquarium and African Lion Safari. They “don’t get as worked up about it” and they are “not panicky” when going to new places. Justin enjoys the calming activities, like singing the children’s yoga song and expresses his feelings and experiences through play or painting. “This family does not give up,” says Bernadette. “I have been lucky to have had the opportunity to work with this family. They have taught me a lot about strength, courage, commitment and perseverance.”

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Maddy’s story

Maddy’s story

She becomes anxious and fearful in unfamiliar surroundings. As a result, her parents avoid family outings for fear that Maddy becomes agitated and enraged. While Maddy’s family are supportive of her special needs, their days are exhausting and restricting.

Maddy’s parents were very thankful when they discovered Encompass Recreation Services. Encompass recognizes the need for parents and guardians to have a much needed break — time to regroup and recuperate away from the constant demands of caring for their child with serious social, emotional and behavioural concerns.

When Maddy first came to Encompass, true to form, she was frightened by these new surroundings. She soon, however, warmed up to the caring and skilled workers. They fed Maddy, played with her, and let her do all the crafts she wanted.  She was safe and happy. And while Maddy was at Encompass, her parents and three siblings, secure in the knowledge that Maddy was somewhere safe, enjoyed an outing together. Encompass Recreation helps not only the child in care, but the entire family. Everyone has the chance to get refreshed.

Now, every time that Maddy comes home from an Encompass experience, she is proud to show her mom some new craft and tell a story of her adventure.  Her mom adds, “And best of all, she is tired!! For most people, that’s not a big deal, but when you’re a family with four children, two of whom have special needs, knowing that one of those special needs children will sleep through the night, is priceless!”

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Tobi’s Story

Tobi’s Story

Struggling with aggressive behavior, Tobi was placed in a modified program at school and was suspended from taking the school bus. Concerned for the safety of the children in the school, Tobi and his family were referred to the Family & Schools Together Program, which focuses on family activities that support the parent.

The F&ST staff learned that Tobi and four siblings lived with their grandmother and rarely saw their mother.  While the grandmother was supportive of her grandchildren and open to suggestions for help, she struggled with mental health issues and often felt overwhelmed.  In addition, the grandmother was self-conscious about her inability to read.  She was assured that this would not be an issue and that she would be supported and learn strategies to cope with the challenges she was experiencing. She joined the program.

As F&ST progressed, Tobi made some significant strides. He listened better, was more attentive, and learned to share in the activities with his siblings and other children.

After a few weeks in the F&ST program, the Team recommended that Tobi and his family join the CAPC Home Visiting Program. Tobi responded well to the staff, built a trusting relationship and looked forward to the home visits.  Occasionally Tobi would get frustrated and become stubborn and wouldn’t cooperate, but when confronted about his behaviour, he would listen attentively to the staff, discuss the issue and follow through without an argument.  Discussions with Tobi included how to express his feelings in a positive manner and controlling his temper.  Since Tobi loved playing with dinosaurs and took great pride in his collection, the staff and Tobi came up with an idea.  Tobi was to choose one of his small dinosaurs and place it in his pocket and whenever he felt frustrated, he was to reach in his pocket, feel his dinosaur and think of how safe it felt for his dinosaur.  Tobi was thrilled at the thought of having his dinosaur with him.  This technique proved to be very effective in calming Tobi and his teacher commented on how well Tobi did on the days he carried his dinosaur in his pocket.  Tobi worked very hard at controlling his anger and learned how to express his feelings in a positive manner.

During the home visits the staff brought worksheets, alphabet learning tools, and beginner reader books.  Tobi and his grandmother completed the worksheets and reading together.  The grandmother spent quality time with her grandson and learned to read at the same time.

The staff also recommended that Tobi attend the CAPC School Readiness Program at a nearby community centre.  The oldest child in the program, Tobi assumed the role of being the “big helper.”  He took pride in offering a guiding hand, assisting his classmates, and offering his help to the staff in the program.  The grandmother enrolled in a nutrition class while Tobi attended the program.

Today, Tobi’s hours at school have increased to full days.  It was recommended by the school that Tobi continue with the Home Visiting Program and the School Readiness Program as the programs are a great benefit to Tobi and his family.  Tobi continues to participate in both programs as part of his full time schooling.

The Family & Schools Together Program, CAPC Home Visiting Program, CAPC School Readiness Program are all programs sponsored by Carizon and Family Community Services.

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Tara’s Story

Tara’s Story

But Tara was finding it difficult to get out of bed in the morning. She was crying a lot and sleeping in fits and spurts. Tara’s husband had recently left her for another woman, and while her family and friends were supportive, Tara was still struggling with a number of issues, including a lack of confidence and low self-esteem.

Tara knew she needed professional help, but money was tight and she didn’t have benefits. In a moment of desperation, Tara picked up the phone and called Carizon Family and Community Services. “I was afraid to call,” says Tara, “because I knew that I couldn’t afford counselling.” Sue, Tara’s Intake Coordinator, told Tara about Carizon’s Trauma Client Assistance Fund that supports clients who can’t afford to pay for counselling. “When Sue told me about this fund that helps people like me, I broke down and cried,” says Tara. “I was just so grateful and so relieved.” Tara has been seeing a counsellor at Carizon for a number of weeks now, and is feeling much more in control of her life. She is no longer crying for hours on end and is getting a good night’s sleep. “I’ve learned a lot about myself and managing my situation and how to heal and move forward. Counselling has helped me to build a new life for myself. I now look forward to getting up each day.”

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Sarah's Story

Sarah's Story

As we enter the holiday season, I am reminded of a remarkable story that occurred last year at this time, and the incredible response of our amazing and caring staff at Carizon. Just a few days before Christmas Day, a young mother and her two children came through our doors at Carizon. Sarah was escaping a domestic violence situation.

Immediately, Sarah was connected to a shelter and a safety plan was established. As Sarah’s healing journey progressed, she was provided with subsidized emergency housing, financial assistance and attended counselling and a therapy group for women at Carizon. In addition, Sarah received some job-readiness support and credit counselling to help her manage her new financial situation. Today Sarah and her children are thriving and, while there are still challenges ahead, they are managing their lives in a new home where they feel safe and are taking steps to a healthier and happier future.

We did everything at Carizon that we always do to support individuals and families that come through our door. But, what was particularly moving about Sarah’s story was, not only did the Carizon staff support Sarah through this traumatic time, they went the extra mile to ensure that Sarah and her children would get to celebrate Christmas. Every year, Carizon has a Spirit of Giving program to support our clients that are in the greatest need of an expression of caring at holiday time. With only a few days to Christmas, however, the program had concluded and all gifts were wrapped and delivered. That didn’t stop our staff. They rallied to pull together a Christmas package for Sarah and her children. Through this act of kindness, they gave Sarah much more than gifts, they gave her hope and the knowledge that her community cares for her and her family.

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