Advent Stories: Peace

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This time of year, Christians around the world will be celebrating advent, a time of expectant waiting for Christmas. Come with us as we journey through advent together, listening to stories from those in our programs as they explore Hope, Faith, Love and Peace.

PEACE

We met Vanessa earlier this year when she started attending Innercity Arts. Vanessa is friendly, energetic and generous. It is easy to think that she has everything figured out. But as we got to know her, we realized she is wearing a thick mask in order to cope with the trauma she has gone through. Recently Vanessa shared what it was like the first time she came to art group, and her thoughts on Peace.

“I would just sit in my room for days. Doing nothing really. All my life – regardless of living situation I’ve just been… existing – going through the motions of life. I would self-isolate a lot. I felt depressed, and lonely. I felt exhausted, but restless at the same time. Eventually I would force myself to go for a walk.

When I would go outside this feeling would come over me – like a deafening silence, and my feet would feel unsteady  like the ground was coming out from under me. It was chaotic in my head all the time. Like I was screaming but no one knew.

One day when I was walking I ran into my friend Dexter. He said he was going to this art group and I should come too. I was…skeptical but I had nothing else to do. Then we walked into this building – I didn’t know what to expect.

But the first thing I felt when I walked in…was peace. The ground felt firm, the noise in my head was quiet.  I could tell right away it was a good place. I felt like I connected with people right away and everyone was kinda like me. We’d all been though stuff. When I come here, I don’t have to concentrate on every move – I can just go on auto pilot. I felt calm and I think it’s because of the people here at OIM. I don’t have anything to worry about here. I’ve found compassion, kindness and community.”

Vanessa still struggles with isolating herself. And she still goes on long walks to help cope. “When I walk, I don’t really pay attention to where I am going. But I usually end up at the OIM building, even when it’s closed. I feel drawn to it. And I think it’s because it’s so peaceful.”

Listen to Vanessa’s Story of Peace:

 

 

Advent Stories: Love

Adora’s Vlogs (1)

This time of year, Christians around the world will be celebrating advent, a time of expectant waiting for Christmas. Come with us as we journey through advent together, listening to stories from those in our programs as they explore Hope, Faith, Love and Peace.

LOVE

 We met Larissa 3 years ago. She’d gone through a lot in her short life, including spending much of her teen years on the streets. Yet, she has a spark in her that just won’t go out – despite all she has been though. We asked her about the word LOVE and what it means to her: 

“When I was on the street, I would go to a lot of services and programs – but I didn’t really feel love there. I know they were trying to help….but it just felt like a service….not love.

When I came to Innercity Arts, I felt loved right away. I could tell that everyone loved each other and were connected.

I think that every new person who comes to the art group can see that we love each other – that we are a community. But they may feel like they don’t belong there. Sometimes, they may even act out or cause a problem because they don’t feel like they belong. But then we get over the problem and they learn that they are accepted anyways. And then they are part of the community.

I think that love doesn’t have a shape, or colour, or name, or form…it’s comes from people. Like the wonderful people at OIM  who work together and do good things. They show love to us, and then we carry that love wherever we go.

That’s what I think of when I think of Love.”

Larissa remains a faithful member of Innercity Arts and the Spirit of the Streets Choir. Last year, she took the Urban Intervention Training so she is now a weekly OIM volunteer!

Listen to Larissa Story:

 

 

Advent Stories: Faith

Adora’s Vlogs (1)

 

This time of year, Christians around the world will be celebrating advent, a time of expectant waiting for Christmas. Come with us as we journey through advent together, listening to stories from those in our programs as they explore Hope, Faith, Love and Peace.

FAITH

When I asked Bryon to share about his life he said: It’s been a nightmare; I have been through the meat grinder.

Bryon was born in Winnipeg; he comes from a family of 9.  Both of his parents were alcoholics, he grew up seeing a lot of violence in his family and receiving beatings from his father. Growing up with alcoholic parents was not easy. He doesn’t blame his parents for this, because he doesn’t know what happened to them, what pushed them to alcohol.

He’s been struggling with alcoholism over 50 years. He has had times of sobriety; the longest time was 2 years. Even thought he hasn’t managed to stay sober he says he will never give up because God has never let him fall into the cracks. He still struggle but he still has hope.

Bryon moved to Ottawa 2 and half years ago, he first connected with OIM at the Drop-In at Dominion Chalmers. “OIM helps a lot of people, people who are hurting and struggling with different things. They (OIM) have helped me immensely. They don’t just feed you they really help you. What keeps me going is knowing that I’m not alone and that I have support, people that cares for me and prays for me and that I have no doubt that God is there for me.”

