The Bethesda Centre is located in London, Ontario. It's a group home run by the Salvation Army, for young at risk teen moms (and moms to be). It doesn't just serve girls in the London area. In fact, while I was there, there were three girls from Windsor and one from Chatham.
Right now, they are in SERIOUS danger of being shut down.
They provide the girls with not only a safe place to live, but an education, health care (an OB comes to the centre to visit and see the girls), as well as a list a mile long of life skills that these girls need to learn.
Some of the skills that are taught include
- Cooking & meal planning
- Time management
- How to care for their babe
- how to bathe
- how to dress
- how to feed
- how to bond
- Respect (for themselves and others)
Of course, this is just a short list. They also provide the girls with an entire host of real life experiences as well as an education. They have an onsite classroom, and an onsite child care facility so that the girls can continue attending school.
I was 18 when I found out I was pregnant. 6 months pregnant by the time I moved into Bethesda. You see, my son's biological father wanted nothing to do with us, and I had no where to go. I lived for a month in a homeless shelter before I moved into Bethesda. The program director, Cherilyn, was almost like a mother to me during this time.
Normally, their cut off age is 18, but under certain circumstances, they will take us older girls in as well.
Cherilyn was with me when I gave birth to my son. She held my hand, encouraged and supported me.
Not just through my labour and delivery. During my pregnancy and in the months and now years to follow.
You see, I still visit Bethesda, I still talk with staff from Bethesda. I take my kids old clothes and gear, and donate it to them, so that they can pass them on to the new girls who live there.
The student who was there while I was there, actually acted as doula for the birth of my last son, Martyn.
Of the girls that lived at Bethesda at the same time as I myself, there are only 4 that I haven't stayed in touch with.
The others I talk with on a fairly regular basis.
(All of the above photos were taken in my independent living apartment that was onsite.)
Bethesda wasn't just a program for me. It was home. For me and Matthew.
You see, Matthew has always had sensory issues. From the time he was born. He would scream and scream and scream. He hated the sound of the vacuum. Bethesda was given tickets to see Disney on Ice, ya, we didn't actually end up watching the show. I stood in the hall way with Matthew while he screamed because of the lights and noise. Of course, Cherilyn spelled me off a couple of times, so I could at least see part of the show. Or what about that time we went to the circus when he was just a few weeks old, he slept during the show, but he screamed for hours (and hours) that night when we got home.
They supported me through all of this. They taught me coping skills and techniques to deal with it. They showed us love and compassion.
I moved into Bethesda a scared and lost young woman. I moved out a capable young mother. I have no clue what I would have done without Bethesda.
If Bethesda Centre closes, it will be a significantly huge loss to the community. There is no other place for these young at risk girls to go.
Please consider LIKING this facebook page (linky-do), and signing this twitter petition (linky-do) and showing your support.
These young girls and their babies need us. They need this home.
Here are two other blog posts about this that I have come across so far.
Linky-do, and another from one of my best friends that I met at Bethesda (pictured above holding Matthew- sitting on a couch, and they're looking at each other), Linky-do
Here is an article in the local paper with comments from citizen in the London Area
(those Bethesda babysitters were amazing!)