The honey-coloured walls and decorative curtains in Clarissa’s office reflect the warmth of her personality, her professionalism and her approachability. The reason each young mom who enters the centre feels so welcomed is most likely because Clarissa’s role at Youville Centre is not just a job for her -- it is the culmination of her life’s journey, where her past meets her present, and where she dreamed she might end up one day. As she talks with the young mothers at the centre, listening to their struggles and celebrating their successes, she brings a unique perspective to her work because she too was once a young mother at Youville Centre – just like them.
When she was 11, Clarissa and her mom moved to her mother’s hometown of Ottawa due to her parents’ divorce. “I was angry. Angry that I had to leave my dad, angry that I had to leave my friends, and really just angry that I had no control over my own life. I felt really disconnected from my new environment and I started to act out.” By the time she was 13, Clarissa was not attending school consistently, and she had run away from home several times. Then at 16, she met someone and very quickly got into a relationship.
“When I was 17, I found out I was pregnant. Suddenly, I realized that I was alone and that getting into trouble wasn’t an option anymore. I had to change my life and figure out how to take care of my son.”
The lazy days of summer are upon us. After a long school year and an even longer winter you can hardly blame kids for wanting to take it easy over the next few months and enjoy the sunshine. However, with the school doors closed many students don't have access to learning opportunities that stimulate their brains. The result is that some students will experience a summer learning loss, particularly with regard to their skills in math and reading.
How much will they lose?
About "a month or two of academic gains can be lost" according to Scott Davies, co-author of the report "Summer Literacy Learning Project" and professor of Sociology and Child Studies at McMaster University. "If you add that up over consecutive summers, for some students, that could mean falling a whole year behind," says Davies.
In two of Ottawa's at-risk neighbourhoods, Banff-Ledbury and Confederation Court, United Way put a program in place to fight summer learning loss - with the help of the local community house and the support of Stephen Greenberg and Family.
Indochino, Vancouver’s custom online menswear company, reached out to United Way to help give back to the community by donating one suit for every 50 sold in-store during its Ottawa Travelling Tailor event. The suits were given to clients enrolled in programs that help people with disabilities find meaningful employment, a priority for United Way Ottawa. Meet two of Ottawa’s five recipients, John and Greg.
Get involved and find out your organization can help.
Alicia had a difficult childhood, with a mother who had serious drug problems. After fleeing the situation as a teenager, she didn't know where to go next. Read Alicia's story.
Creating stronger neighbourhoods can’t happen from the outside alone – it needs the support and passion of residents.
Recently, the Social Planning Council of Ottawa, a United Way partner, released the 2013 Case Study, “Building Better Neighbourhoods,” (PDF) which provides a summary of results from Ottawa Neighbourhoods Social Capital Forum (ONSCF).
Since 2011, the ONSCF has been building better communities through neighbourhood-based community development, partnerships and collective evaluation initiatives. With the support of community agencies, residents decide what the most pressing issues are in their neighbourhood and lead the work to address them.
Keep up to date on what’s happening in your community.
In The News
On June 5, LiveWorkPlay presented United Way Ottawa with the Community Partner of the Year Award. The award presentation took place at the LiveWorkPlay Engines of Success recognition banquet, an annual event which recognizes the achievements of people with intellectual disabilities and the people, organizations, and businesses who are building an inclusive Ottawa.