United Way Stories & Videos
See & hear how your donations are changing lives.
Big Brothers Big Sisters Guelph
“The girls in the Go Girls program are often very shy and reserved when they first join the group. It is wonderful to see them learn and trust each other, share confidences and begin to risk speaking up and sharing their thoughts. They begin to journal and self-reflect on their struggles and different issues they are facing. This program is all about boosting their self-esteem and making them realize that they have a voice and a choice in the decisions and events they will encounter in their life journey. They begin to understand themselves a little bit better and realize that although they are unique, they often share concerns, fears, and worries similar to many of the other girls.
One girl at the end of the evening session when the caseworker asked her how she was enjoying Go Girls, said,
“I love it. I thought I was the only one in the whole world who felt the way I do, but I am not. Many of the other girls have experienced the same feelings as me.”
The complete awe and surprise on her face and that sense of connectedness that she wasn’t alone in her struggles or how she felt made her light up with a sense of self-worth and belonging.”
-Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Wellington: Go Girls and Game On!
“Grade 9 is supposed to be a new and exciting experience for many. It’s a time where one has the opportunity to makes new friends, memories, and start a new chapter of their life. My experience was different. Eight years ago today, during my first semester of high school, the world that I knew shattered in front of me.
I remember being called out of class to the office and having to share experiences I tried to repress, with the police, my school, and my family. Hearing myself speak, I remember slowly going from being ecstatic about this new chapter of my life, to wanting to hide away forever.
My life began to change drastically when I was told that I had to be a witness at the trial against someone I called my best friend. The world I knew became a very uncomfortable place, which made it very difficult for me to cope. I was a 14-year-old girl who was now being exposed to the real world in a way that could never be anticipated by anyone.
When I was put in contact with the Child Witness Centre, I finally felt like I had a safe place to go. I had a place where people understood what was happening to me. This was also a place where no judgement took place.
I remember the first day I was introduced to my caseworker at the centre. I immediately felt welcomed, safe, and accepted. My caseworker never asked me what he did, or why I got to where I was. She taught me about the court process, and helped me feel comfortable with the trial.
The Child Witness Centre helped put my mind at ease. When I had questions, I always got an honest answer. When I wanted to know things that I did not want to ask the police, or share with others, I felt okay asking my caseworker. It was my safe place in a shattered world.
After the trial, I still kept in contact with my caseworker for about a year. She assured me what was happening with the outcome, and explained how the process would be handled down the road. In many ways I felt ashamed about what happened, and I was embarrassed for being curious about some of the things I wanted to know. For instance, wanting to know what was happening with him, or what would happen in the future. Yet, my caseworker made me feel like my questions were valid and normal. It put my mind at ease.
For years, I tried to repress the traumatic experience I went through. Court processes are lengthily, and scary, especially for a child like I was. As I got older, I started understanding what happened during this experience of my life, and how it had impacted me. Doing so, I realized I needed to give back. So, a few months ago I reached out to the Child Witness Centre. I wanted to volunteer at the organization that helped me so much in one of the darkest times of my life. This organization gave me hope in the midst of despair. They helped turn my shame and sadness into an opportunity. I am now happily in my final years of University pursuing a degree in Legal Studies; in hopes to one day help victims see justice.
If I had any words of wisdom for future witnesses or victims that go through a traumatic experience like I did, I would just want them to know they are not alone. What happened to them does not define who they are, or who they are capable of being. Bad experiences can be used to help others in positive ways. The Child Witness Centre helped me see this, and so now it’s my time to give back.
I feel comfortable sharing my experience because in my eyes, that is the entire purpose of going through something – to help others.”
-Child Witness Centre: Child Witness Program
“Money can’t buy happiness but this dollar made it possible for Rainbow to pay for inclusion staff to support the Teens at camp.
This dollar made it possible for Johnny to beat me at the card game “war” 17 times when he was at camp. Seriously 17 times…he counted.
This dollar made it possible for Rainbow’s Teen Camp to go on fun filled field trips like the one we went on to the campus radio station CFRU.
This dollar made it possible for Davina, a charismatic and warm girl, to work her charm on the radio station and get offered a volunteer position working there.
This dollar made it possible for Teen camp to secure their very own space for this summer – it’s called the fireplace lounge. Because of this lounge, Jennifer, a kind and creative, but very shy camper, no longer needs to spend her day sitting on the floor in a stairwell because she doesn’t feel like she has her own personal space within the rest of camp. The fireplace lounge is a bigger and more open space for Jennifer to occupy and get closer with her fellow Teens.”
