In November, inspiring stories of community action and wellness were front and center in Victoria. What motivated these community development projects, and who or what is driving these positive developments?
This blog will explore the tales of major initiatives that have transformed the region, as well as the innovative activities that are making a difference in the lives of people in Victoria.
1-“Music is a happy place’: Victoria therapy helps people with brain injuries heal”
Members of the Victoria Brain Injury Society claimed that music helps them recover from their injuries.
Twice a week, the organization offers music therapy sessions. A qualified clinical counselor and certified music therapist (MTA), Carmen Eisenhauer oversees the programs.
The improv and sing-along group is the Monday program, running from 12:15 to 2:30 p.m. Some people bring instruments, and Eisenhauer plays the guitar.
Eisenhauer said, “This group is for clients who really love music or see themselves as musicians.”
“I provide more instruments as well. All they want to do is show up and start playing music. There is happiness in music. They may genuinely learn how to play a drum that has been resting on their wall for a while.”
The Thursday drop-in program, which is more of an entry-level group, runs from 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
Eisenhauer said, “It’s a place where they can feel safe and free to come in and out.”
“If they feel overwhelmed, they could leave after 15 minutes or arrive halfway through. No one is passing judgment. Usually, no one with training is present. I can provide a space where folks may practice their musical skills. Complete acceptance is involved. We also have some lengthy discussions over the various musicians we’re enjoying.”
Typically, fewer than ten individuals emerge from both groups. All of Eisenhauer’s customers should feel comfortable attending the groups.
Among most musically inclined individuals are those who have never picked up an instrument. They just learn how to listen and play in time with one another.
“The goal of the programs is to unite the clients and help them become socially comfortable.”
According to Eisenhauer, “People with brain injuries are very isolated.” Anxiety and despair are prevalent. Many individuals will enter their houses and refuse to leave.
Getting them out of their solitude and into social interactions is a major goal of the programs. Additionally, they have the opportunity to feel welcomed and establish friends as well.
Another benefit of the groups is the education they provide.
According to Eisenhauer, “Because every brain injury looks different, they learn about brain injuries and about how similar and different they are to other people with a brain injury.”
2-“Juniper Supportive Housing: A Beacon of Hope for Victoria’s Homeless Population”
In Victoria, new supportive housing units have opened for those who are homeless or in danger of becoming so.
46 studio apartments make up the six-story Juniper building, which is situated at 1176 Yates St. It is the PHS Community Services Society that manages the building.
The society will provide resources for both mental and physical health, round-the-clock personnel, training in life skills, security, connections to programs for addiction treatment and recovery, and help finding work, therapy, and food.
“We’re thrilled to see these much-needed supportive housing units open,” said Avery Taylor, PHS’s Victoria director of operations. “Many vulnerable people’s lives will be greatly improved by being housed at the Juniper.”
By December 25, Taylor hopes to have filled every unit.
The government promised to provide operational financing for the project each year and has already given around $15 million via B.C. Housing.
Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA Grace Lore said, “The residents’ lives will be greatly impacted by these homes. We are aware that far too many individuals in Victoria and the province are having difficulty affording homes. For those who are homeless or in danger of becoming so, this battle often involves additional difficulties and support requirements. I’m certain that the Juniper will have a significant impact on our neighborhood.”
Each apartment has a separate kitchenette with a refrigerator, bathroom, and shower. There are four wheelchair-accessible flats.
More than 77,000 houses, including more than 3,000 in Victoria, have been delivered or are in the process of being built thanks to assistance from the province since 2017.
“Our government is dedicated to collaborating with our partners in order to construct supportive housing,” said Lore. “I am aware that much more work needs to be done to guarantee that every person living in British Columbia has access to the care and support they require as well as a safe and secure place to call home.”
3-“Students drum to launch $53.5M new Saanich middle school”
The 8th graders who will be the first to go to the new Cedar Hill Middle School played Bradley Dick’s “Celebration Song” on drums to honor the Songhees and Esquimalt Nations’ land that the new school will be built on.
At the launch on November 27, the sounds of drills could be heard in the background. Work on the school has already begun.
The Greater Victoria School District is putting $3.6 million into the project, and the state is giving $49.9 million.
“Our government is building, expanding, and improving schools all over B.C.,” said Rachna Singh, who is the minister of Child Care and Education.
“We are taking action right now to make sure that all students in B.C. can learn, grow, and do well in our world-class school system. I’m excited to see the brand-new, better Cedar Hill Middle School.”
The new school will have room for 575 children and learning areas that are safer in case of an earthquake. The school will also have a place where Indigenous people can feel welcome.
Chief of the Esquimalt Nation Mary Anne Thomas’s husband and four of her adult children brought a gift to the land on September 27. Maryanne Trofimuk is the director of Cedar Hill Middle School.
At a news meeting, Trofimuk said, “The sun peeked out from behind the clouds, bringing light and warmth for the blessing.”
“We stood firm on that land and ground that was there for 92 years at Cedar Hill Middle School and then before Cedar Hill Junior Secondary. I want to remind us that 92 years is a very short time in the history of that land.”
Trofimuk went on to say that the Thomas family prayed to their ancestors to help the people who were going to build the school get along with each other.
They also thanked all 14 trees that surrounded the land for their shade, beauty, and air, and they lit candles as part of their gift for the new school.
The state says that the new building will be the best in the school area. It will be built to meet the standards set by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).
Compared to a regular school, the school is projected to produce 90% less greenhouse gases.
At the news meeting, Nicole Duncan, chair of the Greater Victoria School Board, said, “We are excited to see work begin on the seismic replacement of Cedar Hill Middle School. This will set a new standard for sustainability in our district.”
“Every student deserves to learn in a place that is safe from earthquakes, easy to get to, and welcoming for everyone. This will inspire them and meet the needs of our growing community.”