Listen to Bryon’s Story:

 

 

Advent Stories: Hope

Adora’s Vlogs (1)

This time of year, Christians around the world will be celebrating advent, a time of expectant waiting for Christmas. Come with us as we journey through advent together, sharing stories from those in our programs as they explore Hope, Faith, Love and Peace.

HOPE 

Mike connected with OIM 11 years ago. When we met Mike, he was homeless and in an addictions treatment program.

“I was dealt a very bad set of cards early on in my life. My childhood wasn’t happy. I started drinking heavily at the age of 16. I didn’t know joy back then. All I was doing was drinking.  At that age, I got myself into a lot of trouble and ended up in jail.

Before I knew it, years had gone by. And in that time, I lost my job, my family – everything.  

When I met OIM I was in a strange city, homeless and with a serious problem. I would get my monthly money and I would blow it in 4 hours. I was very hopeless back then.

 I came to OIM because I heard you could get food there but I got something more than food. I remember talking to Jelica at the Drop In and started to feel a bit different. I started to feel hope. I also came to the OIM office. There, the staff helped me get to my AA meetings.

I am 10 years and 8 month sober now. I don’t go to meetings anymore. Now, I come to OIM for my recovery. It reminds me of what I’ve overcome. One of my favorite words is the Bible is ‘steadfast.’ To me OIM is that – it’s like a rock in my life because they are always here. 

My life is getting better all the time because I have hope. When I got here 11 years ago that wasn’t always the story – I  was very hopeless. But then I found OIM and I ‘turned the corner’ as they say. Y’see, what you guys do is give me hope.

 When I came to Ottawa I was pretty sick, but I’m not sick today.  I don’t feel my age most days. I feel young again because my hope was restored. If you don’t restore your hope somehow it will take over the hopelessness. Now, it’s the other way around. Hope has taken over. Even though I’m still poor and I don’t have everything I need it doesn’t matter – those are the small things. I have faith that things are going to come along.

If you still have a little bit of faith left in society, in the world or in the good people, come to OIM and get it reinforced by 10.”

Listen to Mike’s Story: 

 

 

Innercity Arts Christmas Party

Every year, Innercity Arts holds a Christmas party for all of the youth in the program. It’s a special night, when both the older and younger groups come together, along with the volunteers, to celebrate the special time of year.

We were blessed this year to have some of our behind-the-scenes cooks prepare and serve a hot turkey meal. This included the fire department – who regularly cooks for the art group – and who brought mountains of food and stuck around to serve seconds and thirds.

It’s always a blessing to see these young people, who have so much turmoil and stress in their daily lives, relax and laugh together – exchanging gift, hugs and smiles.

Each youth was given a gift just for them. A gift bag with a gift card, chocolate, and art pens – along with a card made by their mentor with a personal message in it. Each gift bag also included a journal or sketch book chosen just for them.

We tried to choose a different book for each young person that suited their personality. For one young person, who has had a particularly difficult year, we chose a journal with a CS Lewis quote “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind. ” When she opened the journal, I told her I hoped she liked it – and she exclaimed “I love it! CS Lewis is my favourite author!”

For another young person, we chose a journal that had a galaxy on it because she loves painting galaxies. When she opened it, she said “Oh my God! You guys must really love me!”

It was an awesome night, and we are so thankful to everyone who helped make this happen, including all of our amazing cooks, volunteers, the firefighters at Station 12 C and the Christmas Cheer Foundation.

 

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Larissa’s Journey: One Final Thank You!

Larissa’s Journey is a blog series featuring one of the young people in the Innercity Arts program that began on November 26, 2018. We hope it offered insight and understanding into the lives of one of the young people in the program. Today’s blog post is a Special Message that comes directly from Larissa’s on-air presentation on Family Radio CHRI, 99.1 FM (airing 8 am and 5 pm). Thanks for listening!

Larissa’s-Journey

Hi, my name is Larissa.

When I think of OIM, I think of faith, unconditional friendship, support, resources, food and a community of really good-hearted Christians trying to do their best.

They made such a difference in my life, and the lives of so many youth in our City!

I hope you will be able to help them continue to do their good work, by making a donation of  any amount.

Every dollar counts, and your prayers and encouragements mean so much.

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous and blessed New Year!

 

 

Larissa’s Journey: Thank You! (Part 2)

Larissa’s Journey is a blog series featuring one of the young people in the Innercity Arts program that began on November 26, 2018. We hope it offered insight and understanding into the lives of one of the young people in the program. Today’s blog post is a Special Message that comes directly from Larissa’s on-air presentation on Family Radio CHRI, 99.1 FM (airing 8 am and 5 pm). Thanks for listening!

