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Pathways to Healing: Youth Mentorship Program

December 20, 2019

By: Jaskirat Ghuttora

One program of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary that you may or may not have heard of is the Youth Mentorship Program and it is one that I would like to shed some more light on. The Youth Mentorship program aims to pair marginalized and underprivileged youth with volunteers from EFry in order for them to have a positive role model to look up to and learn from in their lives. This program gives a helping hand to those youth who find themselves in trouble because no one is there to listen to them, and they just need their voice to be heard.

I would like to focus on one of our youth mentors, Jackson Eckes and his experience with his mentee on how the mentorship program allowed them both to grow, connect and learn from each other. Jackson discussed how his mentee and him both established common grounds from their upbringings, to their beliefs which helped establish a respectful and empathetic connection between the two right off the bat. From there the connection only blossomed as they were both in somewhat similar situations when they were paired up at the beginning of the school year. On one hand, Jackson was finishing his final year of post-secondary and doing his practicum with EFry in the court volunteer program, while his mentee was upgrading in order to get into his post-secondary degree of choice. This led to an understandable array of stress and emotions, however their mutual experience contributed to Jackson’s ability to see his mentee succeed and be a positive influence on his mentee. Coupled with his mentee’s desire to consistently improved upon work ethic, they were able to progress together.

Eventually, the time will come for Jackson and his mentee to part ways at the end of November. However, after having met one another in August of 2018 and building a strong and meaningful mentor to mentee relationship, Jackson believes it has evolved past that and blossomed into a positive and enduring connection where they both served as positive influences and learning experiences to one another throughout their time together.

As you can see, The Youth Mentorship Program from The Elizabeth Fry Society aims to build a meaningful relationship between mentors and mentees in order to help underprivileged mentees feel welcome into society and accepted for who they are, alongside helping them realize their self-worth. Additionally, it helps youth who may have continued down the wrong path towards opportunities of moving towards a more healthy directions.


SAGE Fall 2019 Profile: Volelle Bulle

December 19, 2019

The Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary’s SAGE Emotional Wellness and Employment Readiness program assists women on their journey to personal success. The program is built on Indigenous cultural values that provide support and healing; interactive and experiential learning provide participants with reconnection to their culture. Each week, participants spend 23 hours with Kachina Raymond-McGillis, the SAGE Coordinator, learning both functional life skills and strategies to promote emotional wellness—including writing, art, and photography. Participants also engage in employment skills that better prepare them for their next steps after SAGE. Over the 12-week program, participants gain new confidence and tools to assist them on their new journey. We sat down with Volelle Bull to discuss how the SAGE program has facilitated her personal growth over the last couple of months.

Sharing only as much as you feel comfortable, can you tell us a bit about yourself and what lead you to work with SAGE?

I wanted to get in touch with my culture and boost my self-confidence. I also wanted to gain knowledge I could use for finding employment since it has been over a year since I last worked.

What has been your favourite activity or day you have had at SAGE?

I appreciated working on my public speaking and interview skills as I gained confidence through my ability to practice.

Will you be taking courses at Bow Valley College and if so, what area of study do you plan on taking?

Yes, I plan on completing Aboriginal Upgrading and then moving on to Addictions Studies.

What does an average day at SAGE look like?

The average day consists of morning smudge, check in, then learning, fun and laughter.

Has SAGE connected you with any other community resources that you have either used or plan on using in the future?

Yes, we had the opportunity to start volunteering at WINS (Women in Need Society) through the job shadow portion. I also went on a tour of Bow Valley College which allowed me to get comfortable with the staff and campus before applying.

Have you felt your confidence increase with your time with SAGE?

Yes, it has helped me build a routine that helps me get up in the morning and then out of the house into the public which I was not comfortable doing before.

What is the #1 skill or teaching you have learned at SAGE?

Public speaking, meeting new people and how to open up in a group setting. I struggled with interview questions the most and now I am feeling more comfortable. I want to push myself to get out and complete some interviews so I can continue working on gaining confidence.

Do you feel that SAGE has given you the tools to navigate an easier future or increased your resiliency to any difficult situations that will arise?  

Yes, it has helped me get out of my comfort zone and I have more confidence to take the next steps on my journey.

Do you feel like you have used any skills learned at SAGE in your daily life?

Yes, I have created a routine for myself and feel more confident connecting with new people.


Pathways to Healing: PCOP

October 1, 2019

The Elizabeth Fry Society (EFry) has many programs to help people involved with the legal system who want to have a better future. One of these programs is the Prison Community Outreach Program, also known as PCOP. The program works to support women, during and after incarceration, to work towards their goals to empower personal change. While working on these individual goals, EFry keeps a larger goal in mind, which is to help the women break the cycle of recidivism. Many women experience criminalization as a direct result of poverty and trauma; therefore, many of the programs that support the PCOP team are focused on addressing the core issues that led to being charged.

The case managers that work directly with the clients have noticed many positive effects on the clients. They have found that by engaging in services, the women find structure and guidance, as well as a listening ear, while incarcerated. In the long term, women gain independence through gaining stability, returning to employment and addressing their core issues that led to their criminalization. The program assists women in finding housing or housing programs to reduce the chances of them returning into homelessness. Having a stable residence reduces the chances of women returning into old lifestyles.

