Thank You Letters from Financial Aid Recipients
Testimonials from financial aid recipients at The Haven on Gabriola Island. So many people have been helped over the years, and here we give them the chance to show their appreciation and tell us something about how coming to The Haven has affected their lives. Perhaps something you read here will strike a chord, and you'll make a donation too. We have provided easy buttons to allow you to donate online, or you can contact us to set up a regular monthly donation.
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When you make a donation, you aren't just giving money to The Haven. You are giving it to people. In addition to all the great things donations do for The Haven, one of the most important is to supply our Financial Aid Program. This allows us to give financial help to people who really need it. Your donations fund that. Read the stories of some of the people you have helped with your donations in the past, and think about how your donations can help more people just like these.
I was the recipient of a bursary to attend the most recent Come Alive program in April; it was my first time at the Haven, and I am on a fixed income. I'm writing to express my gratitude; this letter is a bit rambling, but I really want to make myself clear.
I had read the Haven's website, and started the program with the aim of overcoming some family of origin issues (abuse, addiction, etc.) and moving on into the leadership roles that I'm starting to feel ready for at this stage in my life-but that description sounds pale and thin compared to my actual experience of the program.
In my life, I have a strange combination of external achievement and emotional struggle. In my early life I was very isolated and independent, and had to move very often because of the violence in my family; the lack of a sense of community and belonging was so deep that I just understood it as an intractable part of myself, not something I could ever change. As I grew up, I stayed in abusive relationships, hoping for just a small sense of that connection, wanting so badly to belong somewhere that I would abide very painful situations; I still looked for what I needed outside of me somewhere, and thought that if I could just improve myself enough in the eyes of others, I would finally belong.
Through the Come Alive program, my whole perspective has changed. I now have a felt sense of what it means to connect with others as me, without that desperate seeking. Not only did I feel truly accepted by the group members, but I also felt secure in putting myself forward, and understanding emotional security as part of a group, without the exhausting charade of tough independence or performance. It's not so much that I am happier, as that I am more myself, more honest, more grounded. I feel emotionally connected to the world and people around me, and more capable of knowing others in a way that will help me build a sense of home that is safe and based in community-something I've never had, and not until last week did I really believe it was within my capacity. I've also realized an emotional connection to some of the things I hold very close-the possibility of a safe relationship, as well as the possibility of a better world-and I can see now where my compass is. I can understand my strengths in terms of their positive potential, not just as residual symptoms of old defence mechanisms. I feel ready to let go of the abuse survivor/tough kid story, and much more ready to base my actions and relationships in a new story in which I understand myself not just as a survivor, but in terms of my own identity. In this way, the circumstances which held me captive for so long are starting to loosen their bonds. Slowly, I'm finding ways to integrate some of the grief and pain from past experiences, rather than hiding them as irreparable fragments of me.
I've had the chance to work with a variety of counsellors since childhood, and ACOA programs, group therapy, etc., and I was amazed at the skills of the group facilitators-again, like nothing I had experienced before. Their combination of insight, sensitivity to individual and group situations, and authenticity was incredible. I can only imagine the energy and care it takes to work with others in the ways they do, and the opportunity to work with them has been an extraordinary gift that I will keep close.
I've finally been able to leave an abusive partnership with a sense of calm and security. I was ready, but I don't think I would have been able to act on it without this program. Thank you for helping me learn to practice courage. I see a future for myself that I never thought I would see.
from cheryl piket
I will express again how blessed I am to have been able to attend Phase 1 "Living Alive" this past January 2011. I have now been home 3 months, and I still feel great. This was my 7th program that I had taken and each one, I grew, learned, and gained lots. But, I must say this 25 day program really gave me the time to really dig deep and reach into myself and heal what needed to be healed. When I first got to Haven for this program, I was suffering with post traumatic stress; I was feeling quite depressed and very hopeless. I was literally emotionally dying inside. I was there not long when I started feeling better and changes were happening and my sense of hopelessness started to fade away. I just continued to work with the amazing leaders there and accept their guidance and soon I was feeling like my old self again and much more. I left Haven feeling very "Alive" and my heart was full.
I will continue to tell my friends and acquaintances about Haven, and highly recommend going there if they at all want to work on themselves and grow. I really believe that Haven can change lives as long as you are open to change.
I tell people: If you go to Haven with an open heart and willingness to heal, it will happen.