– Rainbow Programs for Children: Rainbow Day Camp
Welcome In Drop-In Centre
Michael House Pregnancy Care Centre
Action Read Community Literacy Centre
One guest, in his 50s, was working at a full-time permanent position until five years ago when he suffered a back injury and was unable to work. In pain, without the ability to work, he found himself trying to adjust to a major lifestyle and financial shift. He dipped deeper and deeper into depression. As a result of an inability to work on a consistent basis, accompanied by his mental health difficulties, he lost his job and had to apply for Ontario Works. For the first time in his life, he found himself having to access food pantries such as CCSC, which depressed him even further.
Five years later, even though he is currently on ODSP and CPP, he still is frequently without enough money to take him through to the end of the month. He continues to depend on the services that CCSC offers – he especially appreciates the fresh fruit and vegetables, in addition to the goat’s milk that is offered, as he is on a special lactose-free diet that he could not maintain without the food he receives at CCSC.
Five years ago, he was able to afford to buy new clothing, but now, he appreciates the ability to access the mending services offered by CCSC volunteers, as he can no longer afford to purchase new clothes. He describes CCSC as a friendly, helpful, humourful meeting place where he can choose the food he wishes to take home, supermarket-style.
He feels that he is treated in a friendly way and he is comfortable to return when he needs to. He expressed that coming to CCSC has been important in helping to lift his depression, as he feels like he is part of a community here.
-Chalmers Community Services Centre: Food Pantry
Vicky struggled for many years with addiction and mental health issues and finally ended in a relationship breakdown in which she found herself homeless. Vicky was underweight and unhealthy due to her addictions and unhealthy lifestyle. When she arrived at Elizabeth Place it was an expectation for her to sit with the women for the 6 pm meal. Vicky started to eat a healthy meal each night and started to enjoy sitting and talking with the women over sharing this meal together. During this process she re-discovered her love of cooking. Vicky began to participate in meal preparation and over some time started to cook for the fellow women and children. Vicky slowly began to get healthy and put on some much needed weight. Meal time became a time of great support as she bonded with the other women over healthy food. All of this has greatly contributed to Vicky securing personal vitality and health.
-Welcome in Drop in Centre: Stepping Stone Shelter
Wyndham House offers young people a safe and supportive living environment where they can work toward their educational goals and learn the life skills required for independent living.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me.”
When I was sixteen, most people thought my fate was sealed. For many years I was told I would never amount to anything. I was told that I would drop out of high school at sixteen, get pregnant and just sit on welfare for the rest of my life. I was told drugs and alcohol would consume my life and I would be a mixed junkie forever. After a while I really started to believe people. Luckily I found out I had options.
Three weeks after I turned sixteen, I made the decision to no longer put up with the abuse I was experiencing and ran away from home for the last time. I found my way to Guelph and within two weeks I was living at Wyndham House for Young Women. I was only out of school for three days so getting back in was no problem and chores and curfew was a part of my life before so it wasn’t new to me. I never knew just how much my life could change in the sixteen months I would stay there.
Throughout my stay at Wyndham House, I know I learned all the intended lessons: laundry, cooking, proper hygiene, cleanliness and much more. Furthermore, I learned that my destiny was not set in stone and I truly learned who I really was and who I wanted to become. I once again found my passion for education, quit doing drugs, started going to counselling, got support for my mental illnesses and stopped self-harming. I changed my life from what pessimistic people thought I would be to who I wanted to be. Like I said, I truly found myself as an independent young woman.
It’s been over four years since I left the Wyndham House for Young Women and my life has grown even more. Not only have I completed two years of college to become a Child and Youth Worker, I just completed a field placement at the Wyndham House Resource Centre and the Wyndham House for Young Men. The staff and the program made such an impression on me that I wanted to make that same impression on someone else. The staff members were not my parents and the program is not the law, but the opportunity to learn to be an adult in an environment where it’s still okay to be a teenager, increased the value of the staff and program influence.
My time at Wyndham House was both the best and worst time of my life. I found myself hitting rock bottom in the worst way. Without the program, I would not have found myself in the positive way that I did and the fate predicted to me by family, friends and other community members would have come true. The names junkie, drop-out and failure used to hurt, but not anymore. Today, I am strong, smart, clean and moving forward everyday!
– Amber (Campbell) Cece, Wyndham House
As a child, Martin was never encouraged to learn. His father told him he was stupid; abuse, addiction and incarceration confirmed this belief. In prison he decided to complete his high school diploma, having never given reading and learning much attention. Much to his surprise he discovered that he was good at school. He completed his Grade 12 and tutored other inmates to learn how to read. The widespread level of illiteracy in prisons was eye-opening to Martin.
A few years ago Martin came to Action Read to learn how to use a computer. He was struggling to find work, and needed computer skills to be able to write and update his resume, write cover letters and search and apply for jobs.
