Read how your donation to our Financial Aid Program has helped those who would have otherwise been unable to attend programs at The Haven.
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.
From Stacy K
To the many contributors and friends of The Haven,
I write to express a most heartfelt thank you for making it possible for me to attend a Come Alive at The Haven in October 2017. Words cannot accurately capture how important it was for me to attend this program, and create new and meaningful memories. I was able to participate in Come Alive because of your thoughtful contributions, and with confidence that my participation would not result in further financial hardship.
Even though the experience of being a part of Come Alive is very recent, it is already benefitting my recovery from painful past experiences, and easing my transition back into a happier life. The environment and structure were very welcoming and warm; this is an amazing educational space, where social theory is seamlessly integrated into daily life.
I am grateful to have met passionate instructors, leaders and fellow program participants, who were all eager to learn, and together, explore tools to live life to the fullest. The Haven creates a wonderful sense of community, and there is no substitute for the genuine connections I was able to foster during my visit.
With these new-found skills and friendships, I am better able to make cogent sense of the past, and am returning to life with renewed vigor, understanding and drive to once again be successful, and fulfilled.
With sincere gratitude,
Please pass along gratitude to those who financially contribute to make Haven courses accessible to all, past and present staff, board members and volunteers. Sincerely,
It is a rare and truly progressive organization that makes its services accessible to applicants of all financial standings. Thank you to your entire community for bravely, intentionally knocking down that tired old barrier and for opening up mutual healing between people who may have never otherwise crossed paths. Through your program I was able to experience unprecedented openings and to begin a profoundly transformative phase of my life. Thank you.
From J, a Come Alive participant
The Come Alive was tremendously helpful. The last month has just been awesome. I believe I've been able to shift some things that I really thought were utterly and permanently un-shiftable. Specifically, I have never in my life been so sociable, and so willing to make myself vulnerable, ask for acceptance, and take it in and enjoy it when it was offered. Really, this year so far has just been a kind of amazing time. And I think -- well, I'm convinced -- that it was the Come Alive that enabled me to take these steps. So I am very, very grateful. It was also lovely to connect with so many people at the Haven. So, a very good and productive time, and I am very appreciative.
From Laura, a Come Alive participant
I just returned form The Haven’s Come Alive program, and I have found a spare moment to write you donors to say a word. Gratitude. I am filled with gratitude for your generosity that may have saved my life. Or close to it at any rate.
I’m in a bit of a tight spot financially. My husband left last month and we have two little girls. I’ve returned home to my parents’ house (with its love, food, support and encouragement, and not to mention warm dry and safe). Anyway, they encouraged me to apply to Come Alive and that’s what I did.
I’m going to have a bit of a trek ahead of myself, but with the tools and memories and friendships I’ve brought home with me, my future doesn’t look so bleak. I was able to digest some of my separation and feel ready to take on the world for me and my girls.
I’m so excited to be able to give back to The Haven when my life allows for it. I’ve decided to really work on my breath a few times a day and keep a journal about my shifts in response to it. Thank you again for your generosity.
With warmth, clarity and love,
From E, a Living Alive participant
It has been almost six months since I finished the Living Alive Phase I course at the Haven, and I’ve had plenty of time to digest and reflect upon what I have learned. I wanted to write this note of thanks to the donors at the Haven Foundation for the extremely generous bursary and loan that I was given in 2015.
I would never have been able to attend Phase I course without the financial aid that I received. For much of the past ten years I’ve either been a student or have been working in the arts and haven’t had much money to invest in myself beyond bare essentials. I was also awarded a bursary to attend Come Alive in 2014. I believe that these two courses have helped to kick start a positive new phase in my life.
Being in Phase I course for 25 days was an extremely valuable experience, because it was a long enough period of time to actually begin changing my thought patterns. For as long as I can remember, I have been stuck in a cycle where my negative thoughts led to negative feelings, and these in turn led to more negative thoughts. In Phase I, I learned to identify this pattern and to interrupt this cycle.