Thank you again to donors to the Financial Aid Program. You literally saved my life! I want to help people to have access to these programs, too, and that is why husband and I will continue our interest-free loan repayments as monthly donations. I love being part of The Haven.
from debbie perret
I am finding words difficult. I can only express my immense gratitude for being given this opportunity to grow and heal, at a time in my life when I most needed it. I have two sisters and a couple very close friends, all of whom wanted to know "how it was" as soon as I returned. In each case I would reply "incredible" but would have to defer any details until we had much more time for me to explain.
I came home with an entirely new perspective on my life…my health, relationships, prospects for the future. I have a new hope, optimism, joy and peace for whatever comes my way. I also have my pockets stuffed with practical tools to help me through whatever life brings. I have learned how important breathing and movement are for getting clarity on my world, looking inward and dealing with "the little things" before they become big things. I am diligently taking time out to breathe, as well as dancing whenever nobody's looking…no point in scaring them unnecessarily. I also have an intelligent model for communication which has already guided me through some potentially stormy situations, helped me to come through in one piece. Nice change from my life "before Haven."
Last, but not least of what I came away with…what feels like a new family of closer friends than I've ever known. It is such a warm and comforting feeling to know I am truly loved and supported (warts and all) by my Haven family…and that they count on me for the same things.
My heart is very full.
from jaspar smith
I grew up on Gabriola so I have always known that The Haven was there. However I first became interested in the programs when my mom started taking them at The Haven. She told me how they had changed her life and encouraged me to take a look at Come Alive. She also told me about the Financial Aid program. I was a full-time student at the time and wouldn't have been able to come without the bursary – it was absolutely essential.
I was 23 when I took the program, so was one of the youngest in the group. In some ways my age isolated me from the other participants, because I didn't always understand what others were going through. However the great benefit for me is that there are some core ideas in the program that I am glad I learned sooner rather than later.
The group process was one of the most valuable parts of the program for me. I learned as much from talking with the members of the group outside of the sessions as I did in the program itself. I was very fortunate to be able to stay at The Haven – it's an essential part of the experience I think. I learned a lot about myself just talking to people over dinner! At first I was nervous and didn't know how the program was going to affect me personally. I wasn't sure what my expectations were. However, each day as I watched people work through their issues I became more comfortable with the idea of participating myself, which I did by the end of the program. It was a surprising experience! I am thankful for the dynamics among a very good group of people.
Since coming to Come Alive I have become a lot clearer in my communication, in what I want to express. I am now very conscious of the difference between "I think" and "I feel". I find this to be a useful distinction because it encourages me to remember to check in with the other person instead of relying on my own assumptions about a situation. It's helpful for me to be able to understand the difference between my feelings, perception, actions and so on. It has made communication a lot less stressful and nerve-wracking; I understand better where I am coming from.
I want to thank The Haven for allowing me to take part in the Come Alive and I have mentioned it to all my friends in the hope that they will be able to come too one day.
from marilyn k.
I first heard about The Haven about four years ago when my friend Jack and I were doing an ESL program in Vancouver. He participated in a Come Alive and when he got back we talked about it. Intuitively I knew the program was right for me. I mentioned I would love to go too, but didn't have the money. Jack told me about the Financial Aid program and encouraged me to apply - I didn't. Every time I began the application, I allowed myself to get side tracked. I guess it wasn't the right time.
In 2010 I just did it - I applied for Financial Aid to go to The Haven! Still a full time student, money was extremely tight. Although I'd managed to get by (thanks to student loans) there was certainly no extra money to cover the cost of the program.
I came to Come Alive in May 2010. It was fantastic, a very meaningful and significant experience. Aside from the concrete tools I learned about, like the Communication Model and remembering to breathe deeply, there were two important highlights. The first was that for the first time in my conscious memory, I felt both loving, in that I was able to express love, and more importantly, I felt lovable. I became aware that my ability to express my loving nature had been limited, probably because I didn't feel lovable. The link between these two came together during the Come Alive. Secondly, I was able to explore some of my fear and trust issues around men (rooted in my experience of abuse). This too connected me to my feelings of being lovable. I was able to let myself relax and be cared for by men in the group, a new experience for me. The participants (facilitators included) in my Come Alive group rallied together and we quickly became a cohesive and supportive unit.
Since the Come Alive I've noticed I feel more comfortable in my own skin. There was no big 'aha' moment or dramatic life shift. It has been something much more subtle. I carry my Come Alive experience with me 24/7. When I remember to reflect on the Communication Model before a difficult conversation it tends to end in a mutually satisfactory manner. If I forget, upon reflection, the words 'oh damn' come to mind! Progress, not perfection.
