Our Stories

Afonso's Story

Afonso's Story

For Afonso, every day was a struggle to simply get up and be present for his family. Along with managing his own wellbeing, Afonso was supporting a wife with complex mental health issues, raising two young sons and navigating chronic housing instability.

For years, Carizon worked with Afonso and his family – building trust, understanding their needs and supporting them through different crises as their boundaries allowed.

When Afonso’s wife courageously sought more intensive support and was admitted into hospital care – Carizon supported her through each brave step, ensuing she felt safe, heard and hopeful. They also knew that Afonso would need help – while he was able to attend to practical needs like taking care of the home, it was his wife who offered a nurturing voice for the boys.

For the time that Afonso’s wife was hospitalized, the Carizon team was there to provide support to the family. During that time together, Afonso shared that his boys had not slept in their own bedrooms in two years – the spaces had simply become too full of the things that get collected when frequent housing instability creates a fear of losing everything.

Afonso had a simple wish: to have the boys sleeping in their tidied bedrooms as a surprise to welcome his wife home.

Carizon believes that families know best when it comes to what support they need and what that support might look like. For Afonso and his family, the best support was to help clear the bedrooms, freshen the space and ready it for the boys. And that’s exactly what the Carizon team did together with Afonso and his sons – emptying rooms, cleaning surfaces, washing windows. In a home that had experienced such turmoil and change, these boys now had spaces of their own and the family a place to plant their roots.

Can you find it in your heart to make more stories possible today? Every gift is vital: that’s the power of one! Please, take a moment right now and make your gift to Carizon. Thank you!

Kristin’s Story

Kristin’s Story

Throughout Kristin’s life, she had only ever known abuse. And now, she was faced with raising a son whose own behavioural challenges resulted in violent outbursts at home and at school. Each day felt like a new mountain to climb.

How was she supposed to go to work when her son could only manage a few hours of school each week? In her darkest moments, Kristin acknowledged struggling to love a son who was difficult to like. She felt like a failure.

By reaching out to Carizon, Kristin hoped to get help for her son. As her trust deepened, that support wrapped around her entire family. With Carizon’s help, Kristin’s son had the assessments needed to better understand the source of his challenging behaviour.

Rather than trying to “fix” behavioural issues, Carizon helped Kristin’s family to better understand and respond to her son. As a family, they also learned how to better support themselves, and each other, on tough days. Carizon worked with the school as well – supporting staff as they learned new skills and tools that not only keep Kristin’s son in class but help him to thrive.

Today, Kristin and her son are enjoying a renewed and deeper connection to each other – including volunteering together in the community. “You helped show me that I’m stronger and can do more than I thought I could.”

Zach’s Story

Zach’s Story

At times during the pandemic, it feels like the world has stopped.

Yet, the need for Carizon’s work has ballooned as we work to support families struggling with complex challenges – families like Zach’s.

Zach is a young boy returning to elementary school, whose mental health began to deteriorate as he tried to cope with the disruption and uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic. After months of isolation, Zach developed anxiety so debilitating that it often turned into panic attacks. He felt overwhelmed by fear and sadness, had trouble sleeping, and was unable to control racing thoughts. One night, the weight of Zach’s thoughts led to self-harming behaviour that resulted in a hospital admission. Zach, who was previously playful, creative, energetic, and had a zest for life now felt like it wasn’t worth living anymore.

When Zach’s parents were desperate and feeling hopeless, they found Carizon.

Because of the programs you make possible through your support, they were immediately connected to services for Zach and the entire family.

A team of child and family therapists worked with his parents to provide education about neurobiology, anxiety, and stress responses and gave them strategies on how they could support Zach without empowering his fears. His parents were also referred to a parent support group, which allowed them to feel comforted and connected to other parents experiencing similar challenges.

Zach received individual counselling and was enrolled in a Children’s Mental Health group that used play-based cognitive behavioral therapy techniques to help him find healthy ways to express his emotions and cope. Zach was able to connect with other children who were going through the same fears and he finally felt like he wasn’t alone.

Our counsellor worked with the family on slowly increasing exposure to stimuli that Zach found most distressing. Eventually. he could begin to find success in some of the challenges he previously found insurmountable, like the simple act of completing a homework question.

Zach’s self-esteem and confidence are increasing with every weekly session. He is feeling like he finally has control of his body and feelings again and he is equipped with strategies to use if his worried thoughts return.
He is attending school and enjoys playing with his Grade 4 classmates. His mood has improved, and things at home are going better.

His parents are also feeling a sense of ease and immense gratitude, knowing that, with the right supports, Zach will develop his full potential. “We have hopes and dreams for our children, like other parents, and we want the very best for them,” says Zach’s dad. “We want them to fulfill their potential and live a happy life. I feel sure that with the right support, Zach will have a great future.”

This is just one of many stories of impact that your support will have in the lives of children and families in our community. Without your gifts, the experience of this family could have been drastically different.

Because of you, our services are possible.

Before the pandemic, mental health issues were already prevalent, but the added pressure caused by COVID-19 is exacerbating existing challenges. The need to rely on our services is greater than ever. You have the power to make a meaningful difference to people in need and together we have the power to strengthen more families and transform our community.

Carizon’s services are needed now more than ever.
Your donation is also needed now more than ever.

If you are able, please donate today.

While all of us are facing different challenges at this time, we hope that you find some joy knowing that families can thrive and look forward to a brighter future because of your generosity.

Adam's Story

Adam's Story

Have you ever felt lonely even when surrounded by friends and family?

