The Women and Children Treatment Center is once again offering residents a chance to experience the joy of the outdoors by spending time at Camp Alexandra in South Surrey.
The Talitha Com Society is a Coquitlam-based non-profit organization that helps women overcome addiction through a 12-step program during their stay in community housing units, by ‘bringing them back to life’.
If the women are mothers, they have the opportunity to bring their children with them to the center.
“I want people to understand the strength and courage it takes for a woman to walk through the doors to come here,” said Mary O’Neill, chair of the board of directors of the Talitha Com Society. Peace Arch News.
“It’s a tough journey they’re taking… they have to do all the heavy lifting and work and we’re here to support and help them as they go.”
According to the association’s website, the facility is open to women 19 or older, who have completed a drug- and alcohol-free detox program.
Those who are accepted into the program undergo various forms of treatments and workshops. These range from trauma therapy to inner child healing, setting boundaries, conflict resolution and more. Halfway through the 12-step process, the women move from the home of the program to the home of the second stage, each with nine people, including children.
Much of the program is camping, but this has taken a back seat for five years now, with clients wanting to return to the outdoors. Being with nature, O’Neill said, is ideal for the group to “go back to Earth.”
This opportunity will be available in mid-September when they attend Camp Alexandra.
In the meantime, they are seeking donations of camping equipment or money to help purchase equipment that will allow them to return to camping consistently as quickly as possible.
“We support women from different backgrounds, from (prison), homelessness, and addiction problems. “Our Indigenous population is about 65 percent of the women who live with us,” said Kimi Jensen, director of programs at the Talitha Com Society.
“Our youngest client is 16 years old and our oldest client, since I’ve been here, is 72.”
To best support the Indigenous people, the community participates in cultural events often and invites the Elders to the organization twice a month to speak to the group.
“It has been the Talitha-com experience that a high percentage of the women and children who come into our homes have a lot of ‘beginnings’ with us like celebrations of holidays, birthdays, accomplishments and unconditional love,” Jensen said.
“Often, this is the first real, healthy vacation that women have ever taken.”
Many women who have undergone the program stay or return to Talitha.com to work and help other women who need support. ‘No one else understands the experience better,’ said O’Neill.
Once a client of Talitha Koum, Jensen first entered through the facility’s doors in 2007, after coming from “Streets and Prison”.
Where she once dreaded camping, she now advocates for it. The experience allowed Jensen to learn more about herself, improve her mental, emotional and physical health, and acquire techniques for dealing with different conditions.
O’Neill said that while the center struggles to accommodate all the women who need their support, fundraising efforts are underway to add a third housing unit, in this case, apartment buildings.
Jensen said the center often has to turn away women because they don’t have space for them.
“They can stay up to two years in our homes…If our women tend to stay longer, we don’t have room to bring in more women…Sometimes you can wait that long, sometimes we can get the women in very quickly,” O’Neill said. It’s really not a dry situation.”
O’Neill said the Talitha.com crew is working to house the women in permanent housing after completing the 12-step program as part of their transition, which is an increasingly difficult challenge, especially as the cost of living continues to rise.
“They were saying ‘We want to go out,’ but there’s nowhere to go,” she said.
“We are finding partnerships for women to go to, but this is a struggle and we have to find places that are focused on recovery and that are drug-free, so this is always difficult.”
Talitha.com is open to all kinds of donations in addition to money, including clothing, toiletries, office supplies, and more. To learn more, call the center at 604-492-3393.
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Camping and fundraising