Meet Carolyn, our Volunteer of the Month!

Meet Carolyn, a mother and retiree who channels her love for children by lending a helping hand around the community. Carolyn says she has always volunteered in some capacity or another, and she began volunteering for Bissell Centre around five or six years ago after being referred by a friend. Since then, she has been an indispensable part of Bissell’s childcare team, which offers free daycare to low-income and in-crisis families Monday through Friday. Carolyn always looks forward to her weekly Monday morning shifts caring for the children. “My role is to cuddle them, feed them, play with them,” she explains. “It’s the best of everything.”

Carolyn says that the staff is what makes Bissell Centre special. “You have a very good staff in the children’s area,” she says. “They’re very devoted. It’s not an easy job, because there are such a variety of children that are all from different families and expecting different things.” Carolyn adds that parents who drop their kids off at Bissell’s daycare need never worry about their little ones – they are in very capable hands.

Although there is no single memory Carolyn would tout as her favourite, she says that the small, simple things are what she remembers most. “Things like the joy you have when you’re holding a baby and it falls asleep in your arms,” she says, “or if it’s upset and you’re able to settle it down. Those moments are what make it special – when you’ve made them happy for a little while.”

Volunteering is also a powerful perspective changer for Carolyn. “You really start to recognize that everybody here – they’re just people too. It really puts a different light on a lot of things.” Carolyn feels gratified to know that she is making a difference in the lives of people who need it most, but insists that she also benefits from the experience: “I find I’m learning lots all the time. I thoroughly enjoy it.”

Bissell Centre relies on volunteers like Carolyn to keep programs like the daycare centre in operation. Thank you to Carolyn and all of our amazing volunteers for helping us to keep the wheels of Bissell Centre turning!

Interested in making a difference? Click here to find out how you can get involved.

Happy National Aboriginal Day!

Every year on June 21st, the summer solstice, Canada observes National Aboriginal Day in recognition of Aboriginal culture, honouring its vast richness and diversity. This year marks a special milestone as it is the twentieth anniversary of National Aboriginal Day.

The solstice was selected for this special day because of the significance that it holds for many Indigenous groups as the longest day of the year. Bissell Centre hosts annual celebrations on this day to honour our historic ties to the Aboriginal community and to promote its deep and beautiful culture.

“Aboriginal” is an umbrella term that includes the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples of Canada. A large proportion of the people who access Bissell’s services are of Aboriginal heritage because this population disproportionately struggles with homelessness and poverty. The causes of this phenomenon are complex and rooted in a history of systematic marginalization and discrimination.

Today, one in fifteen Aboriginal people in Canada is homeless, compared to around one in 128 of the general population.

Bissell Centre is a tireless advocate for Edmonton’s Aboriginal community, as it has been for many years. Celebrating Aboriginal culture at Bissell Centre is an important part of the work we do in support of the Indigenous community. It allows us to connect more deeply with our participants and offers them a space to celebrate their heritage.

This National Aboriginal Day, we are serving a special meal of stew and bannock at 10:00am, as well as running a number of activities in our Drop-in Centre, including:

  • Blessing and smudging led by an Elder at 9:30am.
  • Traditional drumming and dance at 11:00am.
  • Indigenous art in the afternoon.

We are excited for these activities and hope that our friends in the community can join us to celebrate.

From all of us at Bissell Centre, Happy National Aboriginal Day!

Fatherhood and Second Chances: Ché’s Story

It’s hard enough being a single dad, but it’s even harder when you struggle with poverty and periodic homelessness. The idea seems unthinkable, but it’s a reality that many dads in our community must face every day.

One of those dads is Ché, a single father who has faced more than his fair share of troubles. His past struggles with alcohol addiction leading to crime and temporary homelessness left him feeling hopeless. “I’ve been at the bottom many times,” he says, “and it was pretty much my baby girl who was my saving grace.”

Ché recently reconnected with his four-year-old daughter, who is currently living in foster care. “The first time she called me Daddy, I melted,” he says. “When I hear her yell, ‘Daddy, come help me…’ I know that’s my purpose.”

While still in the midst of his struggle with addiction and poverty a number of years ago, Ché accessed Bissell Centre’s Employment Services. With the help of our dedicated support workers, he was able to complete his tickets and secure the employment he needed to get himself off the streets for good.

Since then, Ché has gotten sober, secured a place to live, completed his high school diploma, and enrolled in college in pursuit of an Addictions and Community Services Worker diploma. He has plans to pursue his Master’s degree in the future.

“I’ve been at the bottom many times and it was pretty much my baby girl who was my saving grace.”

Ché has also started an initiative for a support group for men getting out of prison and re-integrating into the community, an endeavour that he began working on while he himself was still incarcerated. “This is a group for guys getting out and getting back into the community,” he says. “I know from the past that it’s hard to find people to relate, hard to get people to listen.”

Ché’s group, Second Chance Fellowship, is still in the early stages of development and is not yet meeting regularly. However, Ché is excited for it to get off the ground. “Besides my daughter, this is the biggest accomplishment of my life.”

Ché has already been granted guardianship of his daughter, but his living situation stops him from being able to take full custody. His biggest challenge has been finding a suitable and affordable home in which to raise his child. “If I go up to [the foster care workers] and say, ‘I’m ready to take her,’ they’re gonna want to see where I live. How can I do that when I don’t have a two-bedroom place?” Ché hopes that when he completes his diploma and finds steady employment, he will find an affordable two-bedroom apartment in no time, finally allowing him to be a full-time dad.

The transformative power that Ché’s daughter has had on his life is evident. Even though there was a time when alcohol controlled his life, Ché knows that, now that he’s sober, he won’t ever fall off the wagon again. He explains his reason for staying sober as though it were the most obvious thing in the world: “I can’t break my little girl’s heart, right?”