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Pancakes and Paintbrushes

Innercity Freedom GroupThey get up early… something that’s not in their nature or character; mornings just aren’t their thing.

Brushing the experiences of the previous night off their faces, putting on possibly the only set of clothing they own; making their way to a place of love and acceptance for who they are.

The Innercity Freedom Group – a recovery group for whatever hurt or habit someone is overcoming in life – meets on Monday mornings. It’s a safe community where everyone is welcome. It’s a group designed to provide support through whatever the struggle is, and since we all have challenges in our lives, we are all the same there.

As you enter the front doors the smell of pancakes and syrup overtakes your senses and the laughter of a community of friends who have your back makes you feel like you’ve definitely got the right address.

Exploration of thoughts is used through different mediums of art and our motto is “What happens and is said at IFG stays at IFG”.

No one has to share in front of the entire group each week and there is opportunity for one on-one-mentorship afterwards if anyone wants some extra support.

It’s often the little things that help us the most when we are striving to overcome the trials in our lives, like someone saying “I believe in you” or “what you say matters to me” or “I see your pain and I’m sorry that you are hurting.”

Pancakes and paintbrushes. It’s how we do life “one day at a time” at IFG. ‘Right now’ is really all any of us has and it’s worth celebrating.

If you or anyone you know would like to check out the Innercity Freedom Group, come by Monday mornings at 10:00am. We would love to have you.

 

391 Gladstone Av

Ottawa, Ontario

613-237-6031

bonnie_oim@rogers.com

 

 

The Four Stages

the-four-stagesThe monarch butterfly is a glorious creature to behold. If you’ve ever witnessed it’s beauty, watching it in flight is a vision you don’t forget.
 
However, to get to that point in its life there’s a journey and a fight requiring strength and determination.
 
There are 4 stages in the life cycle of a monarch that it must pass through to reach maturity; egg, larva (caterpillar), pupa (chrysalis), adult.
 
Each stage must be completed before it can go onto the next.
 
We walk around and see caterpillars but forget the stage before that they had to persevere through to become who they are.
 
It’s not often in everyday life that we get to see a chrysalis hanging from a branch…and sadly our first thoughts would probably go to thinking it was a sac of nasty bug eggs instead of the incredible and transforming miracle that is slowly taking place inside of that precious little pod.
 
When I think of the amazing wonder of the Monarch butterfly my heart and mind immediately go to our street engaged and homeless youth…they fight the odds around them and win against the world that tells them they can’t. These incredible young people fight and succeed to go from one stage to the next with the strength of giants and the determination of a Monarch. 
 
What a gift we have in getting to be a part of this process or when we take the time to stop, listen and appreciate the miracles all around us everyday.
 
Let’s remind each other to push the pause button, sit on a park bench, share our time and listen to the story of someone who had to fight hard to get to the stage in the cycle of life that they are currently in.
 
~Bonnie, Staff
 
 
 

Catching A Glimpse

My encounters with a new street friend from our weekly drop-in unfolded as many connections do. We had a few great conversations and OIM was able to assist him with some pressing needs. Eventually, though, he disappeared and I lost contact with him for a time. I could only hope that I was able to be a supportive connection point in his life.

Several months later I am sitting in a coffee shop and who comes over out of the blue, but my new street friend. He tells me how his life has changed and thanks us for being there for him. He then proceeds to pray, declaring a blessing and favour, as powerful as any prophetic word received.

I just want to honour God for dropping such a wonderful blessing that allowed me to catch just a glimpse of the increase he has brought to someone’s life and to know the small part I played in that. These are part of the moments that regenerate your tanks and strengthen your resolve. I pray that God will stretch my friend, and that the fruit of his boldness to share what the Lord has done for him, only increases.

-Rick, Staff

 

30 Days of Prayer, 30 Seconds Each Day, In Honour of Our 30th Anniversary

This story is part of A Special Series this month in honour of OIM’s 30th Anniversary. We hope to raise awareness, challenge misconceptions, and honestly reflect the lives of those who call the streets their home. As you reflect on these stories, please take a moment to PRAY EACH DAY – just 30 seconds – for our ministry’s needs.

Thanks and God Bless.

 

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

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.

Eric’s Christmas Wish

“Eric’s Journey” is a 7 part series running throughout December. To listen to Eric read his Christmas Wish on  Family Radio CHRI, click the play button below

 

P4Y_ReEdits-1

Eric at art group 2015

“This year was an amazing gift from God.

