28 Days, 28 Stories, 28 Donors
In February 2019, we gathered stories from people who love us to encourage awareness of the work we do with moms and babies. You will be moved and amazed by the powerful words of Villa Rosa moms, volunteers, donors and staff.
Day 7 - "Villa Rosa Enriches the Whole Person."
Day 8 - "Life is Challenging, No Matter What Path You Take."
Day 9 - "No Better Way to Spend My Tuesday Mornings"
Day 10 - Mother at 14, Wife at 17 in the 1970s
Day 11 - A Board Member's Family Revelation
Day 12 - Heather Reunited With Her Son After 47 Years
Day 13 - "Thank You For Giving Us Back Our Daughter"
Day 14 - Juanita's Graduation Speech - "Taking Steps Toward Success"
Day 15 - Jane Has Been Rocking Babies For 11 Years!
Day 16 - The Grandmother I Never Knew
Day 17 - "I Am Grateful Villa Rosa Exists"
Day 18 - To The Moms of Villa Rosa
Day 19 - Nicole Found A Place of Safety and Comfort
Day 20 - "Villa Rosa Moms Are My Heroes"
Day 21 - "I Remember My Stay Like It Was Yesterday"
Day 22 - Joanne Loves Her PCC Shifts!
Day 23 - "Thank You For Being There When I Needed You!"
Day 24 - Tanya was a Villa Rosa Baby and a Villa Rosa Mom
Day 25 - "Villa Rosa Changed My Life For the Better!"
Day 26 - "Stormy Day" by Valerie
Day 27 - A Giant Weight Off My Shoulders
Day 28 - "I Was Desperate and Ready To Change My Life"
Why You Matter
(for co-workers and volunteers at Villa Rosa)
When you work or volunteer at a place like Villa Rosa, you wake every morning knowing you are going to make a difference in someone’s life.
You know you matter when…
Moms and babies, who were at risk, are in a safe place at night.
Your understanding, towards a woman whose baby kept them up all night, allows them to laugh and wipe away their tears.
You rock babies to sleep so their moms can attend classes and get their high school education.
You see a young woman so determined to graduate, she puts on her grad gown and receives a diploma, while breathing through her labour pains!
You watch moms load up plates of healthy food for themselves and their babies.
Your patience with a young woman’s frustration gives her the courage to learn to read.
You show a young mom that smiling and responding to her baby’s cues make her an attentive mother.
Your training in addictions and mental health, and your gentle way of speaking, helps someone seek the resources for recovery.
You welcome an absent student back to class with “oh, it’s good to see you!” And you mean it.
You welcome an Elder to help Indigenous students become proud of their culture and heritage.
You work hard on tactful adaptations for students…
whose first language is not English
who need Internet resources
who need more challenging books and questions
who are learning to read
who need music to help them concentrate
who need quiet to help them concentrate
who have been out of school for ten years
who need extra homework to stay busy
who believe they can’t succeed
who say they will only read books about vampires
who are learning to write a sentence
You provide the guidelines for young residents to be successful and safe, and you balance those guidelines with compassion and consistency.
Your calm encouragement allows a quiet young woman to find her voice.
You watch babies growing, lunch hour by lunch hour, month by month, in a community of healthy people.
You help to keep the building clean, and repaired, and open, and keep the programs funded, for the young moms and babies who will need it in the future.
— Rhian Brynjolson
Rhian is a retired teacher, visual artist and author, who taught English and Art at Villa Rosa for ten years
I Would Volunteer 7 Days A Week
My name is Arlene Dunlop. I volunteer with Villa Rosa in the Parent-Child Centre where we cuddle and rock babies while their moms go to school.
From an early age I have been involved with children. I remember thinking I would someday like to volunteer at a hospital in the nursery area rocking babies. In the early 2000’s I read an article in the Winnipeg Free Press by Lindor Reynolds titled “Cuddles for Babies & Moms”. I carried that article with me until I called Villa Rosa in 2005 enquiring about volunteering.
I have a regular shift once a week and have taken extra shifts when they are needed. I have volunteered for 13 years. I love every minute I spend at Villa Rosa - I would be here 7 days a week if I could!
You see the maturity of the girls and watch the babies grow. I get back so much more than I give.
Villa Rosa is a wonderful organization. Their staff and teachers have so much love and respect for each girl and her baby.
