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Our Community: Spiritual care manager at Our Place; mentorship for kids in care

Our Place has hired a new manager of spiritual care to work with those ­experiencing homelessness.
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Maria Green, the new spiritual care ­manager at Our Place, stands in the chapel. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

Our Place has hired a new manager of spiritual care to work with those ­experiencing homelessness.

Maria Green, who has a master’s degree in divinity from Regent College in Vancouver, worked for 10 years in a similar role at the Union Gospel ­Mission and Salvation Army in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“Spiritual care is supporting ­people in their journey of connection and ­healing,” said Green.

“What we try to do for ­people is nourish hope, because if they have that, they can face almost ­anything.

“Everything may seem so bleak, but if they have that inner hope, that inner faith, a plan and support, they can believe they can make changes.”

Spiritual care at Our Place includes all spiritual beliefs and faith traditions, as well as sharing circles, ­smudging, mindfulness, nature walks and ­workshops.

“People are being given meals and other ­supports and some of them are now in a place where they are able to think beyond survival,” said Green.

“That’s where spiritual care can come in. We are here to connect with ­people, to encourage connections with ­themselves and with something greater than ­themselves — whatever that means to them.”

Spiritual care will be available at 919  Pandora Ave., as well as the New Roads therapeutic recovery c­ommunity in View Royal and six housing/shelter sites ­managed by Our Place.

Kids in care can take Big Steps to Success under mentorship program

Victoria is one of only four communities across Canada where young people involved with the child-welfare system can access Big Steps to Success, a new national mentorship program aimed at improving educational outcomes.

The program, for children and youth in care ages seven to 14, was launched through a partnership between the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada.

The target age is based on an early-intervention ­window when young people are deemed more likely to be ­receptive to adult mentors and experience ­long-term academic benefits.

Mentoring will take place at school, in the ­community or virtually. Youth will be referred to the program by the local child welfare agency or social worker overseeing their care.

“A new approach is necessary in order to close the achievement gap that children in care have ­experienced for over a century,” said Valerie ­McMurtry, president and CEO of Children’s Aid ­Foundation of Canada.

Research has shown that a trusted and positive ­mentor can promote social and academic success in young people involved with the child-welfare ­system. Adult mentors can help young people engage ­academically and allow them to stay on track so they graduate from high school, one of the most critical ­predictors of future success.

The program is made possible through a $2.5-million gift from BMO Financial Group. It will also receive an additional $300,000 in funding, donated by BridgeGreen Fund.

Mentors will undergo specialized training. ­Children and their mentors will be supported by a mentor match team consisting of a child’s social worker, school ­liaisons and program co-ordinators from local ­participating partners.

Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada and Big ­Brothers Big Sisters of Canada will monitor and ­evaluate the program, sharing their findings with participating local agencies and other youth-serving organizations.

Women in Need Community Co-operative expands as challenges grow

Victoria Women In Need Community Co-operative says it has had to expand its programs in response to a 30 per cent increase in participants in 2021.

The co-operative supported more than 2,000 women last year, providing programs for women, trans, non-binary and Two-Spirit people.

“This has been a time of continuous stress and uncertainty for many in our community,” said Nicole Lapierre, program co-ordinator. “We have seen through these challenging times how truly resilient our program participants are and how vital access to programs such as those offered by WIN are, programs which focus on removing barriers and supporting participants on their unique and individual journey to wellness and self-sufficiency.”

WIN supported 1,125 crisis and referral program participants, provided $15,630 in emergency funding and food certificates, issued more than $49,500 in gift certificates and awarded 30 bursaries totalling $21,420 towards self-sufficiency and financial independence — such as pursuing education or beginning a home-based business.

In James Bay, take a tour of Window Wonderland — it’s free, 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday

Take a wander along the streets of James Bay after dark to view a collection of colourful window creations at Window Wanderland.

This is the fourth installment of the initiative, which transforms streets into dazzling galleries that allow the beauty of James Bay’s unique community spirit to shine brightly for all to see.

The whole community has gotten together to create colourful window displays throughout the neighbourhood, in the windows of homes, apartments, businesses, cars and high rises.

The event is free to attend. It runs 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday. For more information, or to download a map showing the locations of participants, go to windowwanderland.com or the group's pages on Facebook and Instagram.

Friends of Uplands Park Society seeks volunteers for carpet burweed blitz

The Friends of Uplands Park Society is looking for volunteers for its No Ivy League: Carpet Burweed Crawl and Ivy Removal, every Saturday from now until May at Uplands Park.

The friends have partnered with Oak Bay Parks to remove the extremely invasive carpet burweed from Cattle Point. Although the plant is small, it spreads rapidly and destroys rare and colourful native plants. The plant forms seeds in May and June and will quickly spread to yards and sports fields.

The weeding party runs from 1 to 3 p.m. every Sunday until May. Volunteers are asked to meet at the marine kiosk at Cattle Point, off Beach Drive in Oak Bay.

parrais@timescolonist.com

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