“At Risk”

   

The term “at risk youth” is thrown around a lot, often without much thought or care. It’s a label that can feel very cold and dehumanizing.

But what are “at risk youth” really “at risk” of?

I think if we stopped and answered that question, we wouldn’t use the term so casually.

Because the truth is, right now, these youth are at risk of dying.

Drug addiction and overdose are not new to Ottawa, but the surge of overdoses over the past year is unprecedented. The youth I work with are more at risk of dying from an overdose than ever. So much so, that lately when a youth does not show up for our weekly art group, I get a knot in my stomach worrying they are the latest overdose victim.

It’s a really dark time.

But in the midst of this, the youth at Innercity Arts provide hope. Even in this darkness, they remain resilient and build each other up – like no other community I’ve ever seen.

I’m inspired by their strength. I’m humbled by their generosity. I’m thankful for their compassion.

I’m always amazed by the beautiful things they create. This year, they have created some incredible pieces of art and music and will showing it to the community.

I hope you can attend the show, and be witness to a truly hopeful thing in this dark time.

Event Link: https://www.facebook.com/events/131027517429263/ 

 

What if it was you?

Valentines Day Week - just passed. Kudos to all of our volunteer outreach workers in all capacities: street outreach, drop in, office drop in, prayer partners, donors, those who cook for our event dinners, the ones that donate sleeping bags and all kinds of other goodies that we use as tools to make connections with those who live and breathe on the streets of our city. Sometimes, just sometimes, our street outreach volunteers might walk their routes in minus 30 degrees, and come back feeling somewhat disappointed because on this cold night, they only saw a couple of street friends. Then the thoughts come, "I wonder if I am making all that much difference anyhow. It doesn't feel like it tonight at least." Stop. Pause. What if it was you? You on the streets, maybe even on that one cold night when no one much pays you any attention really, and you feel invisible, forgotten, neglected, and abandoned. Then the recurring thoughts from your past come: thoughts of 'no good', you'll never amount to anything, you are not really worth the effort... Then an outreach worker shows up with a sandwich, a juice box, but more importantly, a smile, an inquiry about your week, a reminder of something that you said last week or time when you last connected, and some random (or planned) word of encouragement that really lifted your spirits... How would that make you feel? For the one's and two's and groups on the streets, and the teams of two or three volunteers walking and watching-  add these together and you have two: one, a great deal of difference in someone(s) life; and two, 'everything' (and all that entails) to our those who call the streets their home. A small thing for us maybe, but what if it was 'you?' I know it would mean a lot to me. Ken MacLaren

Episode 8: Danielle’s Christmas Wish

Hi I'm Danielle. My wish is that everyone has someone to be with this Christmas, and if not, that they feel God is with them, that His presence would comfort them and remind them that they are not alone. I wish that everyone will have a place to stay, that no one has to spend Christmas out in the cold. I hope and I pray that OIM continues to help those in need, and that God continues to reveal Himself to their community and bless them, to do his work through them with people who need it most. I wish that no one will go hungry, that every child wakes up Christmas morning with joy and wonder in their hearts, and families everywhere would come together and really appreciate love and happiness.  I wish for you who are listening, that whatever your situation is, that you have a wonderful, wonderful holiday and are surrounded by love, friends and family. God bless you. Have a blessed and Merry Christmas!    Please give consideration with your family to adding just one more person to your Christmas list and sponsoring one of the youth in our program for only $30 /month? Click “Donate Now” and make a lasting difference in the life of someone who just never had a chance before, just like Danielle.

Danielle’s Story: Episode 7 – What’s happening now

 
“Danielle's Story” is a series running throughout December.
To listen to the audio backgrounder from Family Radio CHRI, click the play button below. Follow along all month to hear this amazing story!
Jason baptized me in the Ottawa River. He used to drive me to church with his family. It was a turning point in my life. I graduated from the art program, and entered Algonquin College for Animation.  I graduated last year. Right now, I am getting closer to getting a studio job as an animator.  In another couple of weeks I'll do another interview and then I will be able to complete my homelessness journey, and support myself without relying on others. My art is more than creativity, it was my means to escape the horrors of abuse and homelessness. It kept me going. I  escaped the temptation of drugs, and turned to my stories when I needed to escape that world.  It was my home when I had none. Homelessness taught me what happiness is all about. It is not about materialism. It is not about having money. I was happiest, when I was with my friend and her mother. I was happiest when I was at OIM, as a part of the art program, and their staff and volunteers offered so much - support, encouragement and acceptance. This has made all the difference in my life. Life is about love.   Please give consideration with your family to adding just one more person to your Christmas list and sponsoring one of the youth in our program for only $30 /month? Click “Donate Now” and make a lasting difference in the life of someone who just never had a chance before, just like Danielle.