I would not have been able to come to the program without the Financial Aid program. It was very humbling, especially at my age, to admit that I needed financial assistance. It was equally difficult to ask for the support I needed. Throughout the process Rachel was respectful of and sensitive to my discomfort. I am profoundly grateful for the sense of empowerment she helped me connect to. To the individual(s) who donated the money that allowed me to participate in Come Alive, thank you, thank you, thank you.
from leighann vaughan
LeighAnn Vaughan first came to The Haven in 2005, for a program with Linda Nicholls. She describes it as a life-altering experience. Mostly, she realized in those few days a potential for connection and relationship she had never thought possible. From then on, she says, there was no turning back.
However, it was not until 2009 that it became financially possible for LeighAnn to do more programs at The Haven. With her primary relationship disintegrating and with a young son to look after, she was determined not to repeat the same patterns in her life. She applied for and received bursaries to do Come Alive and Living Alive Phase I. As a result, she says, she has integrated a huge amount of learning into her life, to her own benefit and in her relationships, especially with her son.
She has worked out practical, creative ways to help her son through difficult times. Together they are learning about it being OK to feel sad or angry, for example, without having to get rid of or change anything, and how they can remain connected to each other in these experiences.
The very process of applying for a bursary was an important experience for LeighAnn. She had become very isolated in her relationships and in her community. Reaching out for help was a risk and took courage — in her past, asking for things had been dangerous. When Rose Hunter, The Haven's Bursary Fund Manager at the time, contacted her to say she was delighted to offer a bursary, LeighAnn says it was like someone reaching out a hand to her when there didn't seem to be other hands to hold. To her it was a message that it was OK and safe for her to tell her story and express her life.
Today LeighAnn remains committed to herself and her son, working with her ex-partner on joint custody, and beginning to find new connections in a community where she had previously felt isolated and alone. "The Haven taught me it was safe for me to reach out to connect," she says. "I was touched back every time I found enough courage to reach out. This was the beacon of light The Haven shone through the darkness that surrounded my life. I cannot overstate the importance of this support in my life."
I first heard about The Haven from an acquaintance, Sasha. We met in Costco, she asked how I was doing and I burst into tears. She said she knew of a place called The Haven that had changed her life and that would be very helpful for me. She also told me about the financial aid program. I called and got the information and came to Come Alive on a bursary. That was five years ago. At that time there was no way I could have attended without the financial support.
I don't remember too much about the Come Alive to be honest. I had decided to try on a different persona for the program and it didn't fit for me. What does stay with me from that time, however is that is was my first experience of such honesty, caring and safety in a group. It was my start and I wanted to find out more.
Since then I have been lucky enough to receive financial aid to come to both Living Phase I and II. Phase I was a very different experience for me, partly because I was getting more comfortable being in groups. During the program I did some work and it was uncomfortable, scary and opened up some stuff that I needed to look at. I managed to get a lot of issues out. It was like a cleansing. Through the program I got a lot of feedback and I was able to make a lot of changes because of the feedback. I learned that I had a habit of crossing people's boundaries. I didn't realize that I was doing that and what the consequences were. It was very hard to take on board how people were seeing me and then slowly I began to understand. It was just what I needed at the time.
Living Alive Phase II was a natural progression for me, a way to continue finding out more about myself and other people. There was such a variety of ages and backgrounds in the group. Even though I had spent a lot of my life traveling, I was living in a kind of fog. I learned much more from Phase II than I had learned from all of my traveling.
I have come to all of the Haven Unplugged session so far. It's a way for me to give back and it feels very natural to me. It was work but it didn't feel like work! We have lots of fun as well. And as often happens with giving, you get back more than you give.
If I hadn't been given the opportunities to take the Haven programs I wouldn't be where I am today. I was in a very difficult place when I first came. I hated myself then and now I don't. I know myself more. What I have learned at The Haven has been so beneficial for me in terms of my acceptance of myself. Now I know what boundaries about and my communication skills are better. I love the caring, truthful and honest way of the people who have been to The Haven. I love being around likeminded people who want to go forth in their life. I appreciate so much those people who have the finances to donate. I think they understand that someone else who don't have the money can really benefit. I just want to say thank you so, so much for giving me the opportunity.
Thank You! From Financial Aid Recipients
I sincerely want to thank everyone who supported me in my endeavour to Come Alive and encouraged me to take a deep breath from my belly recall that life is not going to start sometime in the future: the moment now is to relax, breath, look around me and be alive.../read more
My gratitude for the financial aid that enabled me to take this course is enormous. Many thanks to the donors who gave of their resources to enable me to have this experience..../read more
I am forever grateful for this opportunity, one I will never forget..../read more
Click to Read a book of thank you letters filled with thanks and gratitude from bursary fund recipients that were helped by your donations.
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