Who says dreams don’t come true!
When I met a few giant visionaries in December 2004, I heard of dreams that just had to come true. I was invited to participate in the process. What a privilege and opportunity. Everyone was pumped up, ready to go, as they visualized the meaningfulness of the work they were about to embark upon. The future would be whatever we built together and I felt so truly humbled, deeply honoured and touched to be invited to play a part in achieving this huge vision and dream.
So, starting out with one apartment and two residents, I began dreaming of a thriving community of people mixing freely as neighbours and friends, living side by side and engaging in activities that we all do (going to movies, for coffee, walks etc.), free of stigma and sickness. Recovery and restoration of dignity defining the lives of each resident would be the norm rather than the exception. I appreciated the fact that I could take a leadership role in several aspects of the ground level work, including the day-to-day care of the people we served. So off I went, secure in the knowledge that the ultimate visionaries and leaders, primarily Catherine Gillbert and her team of founding members such as Judy Cruchet, Linda Magher, Mary Ann Bresba, Kevin Erskine Henry, Susan Gardener, Diane and Jim Denny and many others, were behind me. Theirs was the steam in my engine. Their care, their kindness, their backing and their trust in me was exhilarating and I dived into the tasks at hand with no holds barred.
A second apartment was open a few months later and a third the following year and a fourth the year after. This growth meant we needed more staffing, so another coordinator was hired and more volunteers were recruited and five years later we opened the fifth apartment. We were serving 15 people. Truly a thriving community had arrived and the dream was becoming a reality!! We opened our sixth apartment this winter with two more to be opened over the coming year. Bravo OH!!
A remarkable feature of this unique endeavour was that it was a true community with no strict hierarchy: a real sense of equality with leadership guiding things along. The atmosphere was charged with acceptance from top to bottom and nobody was at the bottom or the top in terms of respect and value.
Yes, there were challenges, there always are. Some challenges came from the residents themselves as a few could not successfully live in the community due to issues such as addiction etc. Other challenges were financial, but again the people with the big hearts and even bigger visions found ways to find money.
On a personal note, I grew to love and care about so many ‘friends’ among the amazing volunteers and residents. I will never forget my co-worker Jenn Gilkes who grew into someone the residents and volunteers called a ‘treasure’. The Board members, with people like Catherine Gilbert and her team of volunteers, poured their hearts into making the dream a reality every day. Having encountered all these ‘heroes’ and experiences I leave here a very rich woman indeed!!
How does one say goodbye to all this? …Over twelve years of seeing so many dreams come to life! All I can say is, thank you for allowing me to be a part of this dream. May the next twelve and more years see you faithful ones climb to greater heights and achieve bigger dreams. God Bless each one of you.
Perveen Khokhar, Coordinator 2004 – 2017