Danielle’s Story: Episode 5 – I found OIM (or OIM found me)

“Danielle's Story” is a series running throughout December.
To listen to the audio backgrounder from Family Radio CHRI, click the play button below. Follow along all month to hear this amazing story!
   
It was about this time I met up with an Ottawa Innercity Ministries street outreach team. It was rainy and cold and they gave me food and I was one of the first people at the art program that just started up. I was treated with respect, and it felt like I was stepping out of the community of drugs, violence and gangs. OIM gave me food, friendship and all the things I had ever longed for.
I began to volunteer with them, and soon started in the Work Skills program. I moved out of the shelter, and finally left the street community.
I found Christians like me, who knew forgiveness, love and patience, and who accepted me for who I am. This was a profound experience for me. It wasn't too long after that I became a barista at a coffee shop and then enrolled at Algonquin college for animation.
  Stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI as two episodes unfold each week following the 8 o’clock morning and 5 o’clock evening news. As you prepare for Christmas with your family remember there are kids who are all alone. Why not let them know that they are NOT alone? Please give consideration with your family to adding just one more person to your Christmas list and sponsoring one of the youth in our program for only $30 /month? Click “Donate Now” and make a lasting difference in the life of someone who just never had a chance before, just like Danielle.

Danielle’s Story: Episode 4 – Back to Ottawa (again)

“Danielle's Story” is a series running throughout December.
To listen to the audio backgrounder from Family Radio CHRI, click the play button below. Follow along all month to hear this amazing story!
When I was 17, my stepfather invited me back to Ottawa and I agreed, after he promised he would never hurt me again. When it was time for me to go back home, he got his fiancée to drive me instead to one of the shelters downtown. I had no money, no family or friends, and no experience on the street. It was in November, and it was cold. I had no idea the homeless youth existed in the city and I couldn't imagine it happening to me. But it did. But there was a change in my life: suddenly I realized that I was in control. I could choose where I would live, and where I wanted to go. That first night I was filled with excitement. It was a cold November and I didn’t even have a winter coat- my step parents refused to give it to me. I only had a sweater. But I had my very own mug that was donated to me. And this mug represented my independence.  It wasn't long though before the harsh reality of youth homelessness hit me. My living conditions were not all that great.  I met a woman who had just been raped, and there was still sperm on her leg. Not long after, I realized that she was a prostitute. I recognized that I needed to get out of there - and found myself at the Young Women’s Shelter. On that day, the street youth were mourning a girl who just been murdered. At first, I felt safe, and I was excited about my new beginnings, but there was a frightening community surrounding me - drugs, violence and gangs. It was a normal way of life for street youth. Youth used drugs all the time: a girl who was pregnant said, "I don't care if my kid is stupid;' one girl bragged that she had 6 abortions, and another young girl got drunk to try to self abort her unborn twins. A boy was stabbed outside a drop in. While I was at the shelter, two girls were kidnapped and taken to Quebec as sex slaves. I was almost attacked walking home by somebody who wanted to drag me off to his gang watching from a dark alley nearby.  Stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI as two episodes unfold each week following the 8 o’clock morning and 5 o’clock evening news. As you prepare for Christmas with your family remember there are kids who are all alone. Why not let them know that they are NOT alone? Please give consideration with your family to adding just one more person to your Christmas list and sponsoring one of the youth in our program for only $30 /month? Click “Donate Now” and make a lasting difference in the life of someone who just never had a chance before, just like Danielle.