EFry relies on the generous contributions of donations to assist women to re-establish themselves in the community. The majority of donations go directly to supporting housing, and other basic needs for women and their families.

“It’s rewarding to see someone previously street and drug enmeshed make changes that stick.” – PCOP Case Manager


Employee Profile: Brock Haug

Brock Haug, thirty-three, has been with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary since September 2018 as a Case Manager for the Prison Community Outreach Program. His hobbies include DJ’ing, weightlifting, swimming, hiking and travelling. He has been to Ibiza, China and has an upcoming trip planned to Mexico. Perhaps it is this love of new experiences that led Brock to work for EFry. One of the primary reasons he enjoys working for the organization is because every day is a fresh day where no two days are ever the same. In addition, seeing the positive changes made in the lives of so many different women and youth furthers his dedication to his work. In the past, Brock ran a day program for adults with brain injuries, worked in community corrections, a federal hallway home and volunteered with the parole office. These past experiences resulted in Brock taking a position with EFry last year.

Brock’s work as a Case Manager involves working directly with the women of EFry at the Calgary Remand Centre. He also attends the Lethbridge Correctional Centre for provincially incarcerated women and provides support to women in the community after their release. His role is to provide solutions and resources that address core issues, such as housing, addiction and mental health. The support he provides is important, not only to the women, but also to Brock.

An example of Brock’s compassionate involvement with his clients is when he worked with a woman who could not read without the proper prescription for her glasses. In turn, Brock helper her obtain a new pair of glasses and the woman was able to read properly for the first time since her incarceration. Brock’s involvement with EFry has also taught him how to work effectively within an Indigenous framework. He has learned a lot about the pathways and processes that can be used as an important part of the journey to healing for someone involved with the justice system. He has also found inspiration in seeing people change their lives by committing to making a better future for themselves.

On a final note, Brock suggested to those considering working or volunteering with the Elizabeth Fry Society that they should, “Keep an open mind, every day is a learning experience.” As for the community of Calgary and potential donors, he mentioned, “This is the only organization in Calgary that provides the services we provide. We strive to see our women through difficult times that influence individual progress and everyone here is completely committed to the cause.”


Sage 12-Week Program

July 23, 2019

Now accepting women participants, 18+ years of age, for our Fall 2019 SAGE 12-week program. Please call to make an appointment to conduct an intake with Kachina. Please see the poster for details.

Program Information:

  • When: September 10th to November 29th, 2019.
  • What: Learn skills for life, express yourself with writing & photography, learn employment skills and connect with Indigenous culture.
  • Where: Sunalta Community Hall 1627, 10 Ave SW
  • How: To register talk to Kachina, Sage Coordinator to set up a time to meet at: 403 294 0737 ext. 246 | sage@elizabethfrycalgary.ca

The Mother I am Today

May 10, 2019

“I owe a big thanks to The Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary in helping me become the person I wanted to be and am currently,” Dovena said. “And to be the mother I am today.”

Dovena first came to the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary in 2008, when her caseworker mentioned the organization. She participated in a program the organization hosted at the time, and over the next ten years, Dovena came into the office for food, toiletry items, or just to talk.

“I always felt safe and connected with the staff. They were always so kind to me and accepted me.” Dovena said.

Knowing that the Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary works in partnership with Calgary community agencies to provide safe, affordable housing for women, Dovena came to the organization seeking assistance in finding a place to call home after completing her sober living program. Shortly after she moved into her new home, she knew the next step in her journey was to enter the SAGE program.

The SAGE program is a 12-week program that provides a cultural foundation and supports women through experiential learning and expressive activities like photography. Participants are empowered and equipped with skills to help them on their path towards accessing training, education or employment.

“Through the program, I learnt that I am not very good in making eye contact with other people until I trust them,” Dovena said. “I am getting better at this. The program helped me become more self-assured, I did not give myself enough credit before and would always second guess myself.”

“I enjoyed coming in the morning seeing the staff member of the program and being able to talk with her about what was on my mind, before the program started for the day.”

At the SAGE program, she felt a connection with her fellow participants as well.

“We had some similarities which we could relate to with one another,” she mentioned.

“I have grown in my confidence and am comfortable enough with myself now to stick up for myself. Having the dedication to complete SAGE was a huge accomplishment,” she said.

Another great moment for Dovena occurred in February, when she gave birth to her son. Dovena does not currently have custody of her three other children, but she is in the process of changing this situation. Dovena’s eldest daughter, who is very protective of her youngest sibling, wishes to come home and live with her mother permanently. This may occur as soon as July. For her two other children, the process will take a bit longer, but she is grateful for a renewed connection with them. “They fear that I will not come back when I leave after visiting them, but they know that I am making a home for them and it is a matter of time we are all under one roof together,” Dovena said.

