Davina and Shawn’s Story of Renewal

Many people view Easter as a time of renewal, rejuvenation, and hope. After all, it reminds us that no matter how long or cold the winter has been, we can always feel hope for the coming spring.

Not many people had a longer or colder winter than Davina and Shawn, two Edmontonians who say that Bissell Centre helped them get their lives turned around. Both have struggled with poverty, homelessness, and addiction for much of their adult lives.

Shawn and Davina were married in the summer of 2016, six years after meeting each other for the first time at an AA meeting. Their earliest days together were difficult, as both were living on a low income while trying to overcome their issues with addiction. After they’d been living together for a while, they were overjoyed to discover that Davina was pregnant—but their joy would be short-lived. “We ended up losing the baby,” says Shawn. “That was really hard.” Shawn and Davina suffered a relapse shortly afterward that lasted months. Davina knew that they needed to change their lifestyle if they wanted to make a home for Noah, her two-year-old son from a previous relationship. “We cleaned up,” she says. “We weren’t sure if we were going to make it.” Davina decided to enter a one-year treatment program for her addiction.

Shawn’s and Davina’s health began to improve, and before long, Davina was pregnant again. “But then,” says Shawn, “The cops came knocking on my door one day and arrested me.” Shawn was detained for a past infraction, and ended up serving several months in the penitentiary in Vancouver. “At my worst, I used to do a lot of bad stuff,” he explained. “The past [came] back to haunt me.” Shawn was flown out of Edmonton to serve his sentence, leaving Davina, pregnant and still undergoing treatment, alone. “It was hard,” says Davina. “It was really hard. Being in treatment and writing letters [to Shawn] and being pregnant. And then, not having anywhere to go after treatment.”

Many times, says Davina, living with poverty and addiction has made her feel “like the scum of society.” “I felt like, here’s the normal people, and then here’s me,” she says. “I didn’t really trust. I felt like I was looked down upon, like I was judged.” Bissell Centre was what helped Davina take the first few steps away from her old life. After her daughter was born, Davina brought her to Bissell Centre’s daycare for the first time. “The staff were so supportive,” she says. “I’ve shared my history with [them], and there were no judgements at all. It was open arms. Like, we’re so glad to be able to help you.”

“The staff were so supportive. I’ve shared my history with [Bissell Centre] and there were no judgements at all. It was open arms. Like, we’re so glad to be able to help you.”

 

The daycare service made a world of difference to Davina and Shawn. “We were able to go to [AA] meetings,” says Davina. “That was huge. And we were able to do counselling, make appointments…I got to finish treatment…” Shawn cuts in, “We got to put our lives back together.”

The daycare program has even allowed Davina to return to school, where she is pursuing her Bachelor’s degree in sociology. “Fatima gives me two days a week so that I can do my schooling during the day,” says Davina. “She gives me extra time if I need to write a paper or study for an exam. And that has helped a lot. I don’t know what I’d do without Fatima.” Shawn adds, “It takes you from a place where you don’t really trust anybody to a place where you can believe in people again.”

Of course, things are still far from perfect for Davina and Shawn and their growing family. Although Shawn is thankful to have a steady source of income, his camp job takes him out of town for weeks at a time, leaving Davina alone much of the time to take care of their children. It will get easier, says Davina, once the kids are old enough to go to school. But for now, Davina and Shawn will have to do what they’ve always done: carry on together.


Your support enables young families to persevere by accessing the support they need most. Please donate to help more people like Davina and Shawn.

Easter Party at Bissell Centre’s Childcare!

Easter Party Childcare April 17th, 2014
Easter came early for the children at Bissell Centre’s Childcare Program on Thursday, April 17th with snacks, fruit, and of course, colourful hats! The children and their parents enjoyed good food, music, and fun to celebrate the Easter holiday at Bissell Centre.

Bissell Centre’s Childcare program is an accredited daycare facility supporting 1,400 children every year in a safe, healthy, and enriching environment. A range of activities are offered to assist in developing children’s social, emotional, intellectual and cultural growth. The Early Childhood Development Program is available to all parents and guardians of newborns through six-year-old at no charge once per week.

For more information about Bissell Centre’s Early Childhood Program and other Family Support Services, please visit: bissellcentre.org/programs/child-and-family-resources/ 

EPCOR’s Breakfast at Bissell Project – Nourishing Children

EPCOR-Bissell Centre Childcare Event March 25th, 2014
Thank you to EPCOR for providing much needed funding for Bissell Centre’s Early Childhood Development Program and for serving breakfast to the children in our Childcare Facility on Tuesday, March 25th. EPCOR’s Breakfast at Bissell Project will provide $20,000 in funding that will enable us to purchase fresh food, produce, and arts & crafts supplies to ensure healthy eating and positive development for the children in our care.

EPCOR continues to be a strong supporter of Bissell Centre’s vision of eliminating poverty in our community through funding initiatives, volunteering, and providing donations to those who need them most. The Breakfast at Bissell Project is another initiative that aligns with both Bissell Centre’s core values of eliminating poverty and EPCOR’s investment pillars that support food, shelter, safety, and educational programs.

