On Friday, September 14, 2012, six more men graduated from our Addictions Treatment Program. Since January, we have had 23 men enter the program and 18 have completed it successfully. That's an amazing number. We are so proud to have been a part of each man's journey into recovery.
The picture I have used above is of a quote often used by our Addictions Counsellor, Doug Llewellyn. "The man who cannot change his mind cannot change anything" (George Bernard Shaw). That is the philosophy of treatment at ARC. We can change behavior. We can change our appearance. We can change our environment. But none of these things will take us where we want to be and where God has designed us to be unless we have a renewal of our minds and a transformation of our thinking. I know plenty of people who have stopped drinking or stopped using drugs, but they are still miserable - finding fault with themseles and with everyone around them. They have exchanged the drug for a different type of addiction. The reason? They haven't changed the way they see the world and themselves.
We hope that each man who has graduated from the program is successful in their journey. We hope that we have had enough of an impact to make a difference in their lifestyle. But fundamentally, we hope that we have helped them change their minds.
"Be not conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transofrmed by the renewing of your minds. Then you will know what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will" (Romans 12:2).
The Salvation Army has been privileged this year to welcome poetry teacher, Dvora Levin, to the Addictions & Rehabilitation Centre in Victoria. Levin has been teaching poetry to ARC clients since March, 2012. The classes offered emotional support to clients as a means in which to express themselves. In addition, new skills through a new or renewed interest in poetry and writing were developed.
But how did this partnership between Dvora and The Salvation Army come to be? Well, read Dvora's own account of how she met the ARC. A great example of how a small commitment of time to volunteer can reap tremendous results for the community:
Last Christmas Day, three friends (Alex, Aharon and Ada) and I volunteered to serve Christmas dinner at the Salvation Army residence in downtown Victoria. Coming from the Jewish Community, we don't celebrate this holiday and thought we could free up some of the regular volunteers to be with their families. We can only say our experience that day was perfect with so many benefits for volunteers and residents alike. Alex, who came from Russia as a child, found a volunteer practicing his English but delighted to be able to speak his native Russian with a new friend while serving delicious food. Aharon, who studied law in Ireland, found a fellow Irishman to chat with while dishing up the food. Their friendship continues. Ada spent time with the person who led the opening prayer. And I sat with the residents to learn about their interests. It was then I realized how many of these men could write, some had experience writing songs or stories. The atmosphere was so delightful, I decided to offer my services as a poetry writing facilitator. I met with Gagan who referred me along to Doug Llewellyn where I began weekly writing sessions with men in the Addictions Program. I have just finished the second group, all of whom read their own poems at their graduation ceremony. What an honour it is for me to be able to hear their stories, see their progress in writing and their courage in reading their own works in public. At the request of The Beacon of Hope House, a Salvation Army rehabilitation program for teenage men, I now offer a poetry writing program there as well.
We all need to be mindful of how every man at the Salvation Army has both a unique story and hidden talents, sometimes hidden even from himself. My brief volunteer effort on Christmas Day turned into an ongoing present to me and everyone involved in creating poetry. Residents' poems are being published in a new collection VICTORIA ON THE BANKS OF THE MAINSTREAM, an amazing accomplishment for these newly emerging poets from the Salvation Army recovery programs. The book launch is Tuesday, July 31st, 2pm at Rock Bay Landing Shelter.
I hate stereotypes. I saw a cute picture the other day of someone sitting at a computer and the caption read - "StereoTYPE - it's faster!" That's the truth of the matter isn't it? And it's why I hate stereotypes so much. Stereotyping is much faster than actually taking the time to get to know people. I know what it's like to be stereotyped and it's not fun.
The people we work with at ARC have to deal with more stereotypes than I do. One of the common misconceptions about people who end up at The Salvation Army or who are in danger of homelessness is that they are lazy. Just recently a person took this picture in Barrie, Ontario. It is a Tim Horton's cup taped to a street light pole along with a note. The note is from a homeless individual who is asking people to leave money in his cup. He promises to come back at 4 pm to retrieve the money and not use it for crack. The reason he cannot stay and hold the cup himself? He's too tired. The photo is making the rounds on the web and is being used to support the stereotype that homeless people are just lazy.
A few years ago, Bill O'Reilly, a right-wing news commentator in the US, asserted that homeless people will "not support themselves" because they "want to get drunk, or they want to get high ... or they don't want to work [because] they're too lazy." Nice, huh? Forget about the fact that many people who experience homelessness have chronic health issues (both physicial and mental); have suffered severe physical and emotional abuse; and/or experienced a major crisis in their lives that sent them reeling. Forget about that because people who come to The Salvation Army are just plain lazy!
Let me pass on an e-mail that we received recently at ARC. It is from a company in Victoria that rents apartment suites to people visiting our beautiful city. They recently hired one of our residents after a caseworker (Eric) was able to help the man find employment. The names have been changed for privacy reasons.
We wish to express our thanks to you for connecting us with Dave. He is such a nice person and we have truly enjoyed making his acquaintance. He has started doing some garden work for us over the last couple of days, has worked extremely hard and is so diligent in his endeavours. This morning I looked out of my window at the back garden and was amazed at the transformation he has been able to make in it over just a couple of days. We hope we will be able to keep him working for as long as possible, either until our budget will no longer allow it, or until he finds another situation that is better for him. He is a very special individual and we're so pleased with everything he does for us.
Thanks again for introducing him to us Eric, we sure appreciate it.
Hmmm? Reality 1, Stereotypes 0
Do you remember that Alice Cooper song from the 1970's? We used to sing it on our last day of school when I was a kid. Along with the ever popular poetic gem, "No more pencils, no more books, no more teachers"... well, you know how it goes.
Here in Victoria, today is the last day of school until September. I dropped my son off for school this morning on the way to ARC and he could hardly contain his excitement. He didn't even complain about the salmon I packed in his lunch! That's the effect that summer has on people. It is the promise of sunny days after long periods of clouds and rain (or snow for the rest of my friends throughout Canada). It is the promise of rest after ten months of hard work.
And here at ARC, things are winding down a bit. Tomorrow we have seven men finishing up our Addictions Treatment program. We have several youth who have just graduated from the Beacon of Hope House program. And a bunch of us will be going on vacation for a few weeks. Things will be a little quieter here in July and August. But that doesn't mean we get to take the whole two months off like my son. There's a ton left to do. We are going through program revisions over the summer. We are working with architects and property consultants on our building condition assessment in order to renovate and refresh our facility. We have an accreditation review coming up in the autumn that we need to prepare for and put the finishing touches on.
But of all our concerns, one of the most urgent is our Beacon of Hope House facility. Our lease with the current landlord is not being renewed and is set to expire on October 31, 2012. We have been pounding the streets and connecting with all of our friends and partners to find a new place, but nothing has materialized yet. With only four months to go, time is getting short. We can't afford to take two months off. But neither can we make the mistake of settling for a site that will not work for our programs and staff. God grant us patience.
Enjoy the summer everyone.