While I do my best to keep this blog about my school experiences and the work I’ve been doing, sometimes I do fall off track. This is one of those times, but with VERY good reason.
I was asked to speak at the Volunteer Luncheon for SIRCH Community Services. That organization has done SOOOO MUCH for my son and I. I didn’t think twice when I was asked. I may not be able to give back monetarily or have time to volunteer right now, but I can share my success story and the HUGE role SIRCH and the volunteers have played to get me here. I have decided to post my speech so that the world can see what the volunteers in particular have helped make happen. It would also be wonderful for more people to know about what SIRCH does and how they help. So here’s what I said, from the heart:
It is such a great honour to be here today. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my story about how you, the volunteers, and SIRCH have given my son and I more than you will ever know. First of all, I want thank each and every one of you for what you do. Do you really have any idea how many lives you have touched? I would give each of you a big hug if I could.
There are some people out there that would rather not share their story. I am open about my story for many reasons. One is that perhaps there is somebody out there that is in a similar situation. When you’re in the situation, you don’t realize that there is anything wrong. Perhaps hearing what I’ve endured and seeing the outcome will help them realize that there is help out there if they want to get out. An equally important reason, why I am here today, is not only to thank you, but also to let you know that you ARE making a difference. We need more people in the world like you. You’re not giving us handouts. You are giving hand-ups. Rebuilding your life is not an easy thing to do. But when you have organizations with amazing volunteers such as SIRCH has by your side, it sure does alleviate much of the stress.
I have been fortunate to have been touched by three programs that SIRCH offers.
The first one is the CAPC program. Every Wednesday I would take my little man to the community center here in town. Since he doesn’t have any siblings, this was a great opportunity for him to play with other children in a safe, well-supervised environment. The other mom’s and myself would then go downstairs to listen to various guest speakers. We covered things like cooking and meal planning on a budget, wills, parenting issues, health and so much more. Once a month we got to go to Lily Ann to pick up some clothes for either our kids or ourselves. That really did help a lot. The other thing that REALLY helped was the milk supplement. As you know, milk is ridiculously expensive in our community. There was one point where I was only getting $400/month after my rent was paid. My Child Tax Benefit was suspended for 10 months due to my son’s father falsely claiming him on his income tax. That $400 that we did have had to cover diapers, food, clothing, gas and anything else that came up. Spending at least $7 per week on milk would have really set us back.
The other thing about the CAPC program is that it gave us mom’s a break. It was also a safe place where we could vent our frustrations while knowing that our children wouldn’t see it and that they were taken care of. There was always somebody there to listen. They would let you talk things out and come up with different suggestions and resources. This was key for me because I was dealing with my abuser on a regular basis, having to hand my baby over to him, the injustice in the family court system, money issues, housing issues… There was A LOT. There were times where I would barely get through the door before I crumbled. One day I asked “Why is it that I always seem to be crying when I get here?” The response that was given to me was “Because you know your little man is taken care of here, you’re in a safe place and you know that you can release here.” It’s true. Aside from the things previously mentioned, the release was something that I really needed to do. I’m so grateful that I had a place to do it.
Another lifesaver for us was the Community Kitchen. Not only did it help keep the food costs down, but it was really nice to not have to worry about cooking a meal every once in a while. The food was nutritious and it was very delicious as well. This program is very important to so many people in the county.
Last, but not least is Sew Resourceful. I apologize if I well up here. You see, it’s not every day that you enroll in a program that ends up leading you to a long-time dream coming true. Three years ago next Monday was when I had just had enough. I grabbed my 9 month old son, a few belongings and we fled that horrible situation. Three years ago next Monday, we were sitting in a shelter. I didn’t know where we were going to live. How I was going to get food and clothing for my son and myself. How I was going to support us. The only hope that I had at that point was the little bundle staring up at me with my eyes. We ended up coming back home to Minden. That’s when I got involved with the CAPC program.
One November day in 2009, I received a phone call from the CAPC co-ordinator at the time. She was really excited to tell me about this new program called Sew Resourceful. She asked me if I would be interested in learning some sewing skills and sewing out of my home to make some extra money. She already knew the answer to this since I was constantly knitting or crocheting something at CAPC. She gave me Darby Bayly’s phone number, the woman who was going to be teaching the program. The program was going to be held at Fleming here in town. Darby explained to me that we would be making environmental bags and toys out of upcycled materials. She said that she was hoping that it would evolve into a cottage industry someday. She was barely through her description when I said “Sign me up! Sign me up!”