The facilitators at Phase I helped me to gain tremendous insight into the depressive thoughts I’ve had for many years. I learned that depressive thoughts were actually a tool I was using to be hard on myself, and I began to learn how to develop some self-compassion. My small-group leaders encouraged me to stay connected to others when I was feeling down, instead of turning inward to the place of isolation and self-pity that had become my regular hiding place. They also encouraged me to check out the “stories” that I would continually make up in my head about what others were thinking. I learned in a very powerful way that my stories were rarely representative of what was actually going on with other people. With this knowledge, I am now more able to be curious and open with others, and I am less judgmental.
The Haven Communication Model continues to revolutionize my relationships. I am now able to express myself more openly with the people who are closest to me. Conversations or topics that would have seemed fraught with anger or anxiety have now become much simpler to broach. I think that I am communicating with more compassion and curiosity, and this is creating space for emotional intimacy in my relationships.
The Phase I course allowed me to reconnect with my body in a very important way. I had noticed that I often felt weak and absent in my body, and that this absence seemed to be especially centered near my belly area. One of my small group leaders helped me to discover a sense of strength and presence in my belly, and in subsequent months I’ve been gradually “coming back home” to this part of me. As a professional singer this has been a huge discovery for me, since I need to constantly draw upon the strength of my belly in order to have a strong and connected voice. I am so grateful to have discovered this “missing link” at Phase I, since I had been studying singing for 25 years and had been unable to figure out why I couldn’t support my voice with strength all this time.
Since completing Phase I, I’ve had more energy and motivation to try new things, to meet new people, and to be fully “alive” as much as I possibly can. It’s remarkable how many new things I’ve tried over the past few months: I joined my neighbourhood residents’ association and organized an outdoor swing-dancing event in my community; I’ve attended several meetup groups in “authentic relating” and contact improv dance and I’ve been meeting like-minded people and making new friends at these events. I learned the basics of non-violent communication, and I’ve started a course in mindfulness-based cognitive therapy in order to continue the work that I started at the Haven. There are so many other new things I’ve tried and events I’ve shown up to in the past five months – too many to name here! This sense of adventurousness is something that was rekindled for me during Phase I.
In terms of my career, I seem to have more faith than I ever did before that things might actually turn out okay. I invented a 30-day “visioning” exercise for my sister and I to do together, and this helped us both to get in touch with some of our dreams and goals. I found an excellent career counselor, and she has been helping me to take some steps towards creating a new career (or - even better - a number of different careers!) for myself.
In broad terms, I think that Phase I helped me to gain a greater understanding that life is unpredictable, that things are always changing and that holding on tightly is not the answer. I’m learning to embrace the in-between places, the unknowns, and to stop striving for things to be a certain way. I view this overall shift in me as a “softening” – a subtle kind of “letting go” that is actually much more powerful than hanging on. Another way of describing this is that I’m discovering the compassionate path – a compassionate approach to myself, to others, and to life itself.
Thank you, Haven donors, for helping me to find this path!
From LK, a Come Alive participant
This letter is to thank all the donors who have so generously supported The Haven programs. I had arrived at one of the worst places in my life and contacted Louise Amuir for financial aid to attend the Come Alive program. Louise was incredibly helpful and so kind. I sincerely appreciate her assistance with my application.
The relationship models taught and the skills learned were beyond any of my expectations. The deep emotional bonds that developed within our group while practicing The Haven concepts and the compassion and support shared by our group will never be forgotten.
Our leaders, Cathy Wilder and Leslie Whyte, and our group assistants/interns, Vikki, Olivia and Shaun, were all amazing. A true gift to have met them all.
I will continue to build on the concepts and skills learned, attending local Staying Alive groups, and hopefully return once again to attend the Living Alive Phase I.
The Haven, I believe, saved my life from further years of emotional neglect/isolation and dysfunctional relationships. I will certainly encourage both my daughters to attend The Haven programs in the future.