I Am Living My Dream Everyday
I constantly think back to that girl who first walked through the gates of Villa Rosa in 2003. She was scared, alone, immature, uneducated, battling addictions, depressed, angry, and had no clue on how to parent a child as she could not even care for herself. She is the exact opposite of the woman who I am today. My life is now rich with amazing supportive family and friends. I wake up every day with a smile on my face, even on the days where I have to be up early for work. I have patience for my son and am able to provide him with everything he needs to succeed in life. I am no longer scared with what life has to offer me and feel ready to embrace any obstacles that may come my way. I can truly state that if it wasn't for Villa Rosa, I would not have gotten through high school and graduated from university. Thank you to everyone who supports Villa Rosa. Because of you I am living my dream every day.
Photo by Joey Thomson on Unsplash
Carolyn and Ariel 1991
Carolyn and Ariel 2012
Carolyn and Family 2017
I Support Villa Rosa Because Villa Rosa Supported Me
During the 1990-91 school year, I was 16 years old and pregnant. I chose to become a mother and had a loving and supportive family but I was terrified and embarrassed. There were no other teen moms or pregnancies in my high school, at least none that I knew of. I felt very alone and could no longer relate to any of my friends and classmates. I was afraid of being “the pregnant girl” that everyone whispered about. Despite my insecurities, I was determined to stay in school. I needed to prove to myself, my unborn child and the world that I would succeed despite the challenges I knew I would have raising a child at a young age
I attended Villa Rosa as a day student. It’s been so long that I don’t remember names but I remember feeling supported and accepted while I was there. My daughter Ariel was born in May 1991. She came to school with me from the week after she was born until the end of the school year. The daycare (Parent Child Centre) took fantastic care of her and I was able to be close by and take breaks to breastfeed on her schedule.
The non-academic classes they offered were extremely valuable. Prenatal classes helped me understand the changes to my body and what to expect during child birth. My then-boyfriend was able to attend child birth classes with me. It was one of the few places where we felt supported rather than judged and looked down upon. Parenting classes helped me prepare for my new role. On top of that, they offered a seminar on body image. It was not something I considered important at the time but it was. Teenagers are extremely self-conscious and it helped me learn to accept my post-pregnancy body.
The experience also made me appreciate the support I had from our families. Most of the girls were not as fortunate. Villa Rosa gave those girls a safe place to live and helped them prepare for their journeys in to motherhood. It truly felt like a home. Everyone had their chores and contributed and most importantly, they were supported, accepted and loved. I want all young mothers to feel that way.
After Villa Rosa I enrolled in an Adolescent Parent Program at a school closer to home. I graduated from high school and Red River College. I have been married to Ariel’s father Collin for over 23 years and we have a 22-year-old son, Aidan.
Ariel will turn 28 in 2019, I am very proud of the woman she is today; smart, strong with a heart of gold.
Life as young parents wasn’t easy but the support we received from Villa Rosa at the start of our journey was priceless. I will never forget the support and encouragement that sent me on the path to where we are today.
"There is no place like Villa Rosa"
- Barb Magarrell, Volunteer
I learned about Villa Rosa through a newspaper article. I thought how lucky the young women were who went there. They had found somewhere to turn when there were very few options. When I was young, several people I had known had not been that fortunate.
Sometime later, I heard the Executive Director speak about Villa Rosa and what she had learned from her time there. Again I thought that this place was where women could have space and support to reset their lives and find out who they really were - and what a blessing that must be. It was something every woman deserved. Not only did the residents have a place to grow and change, but, as I found, others who came in contact with Villa found that opportunity, too.
Life finally allowed me time to volunteer and, when I looked for somewhere I could make a difference, Villa Rosa came to mind. A door opened when an advertisement for a Coordinator of Volunteers at Villa Rosa was mistakenly placed in the Volunteers Needed column in the newspaper. I was hired. I have met many people who have wanted to volunteer at Villa Rosa for many different reasons. We all share the same desire to make sure the babies and their mothers have the best possible start. Volunteers have, many times, said there is no place like Villa Rosa. The Staff set unwavering examples of non-judgement and grace as they walk beside the residents, helping them to discover their potential. As a volunteer, it is a gift to be a small part of that new beginning.
I have been involved at Villa Rosa for close to 15 years. I have been a staff member, a volunteer and the Cooking Instructor. It has been a privilege to witness the strength of the women who come to Villa Rosa and how they support each other. It has been a privilege to see many women change their lives through education, become the moms they hoped they could be, and develop the capacity to live a very different future than the one that seemed to be ahead for them.
Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash
A chance meeting led Emilie Campbell to her long-lost family
and then to Villa Rosa’s archives……
My Mother was born in Winnipeg on Feb. 27, 1928 at the Misericordia Hospital to an unwed mother. Except for a Baptismal certificate from the hospital which listed both her birth name and her Mothers’ name, she had no other information. Eventually she was adopted by a family in Saskatchewan. She grew up in Leask SK never knowing of her heritage.
I look like my Mom. People would always ask what my heritage was because like Mom, I am olive skinned but fair eyed. I had no answer for them. But I always wondered.
And so, over the years, every time I met someone from Winnipeg, I would ask them if they knew the name “Thurmieir”. The answer was always “no”. And I asked a lot of people over the course of 25 to 30 years. But thinking it was French, I was saying “Thur me yere”.
Then one very lucky day in late September 2012, when my husband and I were on a last minute booking at an Okanagan resort (B.C.), we went on a wine tour. At the end of the day we ended up at “Rustico”. It was a last minute add-on and not one we had planned to visit. There was only one other couple tasting along side us. The server asked us both where we were from. We said “White Rock” and they said “Winnipeg”. As the tasting was nearing the end, I thought to myself, “What the heck, you might as well ask them”. And so, I gave them my usual spiel about my Mom: “My Mom was born in Winnipeg and given up for adoption. Her birth name was “Thurmieir”. I don’t think it is very common, but would you know it?”
And this is where it gets good.
Rick responded, “You are right it is not a very common name. But actually it is not French, it is Austrian and it is pronounced (and spelled) “Thurmeier”. And my name is “Thurmeier”. You could have knocked me over with a feather. So I responded (Because I have the Baptismal record) “Well, my Grandmother’s name is Emelia”. And he said “My Grandmother’s name is Emelia.” And I lost it. I was crying uncontrollably. We went outside to exchange e-mail info. I took off my sunglasses to dry my eyes. And I later learned Rick thought to himself, “Holy mackerel, she’s got my father’s eyes.” He went out and bought a lottery ticket and left home for Winnipeg a week later to ask some elderly relatives some questions.
Bottom line, I found my Mom’s birth family.
Once I had the correct spelling of “Thurmeier”, I was able to correspond with both government bureaus and Church archivists. Indeed, it was Edie Kempe, Catholic Church Archivist in Winnipeg, who provided me with the original baptism certificate and advised me to contact Villa Rosa. At that time, the birth records from the Misericordia Hospital were stored at Villa Rosa. My husband and I made a trip in the summer of 2013 to Winnipeg. We attended Rick’s daughter’s wedding and sat at the “family” table. We visited my Grandmother’s grave. Sadly, she had died in April 1998. We saw the house she had lived in for many years and the hospital my Mom was born in. Lastly, we visited Villa Rosa.
The staff at Villa Rosa were more than wonderful, especially Lynda Falloon. She went on a search for my Mom’s birth records and obtained permission to release them to me in very short order. The birth records confirmed that I had indeed found my Mom’s birth family. After that, I was able to obtain a copy of my Mom’s adoption records.
Since then. I have gone on to find many “new to me” family members, including two of my Grandmothers’ sisters and many, many cousins. I have been very graciously accepted into my wonderful Prairie families’ homes and hearts. It has changed my life.
I remain forever grateful to the kind and compassionate people I met who assisted me on this journey. Thank you again to all of you at Villa Rosa.
"Villa Rosa enriches the whole person of each of the Moms." Cindy Rodych - Member of Board of Directors
I first became aware of Villa Rosa through the then Villa Rosa (VR) Board Chair, Susan Flanders. From my first visit to the facility I was hooked. As a single mom myself, I was dramatically impressed by the profound difference that VR makes on the lives of Moms, their babies, and the future generations that will follow. VR not only keeps Moms safe, but also provides guidance in the care of their babies and secondary education through the collaboration with the Winnipeg School Division. Villa Rosa enriches the whole person of each of the Moms they touch and provides them with the skills necessary to live a successful life with their child.
From that first visit I was anxious to join the Board and enjoyed the small contribution I was able to make. After my tenure on the Board ended, I began volunteering in the VR’s Child Care Centre, where I was able to work first hand with the amazing staff, mothers, and of course the adorable babies and toddlers. Although a mother myself, I learned innovative new child care skills from the very knowledgeable VR staff.
Now that I am back on the board, I have a renewed and enhanced understanding of the incredible value Villa Rosa brings to at-risk Moms and the community-as-a-whole. I am proud to be involved with VR and proud of all that it does.