I hope life remains positive for me and for many, many other people.

Smiles and laughter can go a long way, and they have the power to touch and change people’s souls.

Merry Christmas 2015 by Eric Larkin

Christmas card made by Eric, Dec. 2015

What I wish for Christmas is that more people would be able to receive more joy and become more joyful. Usually when you help people, you become more joyful yourself – you are passing the joyfulness along.

My Christmas wish for the art group is that they should enjoy God’s gifts and that more kids on the street could come to the group and enjoy doing art together.

In life, God allows you to go down the right path. The right path really means walking towards God.

God is waiting for each of us to come to Him. He wants to give us joy.

That’s my Christmas wish. Merry Christmas!”- Eric

 

 

OIM does not receive on-going government funding to operate any of our programs. Instead, we rely on the goodwill donations of concerned citizens and business people in the National Capital Region. We need your help to continue our youth outreach program. Please make a donation today, click Donate Now. Thanks!

 

Shane’s Story, Episode 7: Back to School

Shane’s Story is an eight episode blog post where Shane tells her story in her own words.  Each week in December, on Mondays and Thursdays at 8 a.m. you can click on both the radio spot and then read the Episode of this special gal’s story. Tweet it to your friends – it gets better as we get closer to Christmas, and Shane’s special Christmas wish to each of you. Hold tight! it is going to be a great ride! Merry Christmas!”

Listen to a part of Shane’s story by clicking on the ‘play’ button below, then read the rest of this post:

shanes story pic

The program from Shane’s award ceremony.

I’m back at school. How that happened, my little sister kept bugging me. She dropped out of high school as well and entered a program at Algonquin. She told me it was really easy. I didn’t have to do two years at an ‘alternative school’.  I’d just have to do like just half a year, or maybe just one.

So I went there, and it turned out they had a bursary so it was completely free for me because I had no income.  And because I was in school, I was entitled to a surviving child benefit ‘cause both my parents are dead – good until I’m 25 years old. So there was a bit of money there, ‘cause I could have a grocery for free month, if I do this. I won’t ever have to sit and panhandle any more. I won’t have to sit for five hours to get $40 to buy like the cheapest grocery I could ever do. Or walk all the way to the dollar store to get the cheapest laundry soap or light bulb or whatever.  Now, I just go get it. I haven’t had to panhandle for quite a while now.

School is going well. I’m good at it. I’ve already graduated computer skills. There’s an award ceremony coming up – I’m getting an award for math.

(Awards ceremony Thursday.  I attended and watched Shane get her award.) Go girl!

That was beginner math and I’m in intermediate math now, after 3 months. It’s all at your own speed and every day I hand something in to my teachers. It’s called College Preparation and counts as high school equivalency.  It’s recognized all throughout Ontario.

I’m planning to finish my high school as soon as I can and continue at Algonquin. I am going to be a plumber!

Shane’s Story, Episode 4: Outreach Team and P4Y

Shane’s Story is a eight episode blog post where Shane tells her story in her own words.  Each week in December, on Mondays and Thursdays at 8 a.m. you can click on both the radio spot and then read the Episode of this special gal’s story. Tweet it to your friends – it gets better as we get closer to Christmas, and Shane’s special Christmas wish to each of you. Hold tight! it is going to be a great ride! Merry Christmas!”

Click the ‘play’ button below, then read the rest of her story in this post:

I met Moira (OIM youth outreach worker) a few years ago. That was during my really messed up time. I remember how it happened…

I was busking on Rideau Street with my ukelele and Moira came up and said she ran an art group and that I should come. She gave me a sandwich and a juice box and she just kind of kept doing that every once in a while when I would be playing and panning.

I thought it sounded like a trap. I know you’re wearing a vest and all that but anyone can wear a vest. I thought she had some sort of agenda. She came around 4 or 5 more times and I got to know her.

There was another kid from the streets who had gone to art group that I had spoke to and she said that it was legit. I was like ok, and that there was free dinner every night. Ya I went and it was legit. That was pretty cool.

At first I was nervous because there was older street youth that I recognized. I was scared at first but I got used to it. Plus there was like the art supplies I was like oh my god! I don’t have to pay for paint but I can paint anyways! So I kept coming. I think I’ve been going there for about 2 or 3 years.