Larissa’s-Journey

Hi, my name is Larissa.

It’s been great sharing my story on family radio CHRI.

Thanks for listening and following my story – it really helps me to know that there are people out there who really care about kids on the street. I am grateful that there are people who are willing to listen to my story.

If it wasn’t for the support and friendships I gained at OIM and the art group, I would not be in the place I am in today.  Thanks so much for your support. It really has made a difference in my life, and in the lives of many young people.

I hope you have a great Christmas and a great New Year too.

 

 

Larissa’s Journey: My Christmas Wish

Larissa’s Journey is a blog series that we hope will offer insight and understanding into the lives of one of the young people in the Innercity Arts program. We hope to raise awareness, challenge misconceptions, and honestly reflect the lives of those who call the streets their home. This blog is the more detailed account of Larissa’s on air presentations on Family Radio CHRI, 99.1 FM, each weekday at 8 am and 5 pm. Thanks for listening.

Larissa’s-Journey

My Christmas Wish is that someone will pay for my driver’s license so I can get my license. I’d also like a gift card to Costco – they have the best cookies ever! When I was a kid, I used to get up in the middle of the night and empty the cookie jar.

I wish that all the youth in the program would have a safe place to go on Christmas night. I wish that someone would donate like $3 million dollars to the organization and you guys could buy this office place for your own.

For the Innercity Arts program, I wish that we get new supplies for the kids to use. Some of our old supplies are a little rickety now.

I wish that youth who are now on the streets could get the help they need. For those listening, if you are at Tim Hortons and you see someone who might be homeless, buy a five dollar gift card and drop it in his hat. Every homeless person needs to eat.

Editor: Please stay tuned to Family Radio CHRI 99.1 weekdays at 8 am and 5 pm as Larissa expresses her thanks to OIM and all those who support this ministry. Then come back to this blog and read the full length episode in Larissa’s own words. Thanks!

 

 

Showing Love Through Food

 

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 Each month, Terri drops off a home cooked meal for the youth of Innercity Arts. She always puts such love and care into her meals, making sure there are lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, delicious desserts, and plenty of food for seconds and thirds! 

Terri has a heart for youth on the streets, partly because her own son struggles with mental health issues. This was particularly difficult during his teen years. So Terri really understand that youth on the streets need special love and care. 

 

Thank you Terri, for showing love through your delicious cooking!

If you are interested in cooking for the art program, please contact Bonnie at bonnie_oim@rogers.com, or visit  https://www.mealtrain.com/trains/3ly7z8 

 

A Homeless Vet’s Journey: Week 1

For the audio introduction to A Homeless Vet’s Journey click play below:

Kurk had served several tours of duty in the armed forces, serving his country, and some time ago we learned that  he had also been a mercenary. He suffers from what happened in war, and suffers now from Post Tramautic Stress Disorder. When he needed help there was none – no counselling or support to help him recover. He carries this pain and his suffering.

You can easily tell when Kurk is at the drop in. His big booming voice announces that he has arrived – no doubt about that!

He had become more irritable in the past several weeks: he spoke loudly about the injustices of the ‘system’ and how people just were not treated right, and how he really should not ‘be here’ as the government owed him a significant amount of money.

One  drop in day, Kurk was so upset that he was yelling at someone who cut in front of him in line, and yelled that you can’t expect anything more from ‘these people’. It may have been the contents of the food hamper that day, or someone had actually cut in front of him in line, or maybe just that he really didn’t belong here with all these other people. Usually it doesn’t take too long for complaints about the government to arise: the government was withholding money from him that was rightfully his!  They had even ‘frozen’ his bank account!

His voice had risen beyond the level of disruption, and I watched as Jelica walked over to Kurk to calm him down. There was a brief interaction, and Kurk finally settled down. In the midst of their conversation, he said something like, “… AND I HAVE BRAIN CANCER AGAIN…”

I later spoke to him in the hallway, alone. He told me that he had been through two previous episodes of cancer, and this third recurrence caused him serious concern. His eyes welled up with tears and he cried when he told me that his cancer had returned. He continued to cry as I offered a prayer to God for help.

Note: Today there is help for those who return from war and suffer from PTSD. This has not always been available to our veterans and they suffer terribly. ADD to that the challenges of not having a place of your own, and it’s not too difficult to imagine that life will look pretty gloomy, to say the least.

Interact: How might you cope under similiar circumstances? Where would you go? Who would you talk to? How could you manage?

Ken MacLaren, Executive Director

(Kurk’s Journey is a 10-Part Series.  Stay tuned for Part 2)