When asked what family means to her, Dovena says, “being together, showing love for each other and sharing time together.” She explained that she and her four siblings were all separated at a young age as their mother was unable to take care of them. So the sole essence of having a family together under one roof means a great deal to Dovena.

In September of 2019, Dovena will begin a new chapter in her journey of recovery and stability by going to back to school to upgrade some classes. Her ultimate goal is to become a social worker in addictions counselling.

“The Elizabeth Fry Society of Calgary was a great support for me,” Dovena said. “If the staff didn’t have what I needed they would go to great lengths to find it. The resources they directed me to were priceless. They were my home away from home.”


Mental Health and Crime they are linked

May 6, 2019

There is a stigma associated to mental illness that causes one to become more isolated and further into their anxiety, depression or other disorders. It is not as simple as working through the issues or triggers like “relax, everything will work out in the end” when said, can cause further frustration for the individual. Without support, mental illness can take a toll causing negative consequences for actions that are often uncontrollable and end up redirecting life in an undesirable direction.

Due to self-harming myself and attempted suicide I have had to be admitted into two hospitals in the span of six months. There were safety concerns that I would attempt suicide again. While in the last hospital I had an altercation with another youth and was charged with assault with a deadly weapon at the age of 15 years old. I was put on probation for a year.

My relationship with my family is not the greatest so my Probation Officer suggested a mentor would perhaps be beneficial for me. With previous counselling I always felt judged and I would retract from their guidance. Saying YES to receiving a mentor was the best decision I made, as this has been the most supported I have ever felt!

My mentor is my rock supporting me emotionally, mentally & physically – no matter the mood I am in. The conversations I have with them has really opened my mind to understand different perspectives and learning what different decisions I could be making to better a situation. I do not take my mentor for granted with the wisdom they share. I have noticed that I make more informed decisions and am making serious changes in my life for the better.

The support I am receiving from my mentor has enabled me to actually be more confident in public areas. I used to be removed from society and it was paralyzing to go out in public places. I even have been going to the gym which is a big deal for me, I would never want to touch the equipment others previously used.

Recently, I got into trouble with the law again. While at a store, I had a terrible episode resulting in me being charged with theft under $5,000.00. With my illness I have periods which render me incapable of controlling myself. With this incident I have been referred to another program which focuses on my mental health.

My mentor, my rock, has been with me at every court hearing and legal aid meeting pertaining to the recent charge. Never giving up on me and seeing me through this detour in my life.


SAGE Spring Program update

May 1, 2019

Written by Selwynne Hawkins

With five weeks remaining, the current SAGE cohort has now passed the halfway mark. And, since we last checked in, they have covered a lot of new ground.

The group spent a week on conflict resolution—where they focused on ways to communicate their opinions and needs clearly. This module included mock debates, role playing, and group problem-solving activities.

In their self-esteem week, participants created vision boards and reflected on the things they like most about themselves. They also spent time discussing their skills for employment, and visited Bow Valley College, where they were invited to attend an Elder panel on Good Medicine.

Three current participants—Jamie, Adrienne, Andrea—graciously agreed to share their experiences in the SAGE program.

“I’ve taken a few of these ‘job seeker’ programs, and I really think this one is a lot of help,” Andrea said.

“Especially with all of the activities we do,” Adrienne agreed. “Like what Stacey makes us do.”

Stacey, a local indigenous actress, leads four sessions with the SAGE participants throughout the program. With Stacey, the participants learn and gain confidence through experiential learning. During self-esteem week, she led role playing activities, which were a big hit with participants.

“Those are fun, too,” Andrea said. “Really makes us step out of our comfort zone.”

The SAGE program offers a balance of functional life skills, strategies to express emotions, within an Indigenous worldview including ceremony and cultural activities and processes. SAGE prepares women with the necessary skills that will not only assist them in their personal life, but within the context of successful employment experience. Through the wide-ranging activities, participants gain further confidence and strategies for developing their emotional well-being. So far, they have learned and improved their lives throughout their active participation in the program.

“Communications skills, problem solving,” Jamie recounted. “Resume writing.”

“It’s been a good review for a lot of stuff,” Andrea said. “I get really nervous for interviews, so we get a lot of practice. But what I like the most is the Indigenous part. Going to the sweat, the library for creation lodge…”

“Yeah,” Adrienne added. “And we’ve met so many Elders, too.”

In the coming weeks, they will spend time discussing healthy relationships and visit the YW Employment Resource Centre. They’ll also spend a week on professionalism, complete a cover letter workshop, and practice in mock interviews.

Near the end of the program, SAGE participants will spend a week at the Women in Need Society (WINS). Through a week of volunteering at the donation sorting centre, they’ll gain experience and learn about accountability. In their final week, they’ll focus on “next steps” for participants—making sure they’re ready for school, employment, or whatever goals they are focused upon. .

Though the program is only halfway completed participants have already grown more positive and self-assured.

“It’s built up my self-confidence a bit more, the exercises we’ve had to do,” Andrea said. “I really like it.”

“I used to be really shy before, and didn’t talk,” Jamie laughed. “Now I’m talking!”

Follow along on our blog and social media accounts for more updates on the group as they wrap up the 12-week program.