That’s how Adam felt for many years.  He had experienced intense childhood trauma: physical and emotional abuse and a strained relationship with his father. Adam grew up thinking that what happened at home was normal, never realizing the impact difficult family relationships would have on his future. He kept his thoughts and feelings to himself which led to many unhealthy and dysfunctional relationships.

At the age of 36, Adam met Jane. They had dreams of building a beautiful home and starting a family, but his past trauma got in the way. He began to withdraw from intimate situations and masked his feelings with anger. He felt he could not open up to anyone and his sense of loneliness increased.

Over time, Jane and Adam’s relationship began to deteriorate. Jane felt discouraged and isolated, having her attempts consistently denied by the man she loved. Even though they both craved connection, they didn’t know how to do it in a healthy and sustainable way.  This is when Adam sought help at Carizon.

He discovered that, despite his financial barriers, help was available. With your support Carizon offers counselling services on a sliding fee scale, so people like Adam can afford the help they need.  We don’t turn anyone away who needs our supports and services.

Adam attends counselling services to address his childhood trauma, and better understand the effects his past experiences have on his current relationships.  Adam has grown to trust the process of counselling at Carizon. He has also learned to trust others and to embrace vulnerability. Counselling has given Adam the opportunity to learn skills to manage his personal relationships and express his needs in a healthy way.

You may know someone, like Adam, who is struggling. Actually, statistics estimate that 1 in 5 people in Canada will personally experience mental health issues in the upcoming year.

So far this year 4,748 individuals have accessed counselling services at Carizon.  Your support makes it possible for Carizon to continue helping people thrive in our community. Please consider donating today.

The Elliott Family Story

The Elliott Family Story

As we celebrate this holiday season, we know that there are many families in our community who struggle every day. Whether our friends, our family members, our co-workers, our children, or our ourselves… 1 in 3 people are affected by mental health. With your help, we can re-write their stories.


Meet the Elliott family who, thanks to Carizon’s help, is tackling their mental health battle: Jordan, a 10-year-old boy, Ada, his 8-year-old sister and their Mom, Christine.

Jordan often acts out by throwing tantrums, hitting his sister and being sent home from school. He has been labelled a trouble-maker. But let’s dig a little deeper:

When Jordan was 6 years old, the family struggled financially. Living in a one-bedroom apartment, Jordan and his sister shared a room while his parents slept on a pull-out couch in the living room. Then, the unimaginable happened: both parents were laid off. Jordan’s father, overwhelmed and distraught, attempted suicide. Jordan was the one who found him and called for help. Two years later, Jordan’s parents separated, and his father moved out. Mom, Jordan and Ada moved to a neighbourhood where Carizon has targeted services for families.

It was there that Jordan and his family were connected to Carizon and finally able to re-write their story…

  • The family began to participate in Carizon’s programs in their neighbourhood community centre.
  • Jordan was referred to trauma treatment services and the family accessed counselling services at Carizon, using the sliding scale fee based on Christine’s income.
  • Christine met regularly with a Carizon Community Resource Worker to learn how to help Jordan manage his big emotions, develop social skills, and stay in school.
  • Ada attended a Girls’ Group where she built new relationships and learned new skills, like sewing.

Because of donors like you, Jordan’s family has settled into their new community, feels supported and is able to manage life’s challenges with confidence and resilience.

With your support, we help families when life is tough. We assist 13,000 individuals each year, delivering counselling, children’s mental health and community services programs in over 70 locations throughout Waterloo Region. It costs $6,000 per year to support a family like Jordan’s. Please consider helping your local neighbours with a donation this year. Your financial support will help families in our community reach their true potential.


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.


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.”


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!”


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.


Mara, Jace and Gena’s Story

Mara, Jace and Gena’s Story

Everybody wants to belong. But belonging isn’t everyone’s experience in Waterloo Region. What if it were? Imagine a world where everyone feels part of a supportive community. Now imagine that you have the ability to help make that happen.

Everybody wants to belong. But belonging isn’t everyone’s experience in Waterloo Region. What if it were? Imagine a world where everyone feels part of a supportive community. Now imagine that you have the ability to help make that happen.

In Carizon’s community services programs, we strengthen vulnerable communities by walking alongside the people who live in them – listening and supporting them, and helping them heal, grow and thrive.

We listen to Mara, Jace and Gena in our Girls’ Group. Here they share the challenges they face as new Canadians growing up in our region and their everyday concerns as teenagers. We support these girls (and many others) in a safe space, and encourage them to talk to us and to each other. We help them see their many talents and how they can use those talents to grow and become all that they can be.

We notice the changes in Jake. Jake struggles with managing his emotions and has violent outbursts that cause him trouble at school, at home and with his friends. Recently, he became upset at our youth group. This time we saw him use the skills he learned in our group – he recognized his anger, took a deep breath and began to calm himself down. He removed himself from the group for a few minutes and realized that his hunger was contributing to his emotional outburst. Jake’s new inner strength and awareness puts him on a path where he can build stronger friendships and be successful in school.

We celebrate… a lot! Regular potlucks and summer barbeques at our community centres are joyful events. At the heart of our work is building connections. We create opportunities to develop friendships, and to identify skills and knowledge within the neighbourhoods so the people who live, work and socialize there can influence and make the changes they know will make a difference to them.

You can help Mara, Jace, Gena, Jake and others like them in vulnerable communities by giving to Carizon’s services and programs this holiday season. Imagine a world where everyone feels they belong, and feels heard and valued. We don’t have to imagine; we can make it happen. What an amazing gift you will give to these families with your support.


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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