The art group is really great, you kind of get like self-confidence, like a self esteem boost especially when your art goes up for auction and your art is shown.   Sometimes you’ll see other kids art from the same group in like a restaurant. You feel like ‘I’m professional’. Definitely I look forward to every Thursday, guaranteed I am getting supper. It’s not gonna be just macaroni because I can’t afford anything else or just tuna because I can’t afford anything else. It’s gonna be like vegetables and casserole – not just pasta all the time..

It’s good, I like it.

You get to learn social skills.  I guess I kind of missed learning social skills. You get kind of forced into it: it’s good talking to people or acknowledging strangers when they talk to me is now a little bit easier. It does a lot of good things for a lot of people.

I like the art shows. Sometimes I just hang out by myself or whatever, and sometimes I play my own music, like live for people, and there’s lots of food. I’m always game if there’s food. I always bring my ukulele. You can hear what people say about your art, and that’s cool.

wishing well

A sculpture of a well Shane made at art group called “Space Change”.

Ottawa Home and Garden Show. Why?

OIM has been given a booth at the Ottawa Home and Garden Show, March 20 to 23 at the Ernst and Young Centre.  Why?

A friend of the ministry donated this 10’ x 20’ exhibitor’s space so that people who are thinking about renovating, redoing and re-fixing their own homes might take a moment and consider people who don’t have any home at all.

Our booth will have an area where visitors can see some of the art work that our Passion 4 Youth artists have created; we will be showing the 7 minute OIM DVD and also another shorter DVD featuring interviews from three of the youth from the program; we will have a visual aid of a home (on Bristol board) where visitors can buy a brick for a donation of any amount, and we can collect funds for new space (which we desperately need).

Then we’ll top it off with not one, but two (and maybe three) surprises that you can only discover if you come by and have a visit with us.

The Ottawa Home and Garden people are expecting over 20,000 visitors to the show this year, and it is a privilege to represent OIM there.  We have scheduled volunteers and staff for the entire weekend, and you will want to see how this works!

Please consider this your special invitation: ‘Come on down’ and visit us!

Behind the Story…

I noticed ‘Cal’ on several occasions at the drop in, but I never took opportunity to have a conversation with him until this week.

He was a large man with a hint of European blood in his heritage, often coming to complain about some kind of unjust or unfair thing that he noticed others doing at the drop in.  We always took the time to courteously address his concerns, but I’m not sure that any of us have ever taken time to get to know him.

I approached the table where he sat alone, as he always did, and asked if I might join him for a while.  He agreed and we spent the next hour in a meaningful conversation about his life, where he had been, what he had done and what was going on right now.

As had happened so many countless times before when I have taken the time to visit with one of our street friends, I was amazed at how resilient and strong the human spirit can be.  I heard Cal’s story with great interest,  and listened beyond the details to hear another story running parallel with the one he articulated.

The outward story was about his violent home, his unfaithful wife, his distant mother and his hardened and calloused brother.  Injustice, greed, exclusion, partiality and rejection were the dominant themes outwardly, but inwardly there was even more. He had become embittered, jealous, and resentful: his anger was fueled by the traumatic childhood memories, and constant reminders of his failures from his brother.

I asked about his father, the one figure conspicuous by its absence. The response was immediate: a white collar professional that lived a double life.  He had beaten and abused the two boys from their very first memories and earlier – until the sons became big enough to fight back and put a stop to it.  The adjectives he used to describe his dad(apart from the beatings): hideous, unthinkable, sick, perverted, twisted – it broke my heart.

I hear these kinds of stories from most of my street friends frequently.  The details are different but the themes are the same – all the time.  From earliest memories and before, the effects of abuse, neglect and pain now manifest themselves in a broken man or woman at a table at a downtown drop in. Living with this pain all their lives, lacking needed support without even a friend to talk to, they come to us and share.

And us?  We are privileged to hear the stories, listen intently and for some, for the first time ever, demonstrate the love and care of God.

For the remainder of the day, Cal watched me. Constantly. His eyes were on my every move as I visited from table to table and friend to friend. Every time I looked over to him, he was already looking at me.  It takes a great deal of courage to share your life story with another person, and you might imagine what thoughts might be racing through his mind.

Question: Over 7,300 different people stayed in one of our Ottawa shelter systems last year.  How many carry stories like this?  How can we expect people with this kind of background and no support from family or friends to function properly (“Get up and get a job!”) How many times have we offered a ‘quick fix’ to a complex problem?