Danielle’s Story: Episode 3 – A repose in the midst of trouble

“Danielle's Story” is a series running throughout December.
To listen to the audio backgrounder from Family Radio CHRI, click the play button below. Follow along all month to hear this amazing story!
As soon as I turned 16, my friend's mother invited me to live with them. It was a very emotional experience finally escaping my family once and for all. It was a highlight of my life. I remember laying down in the small bedroom that they let me stay in. They painted a nice cloud on the ceiling and they all were so very sweet. At the same time, I was worried about how they might treat me. I had these panic attacks, with my heart racing and feeling like I was about to die. I was confused emotionally, and scared, I guess. My friends mom was very structured. She taught me about doing chores: doing dishes, laundry and all that. She never yelled at me, included me in the trips to the cottage, included me in all their family activities, helping in the garden. They noticed that I was struggling with my homework, so they sat down with me at the table and helped me focus. I just wanted to write stories, but they helped me get through school.  Living with my friend proved to be the safest time in my life that I have ever felt. My grades went from D's to A's.  Stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI as two episodes unfold each week following the 8 o’clock morning and 5 o’clock evening news. As you prepare for Christmas with your family remember there are kids who are all alone. Why not let them know that they are NOT alone? Please give consideration with your family to adding just one more person to your Christmas list and sponsoring one of the youth in our program for only $30 /month? Click “Donate Now” and make a lasting difference in the life of someone who just never had a chance before, just like Danielle.

Danielle’s Story: Episode 2 – The Beginnings of Abuse

“Danielle's Story” is a series running throughout December.
To listen to the audio backgrounder from Family Radio CHRI, click the play button below. Follow along all month to hear this amazing story!
  This is Danielle's story in her own words: We moved to Ottawa when I was six, that's when the abuse picked up. I remember coming home from school, afraid even before I got there. School started, and every day when I got home from school I would hide in my room, covering my ears when the stomping of feet began. I knew a beating was coming. My mother or stepfather came quickly down the stairs to hurt one of us if there was a noise, or if the baby had woken up. As  the years went by, the abuse became more serious and frightening. I knew something was wrong- but I didn’t know what to do. Even when social workers would come to investigate, my mother would threaten us not to say anything. I didn't dare speak up, for fear the beatings would become even more severe. I had to take Reactin to help with my skin condition, and my step mom would take that away from me and I'd get hives. I could write my name on my arm, the hives were so bad. Finally, when I was 15, my grandmother intervened and insisted that my mother could not take care of me. She took me out of province to live with her. For a while, things were going well- I was happier, I felt more confident. But one day, before a field trip, when I meekly asked my grandmother if I was driving to school with her, she suddenly grabbed by the arms. I still have scars from her nails and I went to school covered in blood. Stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI as two episodes unfold each week following the 8 o’clock morning and 5 o’clock evening news. As you prepare for Christmas with your family remember there are kids who are all alone. Why not let them know that they are NOT alone? Please give consideration with your family to adding just one more person to your Christmas list and sponsoring one of the youth in our program for only $30 /month? Click “Donate Now” and make a lasting difference in the life of someone who just never had a chance before, just like Danielle.

He fought like a soldier

Every Tuesday for the last several years, you could always count on Marcel to greet you at the drop-in. Walking in first thing in the morning (with a Tim Horton's cup in hand, of course), he would make his way to his regular table, but not without first greeting each staff member and volunteer. He had a special connection with two of our volunteers: Ken and Kirk, who are both veterans. You see, Marcel was a proud veteran himself - having served in the Canadian military for several years. But like so many other veterans, after leaving the military he felt lost. He struggled with alcoholism for years, which eventually led him to the streets. But Marcel was a strong man, who persevered. He fought to get off the alcohol and to reclaim his life. He got sober and got a small apartment. But even after surviving homelessness, his life was not easy. He struggled daily with depression and PTSD. But he fought. He fought like a soldier. This Tuesday at the drop-in, Marcel did not show up to greet us. One of his friends brought us the news that he had died over the weekend due to a heart condition. There were tears shed, as friends comforted each other.

So this Remembrance Day, the OIM community is remembering Marcel. We remember his courage and his resilience.

We thank him for his service.

And we will miss him dearly.

Marcel 3

Marcel at the drop-in.

 

Fabric Art

Last week, local artist and OIM volunteer Ruth Allison did a workshop with the youth at Innercity Arts. She talked to the youth about her love of using fabrics in her art. She said she gets inspiration from music, and then creates art pieces that reflect the music. She showed the youth techniques for using fabric on canvas. Although the youth were more used to using paint on canvas, they had lots of fun exploring with fabrics.

Check out what they made!

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