Life is Challenging, No Matter What Path You Take
This is why I support Villa Rosa. I was a resident at Villa Rosa 13 years ago, when I was pregnant with my son. When I moved in to Villa Rosa, I was a young, homeless, pregnant university student.
While I was there, I was able to take care of the baby growing inside of me, because Villa took care of me. After my son was born, I moved into Manitoba Housing, and because of my determination and hard work, I eventually graduated with my first university degree. It was then that I made the decision to become a teacher; a decision largely influenced by my experience at Villa Rosa. I wanted to make a difference in someone’s life, the way the staff there had made a difference in mine.
The truth is… LIFE is challenging, no matter what path you take. So you might as well take a path that gets you a good education. I’d like to encourage the moms at Villa Rosa to take a leap of faith. Have faith and know that educating yourself is possibly the best thing that you can do for yourself and your baby. Have faith in yourself – trust that you can do it! Have faith that you’ll find a way to make it all work! Know that once you make a goal for yourself, and work with determination towards it – the world will come together in all sorts of weird ways that you could never expect, to help you to achieve your goal.
My name is Elizabeth Challis. I am a volunteer in the Parent Child Centre at Villa Rosa, where I have the privilege of rocking and cuddling babies while their mothers are attending classes. I live just a few blocks from Villa Rosa and always knew that when I retired I would become a volunteer there. I love going to Villa Rosa because of the positive and loving environment that the staff create for the babies, their mothers, and for the volunteers. I can’t think of a better way to spend my Tuesday mornings.
Elizabeth and her granddaughter
I was a young girl, only 14 years old when I was in the Villa. At that time Sister Dufault, Sister Bourgeois, and Sister Audette were our own personal teachers of life.
Sister Rolande Dufault in her office with a resident
I had my daughter in 1978 - she just celebrated her 40th birthday. I absolutely loved the time I spent in your facility. I learned so much while I was in the company of such special people and the mornings going to the chapel and reflect at the start of each day.
I went on to be married quite young at 17. Also I had 3 more children. Although I did not stay married I tried to be the best mom I could be. My children's friends were at times needing someone to talk to.
Many times I referred to my stay at Villa Rosa and how reaching out to elders can be of great assistance. Thank you so much for all the young women you have helped.
As a board member of Villa Rosa, I have seen firsthand how small of a world it is. Through volunteering, I learned that my mom actually stayed at Villa Rosa while she was pregnant. Without Villa Rosa, I know my family would not be as strong as it is today. Now, everyone in my family have successful lives despite the difficulty that I can only imagine my mom went through. Villa Rosa helped to give my whole family the amazing life we have today; I could not be luckier. I now have the honour of giving back to help others receive the same gift of a wonderful future!
Heather Brignall Reunited With Her Son
I was there 47 years ago. I came at 16 years old. I had no choice in going. It was the best experience for my situation. I met some wonderful people and the Sisters looked after us well. I spent Christmas there - it was the first time with no family and the Sisters invited us to have dinner with them. We had school, sewing and pottery. We also had a reunion the year I was there and sewed long dresses for it. When I had my baby there was no options to be able to keep him, I’m pleased to see there’s help now. We came from the hospital and stayed in a different part of Villa Rosa, then went home. I am pleased to say that I met my son last year and he’s a wonderful young man.
Thank You For Giving Us Back Our Daughter
Dear Staff of Villa Rosa - I thank you and my entire family thanks you for all you did for our daughter and so many other young women. You offer a critical service and through that have saved many lives.
Our daughter has moved forward because you were there. She rediscovered herself because you listened. She survived because you cared.
Thank you … the words don’t do justice for what you’ve done. But truly, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for giving us back our daughter.
She now has 2 daughters of her own; our precious granddaughters. I pray that your safe space will continue to help the vulnerable girls and women who walk through your doors.
Juanita Traverse: My Graduation Speech
First of all, I want to thank the teachers for pushing me every day to stay on track with my school work and for reminding me why I’m working so hard. Thanks especially to my math teacher Melinda for starting my day with the Winnipeg Jets song. Lori (sewing & Instructional Assistant) – Oh don’t even get me started with Lori! My whole grad speech would be about her. I will say this though and I think I can speak for all the residents – we love you Lori!
Next I want to thank Enrica and Rebecca for listening to me when I needed them the most and also for helping me to take steps closer to success as I make my way to post-secondary.
I want to thank all the staff and volunteers in the Parent Child Centre for watching Xavier while I worked my butt off to be standing up here today and also for answering the questions I had as a first time mom about parenting.
I also want to thank Darby, the receptionist, for always having a warm, welcoming smile and for saying “Good Morning” to me every day of the week and also for making sure I received my mail every day.
