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President’s Message

President’s Message

As you and I both know, a week at summer camp can change the trajectory of a young person’s whole life. For a child or youth who may be facing multiple adversities—maybe poverty, risk of gang violence, or drug and alcohol abuse—a summer camp experience offers incredible impact, freedom, and the chance to dream of something different.

As you read Miranda and Arlene’s stories, featured in this issue of Gratitude, I hope you recognize the impact a week of camp can provide. As parents like Miranda work to re-build their families, camp is one of the ways we can offer vital support.

That’s why I’m so grateful for Union Gospel Mission’s bighearted donors! Every year, you give hundreds of kids this chance. As you read Miranda’s story and look at her children’s drawings, I hope you remember: by sending a kid to camp, you’re not just changing one life. Your gift could be helping whole families.

Sincerely,
William B. Mollard

Healing Together:

Healing Together:

Miranda’s Family

If Miranda could summarize her call in life, she’d tell you, “I’m a full-time mom. These kids are everything to me.” Though she’s been through life-long cycles of trauma and pain, Miranda’s identity is elsewhere: “Sharing my story is important in defining my new life. I’m not a victim anymore. I’m a victor. ”

“My parents are residential school survivors. They went through so much,” she explains. “So we’re victims of the survivors. I started drinking when I was six, about a year after some pretty serious abuse. While I don’t remember a lot, I do know that I chose toxic relationships, one after another, because it just seemed normal to be abused.”

Miranda found herself dropping into UGM in Mission for the first time several years ago. By then, she was a mother of two, in and out of abusive relationships. “My kids loved playing with Karen and Yvonne, two women on staff,” she says. “UGM became a second home to us.”

A few years after her third child, Ciara, arrived, Miranda had to make one of the bravest decisions of her life. “I was in a relationship that was abusive and I hit rock bottom. I was using drugs. I couldn’t take care of my kids.” Miranda called the ministry three times before summoning the courage to say, “You need to come get my kids. I’m using pretty badly and I can’t stop. I need help.”

“I think that staying on the phone with that lady was one of the strongest things I’ve ever done,” she says. “For me and for my kids.”

Once her kids were in foster care, Miranda went to UGM in Mission and told them she wanted help but didn’t know how. “I’d left my ex with just the clothes on my back,” she explains. “I needed to get away from all the beatings. Karen and Yvonne helped me into Lydia Home, UGM’s Alcohol & Drug Recovery Program for women.” Throughout recovery, Miranda was asked to think of a “higher power” that could help her overcome addiction—something or someone to give her strength. Miranda thought of her children.

After her first stay in Lydia Home, she never used drugs again. However, the addiction to alcohol was harder to shake. “Yvonne from UGM was supervising family visits with my kids so I could eventually have them come home. She brought me another application form for Lydia Home. I went back for a second time. I knew it would work.” Miranda’s second experience at Lydia Home was profound. She felt compelled to make some permanent changes. These changes were wrapped up in a desire to choose a new beginning.

“Choosing to come back to recovery for a second time meant choosing new life—it meant being able to let go of all of those things inside me that made me sick. I can let go of the life I didn’t choose now: a life of addiction and abuse. I didn’t know who I was until I came back to Lydia Home.”

“I live and breathe through these kids. They’re my pride and my joy, the reason I don’t think about doing drugs or drinking anymore.”

Today, Miranda leads a strong and sober life, with full-time custody of her four children, who are each so full of life. “I live and breathe through these kids,” she explains. “They’re my pride and my joy, the reason I don’t think about doing drugs or drinking anymore. With all the stuff they’ve been through, they’re the most respectful kids you could ever meet. I promised myself I wouldn’t let them go through what I went through.”

Part of UGM’s Camp Sponsorship program is to work with whole families, making sure holistic support is available for parents and kids throughout the year. That’s why, every summer, UGM’s donors sponsor Miranda’s three oldest kids for a week at camp. “They’ve been to Camp Luther, Camp Jubilee, and Camp Squeah,” Miranda shares. “I love when they come home and don’t stop talking about it. I think camp gives them more freedom. Freedom to have God be a part of their life too, on their terms. That’s important.”

Miranda’s story may be a difficult reminder of some of the worst injustices. And yet, when you watch her play with her kids today, none of this pain seems to dictate their interactions. More evident than her past is Miranda’s present strength—and her kids’ joy. “This life that we lead now,” Miranda says, pausing. “This is where our home is.”