Upon completing our program, he found that employment barriers were lifted and doors opened from gaining basic computer knowledge.
Martin believes strongly in giving back to the community for the support he has received. He speaks publicly about his challenges and the supports he has received so that others can understand first-hand the complexities of people’s situations and how learning can be interconnected with these challenges. He believes that literacy is critical to successfully overcoming challenges like his and those he knows that struggle with similar issues.
-Action Read: Educational Support for Disadvantaged Adults
Guelph Wellington Seniors Association
Guelph Neighbourhood Support Coalition
Immigrant Services Guelph Wellington
“I am one of the many people with the “hidden handicap” – having severe hearing loss. Since moving to Guelph & discovering the many available “tools” for people such as myself, via the prior unknown to me – [Canadian] Hearing Society in Guelph, the Society has made a tremendous difference and improvement to my life style. Examples — I now can tell when someone is at my door, or in the foyer coming to visit me, the phone calls, the flashing light to make one aware & enjoy viewing television once again via the devices available & more importantly installed by the area Counsellor, also devices that can be used away from one’s residence. Not only that, the Counsellor has been extremely helpful in assisting with the numerous medical appointments that I have required in recent weeks that would otherwise have been extremely difficult to arrange.
I cannot forget Hellen Keller’s reputed comment on being queried, as to being given a choice would she prefer blindness or deafness. Her response was to be blind.
Deafness as I and many others would willingly state, excludes one greatly from all of society – without some form of assistance. Now, I am included!”
– Canadian Hearing Society: Hearing Care Counselling Program
Betty is a senior living in Guelph and attempting to remain independent in her community. Betty has arthritis and finds it extremely difficult and painful to move around her apartment and get to the elevator in her building using her rollator. Betty’s Occupational Therapist recommended a scooter which she trialed with success. The total cost of the scooter was $3,041 and the Ministry of Health’s Assistive Devices Program contributed 75% leaving a balance of $760.25. Due to her limited finances, Betty was not able to pay the balance. Betty and her Occupational Therapist then applied to March of Dimes Canada’s Assistive Devices Program for funding assistance.
The Assistive Devices Program (ADP) provides financial assistance to people with disabilities across the province, assisting with the cost and maintenance of basic mobility devices as well as Home and Bath Safety Equipment. ADP is one of March of Dimes’ charity programs supported 100% by donor dollars. The ADP program’s staff are able to stretch every dollar to its fullest potential, enabling staff to provide necessary, life-changing devices to people across the province that desperately need them, but cannot afford the equipment on their own.
With the help of the Assistive Devices Program, Betty was able to purchase her scooter. Betty can now safely go out into her community, meet new people and visit her friends.
The scooter has restored some of her independence, as she used to rely on her friend to take her to the bank. Now she is able to go by herself. She can also navigate grocery stores and Wal-Mart when she goes shopping. Unfortunately, Betty had to give up several things she used to enjoy when she moved to her apartment, such as her big flower garden and her two cats. With her new scooter, though, she can go out into the community and visit local parks to see the flowers and to the pet store to visit the cats. The scooter has also reduced the pain she experienced with her rollator.
Betty is very grateful for the assistance and when asked how she was enjoying her new scooter she said “It’s very helpful. It makes a difference and wish I had done it sooner but I didn’t know how to get it because I could not afford it.”
-March of Dimes Canada: Assistive Devices Program
Hospice Wellington offers care to people living with the challenges of a life-limiting illness or loss.
Every week for the last ten years, Gerard Luyckx has brought solace to people in their last moments of life. As a volunteer with Hospice Wellington, Gerard “works quietly to bring comfort to people when needed.”
Before he began to volunteer with Hospice, Gerard’s wife fought and lost a battle with cancer. Although at the time it was hard to accept help, Gerard realized he needed support and began to receive two visits every day from caring people in his community. After his wife passed away, Gerard reflected on all the help and support he had received during the last months of his wife’s life.
“I realized I had been given so much, I wanted to pay back,” says Gerard.
Some people he visits just want to talk about what is on their mind. For others, Gerard brings an opportunity to get out of the house for a walk or a drive in the country. Others reminisce about the past and share stories about the happy and sad times in their lives.
“You share things with each other,” adds Gerard, speaking about the intimate bond that he forms with the people he visits.
He says that most of the time he listens because by listening he learns more about the people and their needs. Every person is different. The time he gives is not always tragic. There is lots of good too. Sometimes he brings humour to people; sometimes a different outlook.
“You get to know people in such an amicable way. You find beautiful things.”
And sometimes, “there are no words, no verbal communication, but you need to be compassionate and understanding.”
Your donations to United Way Guelph Wellington Dufferin support the work of Hospice Wellington, bringing comfort to people and their families when they need it most.