Meet the People You Help
Too often, when we speak of programs and services, we speak about numbers or statistics.
But it is the people that we help, and their stories of success and personal triumph, that truly speak to the goals of our programs and services, and what we strive to accomplish as an organization – and as a community.
My name is Laura, and one year ago, my life seemed like it was over.
After many ups and downs, I had reached the lowest point in my life, and attempted suicide. The COSTI Family Counselling Program saved my life.
After trying unsuccessfully to solve my problems through a day program, my family doctor suggested that I contact COSTI, and they were there for me. My social worker, Luisa, helped me through this most difficult time in my life.
My problems are not yet over, but, for the first time in a very long time, I feel that I am finally headed in the right direction.
Our community needs programs like this. COSTI was there for me when I felt that there was no one else. With Luisa's guidance and unwavering support, she helped me tremendously.
I am sure that there are many others who need this kind of help, yet because there is not enough funding, and not enough hours in the day, many people like me will suffer.
As a survivor, I hope that this program continues to be around to help those that need it the most.
My name is Ivana, and I have a 19-year old son, who, at the age of 16, was diagnosed with a disorder called "Tourette Syndrome". Even though my son is very bright and intelligent, because of his disorder, he found it very difficult to find a job.
Through a friend, my son and I were introduced to COSTI, and to Marisa.
Marisa is a COSTI Employment Consultant who gave my son hope for the first time in years. Through encouragement and support, she helped him prepare his first resume, and provided him with the skills and knowledge he would need to conduct an effective job search.
Even with her busy schedule, Marisa always made a point of seeing my son and giving him the support and encouragement he needed to succeed.
Although my son tried very hard, he was still not able to land himself a job. Marisa sensed that my son was getting discouraged, so she started to contact various employers, arranging for interviews, and eventually helping him to land a one-month trial position.
But Marisa's job did not end there - she continued to call him at least once a week to check on his progress and to provide him with support and encouragement.
After the one-month probationary period ended, my son's contract was renewed, and he now works full-time.
Marisa still checks in periodically to make sure that everything is running smoothly.
I would like to thank Marisa and COSTI for not giving up on my son, for making him happy once again, and for helping us both believe that there are very good people in this world that are willing to overlook outward appearances, and to give people with a disorder or disability a chance in life.
There is indeed a light at the end of the tunnel.
"COSTI's Family and Mental Health Services has been my lifesaver. I don't want to be dramatic about it. It's just a fact."
One afternoon, a few months back, our childcare centre had a special visitor. Her name was Rita, and she is six years old. Rita looked very happy to see us, and, with a smile on her face, she presented us with a picture that she drew. As we spoke with her, we could see that she was brimming with enthusiasm and confidence. Later, when she left, we reminisced about the first day she came to our centre.
In the doorway stood a terrified little four-year old girl, wrapping her tiny fingers around her mother's hand as tight as she could, and staring at us with her big blue eyes. Rita had come to Canada from Russia only one week earlier.
We gently approached her, trying to communicate using the Russian that we picked up from other children and students. At this moment, realizing that we could relate to her, her expression changed. Her mother told us that she had hoped that her daughter would be able to learn English quickly, and to adapt to life in her new home - Canada.
It was some time before Rita adjusted to the program. Initially, she was hesitant to take toys from the shelf, and spent a lot of time alone, observing the other children. Slowly, Rirta began to draw pictures and participate in various activities. With uncertainty, she began speaking English. At one point, Rita was so comfortable that she would run to the room with excitement and happiness, leaving her mother behind without fear. She began to speak broken English, and would tell us stories about her family. She started becoming friends with the other children, and they began to look upon her as a leader.
When it became time for Rita to leave us to start school, it was a very sad and difficult process for us to say goodbye. In such a short time, we had seen her develop and grow, and, knowing that we had something to do with it, the bond and attachment we felt for Rita was that much stronger.
Seeing Rita today as the confidant and happy little girl that she has grown into is the greatest reward that we could ever hope to have.
For Soonam, age 12, life was never easy.
Living in Afghanistan, she survived amidst deplorable conditions, and, because of her mother's poor health, was forced, at a very young age, to assume the role of parent to her three younger brothers.
When she first arrived at COSTI's Reception Centre, it was clearly evident in her expressions and actions that this role and her experiences in Afghanistan had wounded her.
Her behaviour, and that of her brothers, was marked by anger and aggression towards each other and the other children staying at the Reception Centre. They were torn and confused, kicking and punching, and then hugging and comforting each other immediately after.
Even the, however, COSTI staff could see that what they most desparately wanted was to be children again.
Slowly, these behaviours began to improve. By working with COSTI's Art Therapist, Soonam and her brothers worked out their conflicted emotions, and soon began talking about their experiences and their hopes for a better life in Canada.
"In the time that they spent here with us, I saw a truly remarkable improvement and change. They were so much more relaxed-they learned to play as children again-their innocence re-emerged. They became so helpful and affectionate, even protective of the other children.", says Wendy Browne, COSTI's Childcare Teacher.
Through the Art Therapy Program, and the support and counselling provided to Soonam's mother, Soonam's wish has come true. She can be a child again.