From the bottom of my heart, thank you for the opportunity as your support to The Haven certainly enriched my life for years to come beyond measure. Endless hugs to you all.
From CH, a Come Alive participant
Hey Louise, I just want to thank you and the staff of The Haven for the opportunity to participate in the Come Alive program . It was a great experience for me and i would not have been able to attend if it was not for the bursary given by Haven for that I am truly grateful. Also i big thank you to those who have donated to The Haven allowing me to be there . It is a piece of heaven there and cant wait to be back to take another program. My hope is that more people take the Come Alive program and enjoy what The Haven has to offer.
From Anya, a Come Alive participant
From the moment I arrived at The Haven, though arriving alone, I never once felt lonely. The energy of the centre was welcoming and comforting from the minute I drove down the driveway; it was as if I was supported by love and wonderfulness for my whole stay.
My week of Come Alive changed my life drastically on a deeper level than I dreamed possible. I opened up and released heavy burdens and pain that had been holding me back; I learned the power and bliss of breathing, and I made deep friendships with people of all ages, ethnicity and occupations.
The communication tools I learned during Come Alive are now tools I've implemented in all of my relationships, and they've brought me endless clarity and peace. We danced numerous times through the week and it was such a powerful way to begin sessions and really come into our own.
Our facilitators were nothing short of extraordinary and were so encouraging and inspiring in many aspects whilst also making the time we had very real and humorous. I felt a real sense of equality and respect. Walking from sessions to our meals was a real treat as the ocean view from the property is breathtaking. Not only was the food delicious and nourishing at every meal, but nothing beat enjoying the yummy food with a blissful ocean view; I don't think I've eaten so calmly or mindfully in my entire life!!
The place, the people, the food, the experience, and the accommodation were all phenomenal. Whenever I think about The Haven my heart floods with joy, and on the few occasions I've met someone who's also experienced the bliss of the centre, I've gotten overly giddy with joy and excitement! There's no simpler way to explain it than my heart is full and my eyes are fresh to see the world in a whole new light.
I would recommend The Haven to everyone because I wholeheartedly believe there's something offered for everyone, and I know undoubtedly it can provide the experience of a lifetime.
Receiving financial aid for my time at The Haven moved me to tears and gave me an opportunity that would have otherwise taken me years to save up for. I cannot express my gratitude enough for one of the best weeks of my life. The friendships I made and the tools I learned will forever be a cherished part of my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
Writing about it is making me cry haha. Happy tears of course! Though I left at the end of the program in a bit of turmoil, my whole experience has brought me so much peace and growth. I am SO SO thankful. What an incredible place.
And Louise, to you - your love and energy was something that added a huge bonus to Come alive. It filled me up seeing you dance with love and pure joy and openly expressing your true self fearlessly. You added such an uplifting yet comforting presence filled with silliness and all the good things in life! And your smiling face truly lit up the room!!!
With the biggest love and gratitude filled heart,
From a Come Alive participant
I would like to express how grateful I am to have been given the opportunity to attend Come Alive at The Haven.
This experience came at a point in my life when I needed in the most. I had recently left my husband and was feeling very lost and confused, I felt like my life was slipping away and I was losing control. Without receiving the bursary, I would not have been able to attend the Come Alive program and for that I am forever grateful.
The knowledge and skills I learned at The Haven have helped me become a better version of myself and I will continue to strive to be the best version of myself possible. I now know that I need to love myself and be accepting of who I am in order to be happy in my life. Making other people happy to the detriment of myself will no longer be my priority. I am enjoying getting to know myself and I am so happy I participated in the program.
I would like to come back in the near future to attend Living Alive - Phase I as I want to make myself my number one priority and continue to learn and grow. Thank you so much for this opportunity.
A recent Come Alive participant
From Candice, a Come Alive participant
Haven Donors ♥♥♥ Thank you!
Thank you is just not enough to express my gratitude – really, no words can!
