Helping Hands - Salvation Army Canada

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    Helping Hands

    For women across the city of Calgary, The Salvation Army's Community Services is a welcome refuge January 3, 2012 by Ken Ramstead
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    I never expected to stay in Calgary,” says Karen Livick, executive director of The Salvation Army's community services in Calgary. Part of the executive team tasked by territorial headquarters to oversee the amalgamation of the Army's social programs in the city into one ministry unit, Livick had thought she'd be there for only two years.

    “That was in 1999, and here I stay!” she laughs. “But I wouldn't have it any other way.”

    “We have a solid, efficient organization,” says Livick proudly. “And while everything we do is important, I'm particularly excited about two of our initiatives, the women's residential program and the Global Café.”

    It Takes a Village
    This past September, the women's residential services moved into their own separate facility, called the Village.

    “While there are some basic qualifications, we rarely turn anyone away,” says Livick. “We meet the women where they are, one to one.”

    At the Village, the Army works with women over a three-month period on the skills they need to be successful when they move back into the community. Core classes include computer literacy, job readiness, self-esteem, anger management, values and relationship building.

    “Central to everything we do here is our pastoral care services,” says Livick. “It allows the women to have that additional support to search for their spiritual side. We've had a few clients who have grown in their spirituality thanks to our chaplain, Lieutenant Kathy Blindenbach.”

    In a little over a year, 42 women have passed through the program, and 22 have graduated.

    “While the program officially lasts three months, there is no set graduation time,” explains Sheila McKillop, the women's residential program manager. “Some of our women have learning disabilities, some may not pick up a skill on the first attempt. We're more than happy to continue to teach them the skills they need to be successful.”

    One of the core courses is the cooking component, which Ann Underhill oversees. There, the women learn basic kitchen skills, food safety, health and nutrition. She recalls one of the first women who participated in the three-month program. “She was pregnant during the whole program,” Underhill says. “She graduated with flying colours and successfully moved out on her own. We contact her on a monthly basis to make sure the new mother is doing all right, but there's almost no need. It's awesome to see her strength and coping skills continually evolve.

    “Many women who come to us have been denied the opportunity to learn how to provide healthy, properly proportioned meals for themselves and their families,” Underhill continues. “It's an essential component of the life skills that The Salvation Army provides for these women.”

    Global Café
    Originally created to support the influx of Spanish-speaking immigrants to the Calgary area, the Global Café is a community centre that offers job training and legal services.

    “Most of our mothers are from the Latino community and didn't have a place to go where they could socialize and build networks,” says Olimphya Elizondo, a staff member.

    “We promote integration of multicultural families into Canadian society, provide information about community resources and help answer any questions they may have about their new country,” says Livick. “We also provide ESL courses so that these newcomers can effectively cope with life's challenges and become self-sustaining and more independent.”

    More than 100 families avail themselves of the Global Café's services every month.

    “Our role is to provide a non-judgmental area where newcomers can build their self-confidence, learn English, build networks and overcome some of their stumbling blocks so that they can move on with their lives here in Canada,” continues Livick.

    “Our clients have gone on to start businesses and are now helping those who have followed with employment and support in their turn,” explains Elizondo.

    Patricia Barreda started attending the Global Café last year and couldn't speak a word of English. “Thanks to this place, I developed the skills and self-confidence I needed to get a job,” she says.

    Margarita Sevilla, now a volunteer at the centre who helps immigrants, was once a refugee herself. “I took refuge in a church for seven months while my claim was being processed, so I understand exactly what my clients are going through,” Sevilla says. “Now, I'm trying to make a difference in their lives.”

    “The challenge can be overwhelming for any woman who decides to leave her home to go ask for help, who doesn't know the language and who might be unfamiliar with the city,” says Elizondo. “Every woman here is a warrior and a survivor. With courage, hope and faith, they hold on to their dreams and move forward.

    “As Salvationists, we try to be a transforming influence in the lives of others and support those in most need. It's a huge responsibility, but it's also a great opportunity.”

    Caring and Support
    The Salvation Army's social services in Calgary consist of 165 employees spread through five main locations. Some of the services offered include:

    Men's Residential Services—Housed at the Centre of Hope, accommodation for homeless and transient men include 159 emergency and 164 transitional beds.

    Pregnant and Parenting Support Centre—Counselling and workshops help new parents gain life skills so that they can raise healthy and happy children.

    Addictions Recovery—Counselling, life-skills training, and anger and stress management are just some of the programs provided.

    Family Christmas Assistance Program—Low-income families in Calgary and the surrounding area can receive food vouchers and age-appropriate toys or gift certificates for children under 17.

    Community Support Services—Programs such as rent assistance, income-tax assistance, work-boots programs and backpacks for children are designed to meet the pressing needs of families and individuals.

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