Before I get too off track because this program REALLY changed our lives, I want to talk about what we did there. We learned basic sewing skills, how to follow patterns, putting in zippers, buttons, machine troubleshooting and so much more. If we wanted to know more, all we had to do was ask. Darby and then Laura the following year were more than willing to help us out. We learned life skills such as how to present ourselves when dealing with the public, problem solving and troubleshooting, business skills, public speaking, how to write artist statements, how to set up booths at shows. There was a lot! We had a lot of pleasant learning experiences and an unpleasant one or two, as with anything in life. It was actually good that an unpleasant one came up while we were under SR’s umbrella though because we learned how to tactfully and professionally deal with such situations that are inevitable when dealing with customers. Aside from all of this, there was a beautiful sisterhood that formed amongst some of us. We were there for each other and still are in spite of the fact that I can no longer attend.
So now I will get back to why Sew Resourceful impacted my life the way it did. I clicked with Darby immediately. The things she showed us were amazing. That just lit a spark within me that evolved into a fire. Through conversation I came to find out that Darby had taken the Fibre Arts program at Fleming. She told me how wonderful it was and how it changed her life. She then suggested that I may want to look into it because I seemed to have that fire. The funny thing was that I had taken an aptitude test when I was 15 that suggested that very direction! I had sold some knitted sweaters, baby outfits and blankets when I was younger. And I loved it! Could I do this as a career? Nah, now isn’t the right time. I had too much going on like having to meet my son’s father for his access visits. That was stopping me from getting a job. Of course it would stop me from going back to school.
When Sew Resourceful started back up in the fall of 2010, Laura Trach was our instructor. I found out that she had taken the Fibre Arts program too. And it changed her life. Hmmm… Interesting. On a field trip to the gallery in Minden I was speaking to one of the staff there. Through conversation I found out that she had taken the Fibre Arts program at Fleming. And it changed her life… Okay! Message received!
In February of this year, I said to heck with it all. To heck with the fact that I didn’t know how I was going to pay for it. To heck with having to have to put my life on hold because I had to cater to my abuser who didn’t want to get a job or move forward with his own life. To heck with it all! It will all work out. I’m applying! If it wasn’t for attending SR and meeting these people that had taken Fibre Arts, I highly doubt I would have ever applied.
I got my acceptance on my son’s third birthday. I will be going back to class after I finish speaking to you. I asked my instructor, Kim McBrien, who was one of our guest speakers at SR, if it was okay if I missed class this afternoon to be here. She said that it was important that I attend.
From time to time, I like to sit down and reflect about how I got to where I am and who has helped me along the way. All I did was pick up the phone in January of 2009 to inquire about a program designed to help moms. All I wanted was to give my little man the best start to life that I possibly could. And look what happened from making that one phone call! I love remembering who has helped me get to where I am. Now I can match some faces with such loving gestures!
You may not often get to see or meet the people you are helping. Or see just how many lives you have touched. How many lives you have changed. How many lives you have saved. How many dreams you have helped launch and have come true. Well, I am one of those people. My son is another one. If it wasn’t for volunteers like you, I wouldn’t be living out my dream right now, setting a great example for my son or learning things to pass on to him that I never even imagined possible. You have given my son and I a great gift, one of the greatest, most meaningful gifts we will ever get. The gift of time and love. We can’t thank you enough.
I would like all of you to do me a favour if you could. Someday when I get my work out and about in the county and you see it in a store, in a gallery or even online, I would really appreciate it if you could smile and take a second or two to think to yourself “I played a role in this piece being here. If it wasn’t for me giving my time and resources, I wouldn’t be looking at this piece of work right now.” It’s true. I am where I am because of a selfless action from each and every one of you. With everything I do, I remember how I got there and who helped me. I will always remember what you have done for my son and me.
The really beautiful part about this… I did get quite a few hugs. And I have more coming!
Next Wednesday, December 14 at 9:30 am, I will be joining Nancy Brownsberger (who hides her wings really well!) from SIRCH on Canoe FM out of Haliburton. Tune in if you can… You can listen live from their website 🙂