Bissell Centre’s Early Childhood Development Program supports families living in poverty with free temporary childcare for newborns to children upwards to five years of age. This is an accredited centre allowing children to play and learn in a safe, supportive, and educational environment. The program gives parents time to access other Bissell Centre services, look for housing, secure employment, or attend medical appointments. Bissell Centre’s Food Services Program also provides a nutritious breakfast, lunch, and snack every day for the 1,400 children that rely on our childcare facility every year.

For more information about Bissell Centre’s Early Childhood Program and other Family Support Services, please visit: bissellcentre.org/programs/child-and-family-resources/ 

A gift from a grateful family

Yesterday a lovely family came into our Childcare Centre bearing gifts for our children – mini candy canes, a turkey for our Food Services program, and a beautiful Christmas card and typed letter for our Childcare staff.  This family came from Russia a year and a half ago, and moved to Edmonton six months ago with little money and no jobs. They had brought their two daughters (ages 4 and 2) to our Childcare when they first arrived to Edmonton. They needed someone to watch their kids so that they could apply for jobs and do interviews. Once they found employment, they needed our services until they could get their kids into an affordable daycare.  They came back yesterday with gratitude on their faces, in their hands, and written in their beautiful card.Christmas Card
This is what their letter said:

“Words alone can’t begin to thank you for all the love and care you have given us. We are very grateful to have had your faces to greet us every morning. Without you guys we don’t know how well we would have made it.  You helped us in good times and bad and gave us the extra confidence we needed to go on.  You were always there to tell us everything will be okay. 

We are writing to let you know how much we have appreciated the excellent job you have done over the period while my daughters have been attending your daycare centre.  They have really thrived in your centre, thanks to your nurturing and creativity.

Thank you very much for the services your daycare centre has extended to us during the period of crisis. Indeed, it is really your personal care that made us assured of our children, when we were forced to go for some job due to some pressing needs.

Though many services could not be measured in terms of money as compensation, we cannot forget your services and motherly affection to our children when they were with you.  Even though it’s difficult to be away from them while we are working, we have peace of mind in knowing that they are in such good hands during those times.

From the bottoms of our hearts, we express our sincere gratitude to your service once again and thank you very much.

WISHING YOU ALL A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS AND THE HAPPIEST OF NEW YEARS.”

If you’d like to donate to our Childcare program, click here!

17th Annual Inner City Halloween Party

On Wednesday, October 31, 2012  We are having an inner-city Halloween Party with face painting, games, food, costumes, contests, goodie bags and so much more!! This is an opportunity for kids and their families living in the inner city to attend a safe, healthy and fun Halloween event, an opportunity many otherwise would not have. All children up to 12 years old are welcome with their families.
Hours: 5:30pm – 7:30pm    |    Location: Bissell Centre East, 10527 96 Street

Want to volunteer for this event?  Please contact Amanda Almeida at aalmeida@bissellcentre.org or 780.423.2285 ext. 134.

Want to donate toward this event?  Candy, small prizes, costumes, & more needed. Please contact Barb Nickel at bnickel@bissellcentre.org or 780.423.2285 ext. 159.

The Support a Mother of Five Needed

Kayla, a mother of five, came to Bissell Centre at the end of 2011 while trying to acquire housing through our Homeless to Homes (H2H) program. Kayla had been going through very difficult times as she had lost a child three months prior; she had been physically assaulted which resulted in her hospitalization and two children being apprehended by Children Services.
With the help of Bissell Centre, Kayla was able to apply for Supports for Independence (SFI) benefits and access our Inner City Victim Services program.  We are happy to report that Kayla and her children were housed in March and are doing quite well. 

Click here if you’d like to help more people access our multiple services.

A story about a devoted dad


Bryn MacDonald, a proud father, went from making $1,000 a day to an average of $1,000 a month, but he couldn’t be happier. When his daughter was born, he made the choice to work for himself as a graphic and website designer over working for a large corporation overseas. He explains, “She is my first child and I want to be the best parent I can be for her. I want to see her grow up and have stability.” He saw how important family values were in Asia and wanted to give his daughter the same caring and supportive environment to thrive in.

Since 2009, he has been spending his days working at home, while spending quality time with his daughter.  When he needs a break, he brings his daughter to Bissell Centre’s Child Care centre. He drops her off twice a week at the day care so that he can have some time to relax and take naps.  He is also taking the parenting courses offered by Bissell so that he can learn to be a better parent. 

Bryn lives in the area, but it is not the only reason he enjoys coming to Bissell.  “The staff are so nice. They really do care about the children. It is obvious by how they treat the children,” he tells me.  And over the years, he has become good friends with some of the staff. They are so supportive and caring and are great role models for his daughter.

It is obvious that he is happy with where he is at right now. He doesn’t care about the money he could have made overseas. He is making ends meet, but he has a close relationship with his daughter and that is priceless.

Written by Guest Blogger Karen Lee.