I came to The Haven pretty lost and unsure of who I was and what I wanted out of life. In the five days of Come Alive I grew as a person, I learned skills and gained tools to help me navigate through life a little more easily and to be much kinder to myself and the people I come into contact with. I also felt so much love and compassion from 17 strangers that I’ve never experienced before!
All of this happened for me to go out into the world with because of the generosity of the people who donate! I know that someday, when I am able, I too will give back!
Thank you, thank you, thank you to all the give for people like me to get to have life changing experiences at The Haven.
From Jonas Lee, a Come Alive participant
I feel extreme gratitude for this experience (Come Alive participant). It has changed my perspective and provided me with more confidence to make choices in my life while remaining authentic and in touch with myself. This is a gift that will never escape me as I move forward and implement the tools I have acquired from this program while remaining connected. My perception and interpretation of intimacy has been transformed. My intention is to allow myself to be me, accept myself for who I am and develop a relationship with my heart as I move forward on this journey of life.
Before attending the program, I didn’t want to live and I felt completely removed from all connection. I now feel more hopeful. I attribute this energetic shift to my experience at The Haven. This would not have been possible without your selflessness and willingness to help others. I hope one day I can do the same for another person. Today, in this moment, I feel at peace and can breathe.
With extreme gratitude,
From Tara Timmers, a Living Alive participant
Well, what can I say authentically about the Living Alive Phase 1 Program? I had moments of rebellion, resistance, denial and overall challenge AND these moments led me to expand my abilities, take risks, accept feedback and know myself more in my FULLNESS.
As I sit here at home breaking patterns that have kept me held in toxicity, listening to my favorite music, my soul wants to dance, to express itself and to communicate openly with you about the experience. I am more aware of my defenses, my closed self, my attitudes and my once dormant spiritual skills.
There was a moment in the last couple days of the program where I had to stop in mid step and put my hand to my chest and listen to my hearts voice. It said, “This is GRATITUDE!” I finally understood the power of this innately illusive ideology. To all the staff, interns, donors and participants, I really get it, the gifts of learning you all offered me in your own ways, stand out so strongly in my personal and professional development journey. You ALL facilitated a transformative process where I could be full in all my ways of being and explore what works/serves me well and what I could do differently. Your examples of giving: tools, behaviors, ideas, and the bursary for me to partake in this opportunity are greatly appreciated from a sense of true honor.
In 25 days, I witnessed my “WORK” from the deep held anger for my life struggle, to my playful fun expression, to my creativity in song, to my need for connection with others, however still reserved, the way my mind works in an abstract way on multiple levels of understanding, how I deal with conflict by avoiding, limiting and finally opening to its lessons, and how much I still so passionately want to grow as an enlightened person. I am eager in this letter to give you a glimpse at the awareness I have built from this program and share my own gift of thankfulness that it exists. I take away a strong will to be fully alive in everything I take on as an endeavor, from sociability, to employment and education, to family and in my intimate relationships. I will carry on the practices of breathing, grounding, communing with nature, silence, fasting and all the other amazing tools I engaged in at The Haven.
If you garner anything from this letter, please let it be: donations give life to those of us that are rich in spirit but not in wallet. Donations offer opportunities to those of us that work from the heart in life, not the bank account.
I grew up at home as a learner with only the basics of life. Early on in my development, I walked out the door of my “HOME” and went forth into the world to gain skill, experience and an education in life.
Your donation has shown me another place I can call “HOME.” This home, The Haven, is a true place of awakening to more lessons that solidified my trust in the universal nature of the learning world. All I have shared in this letter, is to show you I get it, I got it and I will continue to learn from all that was taught at this marvelous home on Gabriola Island.
Thank you from my deepest self.
From S, a Come Alive participant
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, a Living Alive participant
I will express again how blessed I am to have been able to attend Phase I "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, a Come Alive participant
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, a Come Alive participant
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.
The Lions guarding and welcoming to the Wong and McKeen Phoenix AuditoriumSince 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 sessions 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.