 

Camp Through the Ages

Camp Through the Ages

When Arlene was a kid in UGM’s former Sunday School program, generous donors—who’ve been sending kids to camp for over 60 years now—gave her a life-changing week away. Arlene grew up at UGM, looking forward to camp each year. Today, she works in UGM’s Accounting department, after a lifetime of knowing its ministry intimately. “I know accounting isn’t directly involved with the community members,” she says, “but it’s part of helping UGM fulfill its purpose, and I feel that’s part of my purpose as well.” As UGM celebrates its seventy-fifth anniversary throughout 2015, we’re sharing legacies like Arlene’s. Just click through these photos to see part of her story!

  • Arlene grew up in UGM's Children & Youth programs, attending Sunday School from a young age.

    Arlene grew up in UGM’s Children & Youth programs, attending Sunday School from a young age.

  • Arlene first started attending summer camp through UGM. Here, Arlene (far right) and her friends have just arrived at camp for a week away.

    Arlene first started attending summer camp through UGM. Here, Arlene (far right) and her friends have just arrived at camp for a week away.

  • One year at summer camp, Arlene made a decision to follow God–a choice that would define her adolescence

    One year at summer camp, Arlene made a decision to follow God–a choice that would define her adolescence

  • Arlene (tallest, back row) continued to participate in UGM's Children & Youth programs year round, attending camp every summer.

    Arlene (tallest, back row) continued to participate in UGM’s Children & Youth programs year round, attending camp every summer.

  • As a teenager, Arlene (second from right) continued to chase her faith throughout adolescence. Here, UGM's Teen Group poses for the camera at Camp Marah.

    As a teenager, Arlene (second from right) continued to chase her faith throughout adolescence. Here, UGM’s Teen Group poses for the camera at Camp Marah.

  • As Arlene graduated from UGM's Teen programs, she remained a part of UGM's community, volunteering as a Sunday School teacher for over thirty years!

    As Arlene graduated from UGM’s Teen programs, she remained a part of UGM’s community, volunteering as a Sunday School teacher for over thirty years!

  • In 1999, UGM welcomed Arlene (far left) on staff, where she remains today as our compassionate, hardworking Accounting Assistant.

    In 1999, UGM welcomed Arlene (far left) on staff, where she remains today as our compassionate, hardworking Accounting Assistant.

Send a Kid to Camp Today!

Send a Kid to Camp Today!

For over sixty years, Union Gospel Mission’s generous donors have been giving kids the life-changing experience of a week at camp. Here are some favourite camp memories drawn by Miranda’s children.

  • CIARA, age 9, likes going on nature walks at camp. Last summer, they walked for a while until they got to a clearing, where they divided into teams to build different kinds of teepees. Though she also likes wide games and making bracelets, this nature walk is her favourite memory from camp.

    Ciara, age 9, likes going on nature walks at camp. Last summer, they walked for a while until they got to a clearing, where they divided into teams to build different kinds of teepees. Though she also likes wide games and making bracelets, this nature walk is her favourite memory from camp.

  • Ciara's artwork.

    Ciara’s artwork.

  • MALCOLM, age 12, loves getting his face painted during Capture the Flag games. He likes soccer, basketball, and his favourite game—which he learned at camp—is called Gaga Ball. “There’s a fun thing after lunch at camp where you can choose your activities,” he explains. “You get to play games or go fishing off the dock. There’s kayaking, canoeing, and storytelling too!”  Okay, Malcolm likes pretty much everything about camp.

    Malcolm, age 12, loves getting his face painted during Capture the Flag games. He likes soccer, basketball, and his favourite game—which he learned at camp—is called Gaga Ball. “There’s a fun thing after lunch at camp where you can choose your activities,” he explains. “You get to play games or go fishing off the dock. There’s kayaking, canoeing, and storytelling too!” Okay, Malcolm likes pretty much everything about camp.

  • Malcolm's artwork

    Malcolm’s artwork.

  • DAMIEN, age 14, likes rock climbing, dodgeball, and highropes. He is not afraid of heights. His favourite memory from camp is a wide game called Capture the Counsellor, where you have to find your cabin leader to get points. He also loves making s’mores at the camp-wide jamboree.

    Damien, age 14, likes rock climbing, dodgeball, and high ropes. He is not afraid of heights. His favourite memory from camp is a wide game called Capture the Counsellor, where you have to find your cabin leader to get points. He also loves making s’mores at the camp-wide jamboree.

  • Damien's artwork

    Damien’s artwork

Because of you, many children have experienced that camp is a chance to find freedom and realize their potential. Please give generously. Every donation will be matched!