By Claire Hanlon, Supervisor, Community Services, Catholic Family Service
As we continue to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Families and Schools Together (F&ST) program, the word that keeps coming to mind to describe the impact this program has on the families, schools and communities we have been working alongside for 20 years is RESILIENCE.
Resilience is defined as the ability to recover quickly from difficulties. I love this word for so many reasons, but most of all because it does not imply that we can avoid difficulties in life. It shines a light on our ability to build up the skills and supports we need in order to move through the stresses that life presents to us all.
Anna is a single mother of three children. She has experienced a tremendous amount of stress and loss in the past few years. With addictions, grief, poverty and relocation as part of her recent family story, Anna found herself in a new community, without any connections, without an income that could sustain herself and her children, and with a great deal of shame and fear. Rather than isolate herself, which was her first instinct, Anna took a chance and registered her family for the F&ST program.
The program was free of charge for her family, and she quickly experienced the opportunity to connect with other parents, watch her children laugh and play alongside new friends, build relationships with the school principal and staff, and, perhaps most significant to Anna, gain a feeling of belonging and community.
Anna shared that feeling safe set her on a path within her new community and within her own family to face her fear and shame head on. Anna met with the principal to ask about the possibility of waiving her overdue school fees which she had no means to pay. Anna talked with her child’s teacher after school one day about her struggle to get to school to pick him up on time due to her new job. Anna reached out to other parents that she met at this program and built friendships. Anna is working. She is happy in her new community. Her children love school and feel safe and welcome. Anna is becoming a leader in her community because she knows how it felt to be isolated and she wants to make sure other parents feel they belong.
Resilience is about recognizing your skills, strengths and supports and using them when you are uncomfortable. Anna’s story represents resilience in every way. What an honour and a privilege it is to meet parents like Anna every day.
Since 1996, Catholic Family Service has been connecting families with their schools and communities through the Families and Schools Together Program (F&ST). F&ST is a world-renowned family skills program that supports each member of the family to be the best they can be – at home, at school and in the community. F&ST is delivered by Catholic Family Service in partnership with the Calgary Board of Education and Calgary Catholic School District. Read more about Families and Schools Together.