Last but not least I’d like to thank the amazing cook, Joanne. For almost two years this woman cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for me until I moved next door to the Post Natal House. Joanne knows how much I love the sweet and sour meatballs, so one day she cooked it the day before for supper and saved some just for me.
Since I’ve been at Villa Rosa I have made quite a few friends. To the ones that are here now, thank you for being kind to me and my son, Xavier. I love you all.
I also feel like there are some Villa staff members here that I forgot to thank. I want you to know that I’m very grateful to have had this opportunity at Villa to become the best mother I can be and to have earned my grade 12 diploma. I wouldn’t have chosen to graduate anywhere else. Thank you.
Jane: I’ve been volunteering for over eleven years at Villa Rosa rocking and playing with the babies while their moms are in classes. It is such a wonderful place to be, I love it! Everyone living there receives wonderful support in all aspects of raising their babies, it’s a joy to see the success of the moms at Villa Rosa. Things have changed over the years since I’ve had my kids so we volunteers have learned many parenting tips which I put to use with my grandkids now! Just a really great volunteer opportunity to get involved with.
Mary Wallace: The Grandmother I Never Knew
Photo by Cheryl Winn-Boujnida on Unsplash
When I was 9, I found out that the woman I thought was my maternal grandmother was really my great aunt and that my grandmother was her younger sister, but I knew next to nothing about this other woman until a few years ago when I started studying genealogy and doing my family tree in 2010. I knew her name was Sarah M and that she never married, but that was all and by that time my mother had died.
The first thing I found out about Sarah after I started researching my mother’s family was that she was born in Rat Portage (now known as Kenora) in 1883. This was a surprise because I had always assumed she was much younger than the woman I thought of as my grandmother. This meant she was 37 when my mother was born in 1921. I also found out she had died in 1943 when she was 60.
Next I started looking for her in census records and I found her in the 1906 Census as a resident in a maternity hospital in Winnipeg. I did some research and found the maternity home was now called Villa Rosa, so in 2011 I sent a letter to Villa Rosa asking if they had any information about Sarah and/or my mother’s birth.
I received a letter from Lynda Falloon saying they had some basic information about Sarah, but no record of my mother’s birth. She told me about the history of the maternity home and how it had come to be Villa Rosa. That was when I started donating to the home in memory of the grandmother I never knew.
Lynn – “I Am Grateful Villa Rosa Exists”
Hi, my name is Lynn and I’ve been volunteering weekly at Villa Rosa for over 10 years in the Parent Child Centre. Yes, that’s a long time to volunteer with one organization. What Villa Rosa does to help pregnant young women and mothers keeps me coming back year after year. There really is nothing better for the soul then spending a morning cuddling babies, having them coo and smile at you, while their moms attend school in an environment that is gentle and loving and caring. Each week I leave the Parent Child Centre full of gratitude that this organization exists and helps so many Mothers, knowing I’ve done my small part to contribute.
To the Moms of Villa Rosa … from a volunteer
Why do I give my time at Villa in the Parent Centre? I could answer that in three words: I LOVE BABIES.
I must say that I am drawn to newborns. I never cease to marvel at the beauty and miracle of life. Each so beautiful, so soft, so tiny, so perfect, so dependent. I delight in holding them – these children who last week who were held in their mother’s womb are now being held in my arms.
Photo by Brytny.com on Unsplash
Of course, I love not only newborns but all children and so I enjoy watching them grow: from newborns to infants, to toddlers. I love to see the dimples in their knees and wrists, to touch the smoothness of their skin. I witness the development of their personality – How do they like to be soothed? What is their favourite song? What makes them laugh? How do they like to be held? Each baby, so unique. Often times the staff can tell me what they like, as they are with them every day. But sometimes, it’s me who makes this discovery.
I love talking with your children and telling them how much, you, their mothers, love them. I love to see their faces light up when they see your face, or respond to just hearing your voice. You are the most important person in their lives. I’m just a tiny, tiny part of their lives and I’m content to be that tiny part. I’m someone who will hold or comfort your little one when you’re in school.
I so enjoy spending time with your children and when you “give” me your baby, I believe you are saying that you trust me to keep your baby safe and content.
Nicole R. Found A Place of Safety and Comfort
Back in 2012 I found out that I was expecting. I was 23 years old and was lost and confused. I didn’t have much family in Winnipeg as my mom lived out of province. The father of my child and I were together, but he wasn’t super interested. I was going through a rough time where I was homeless (sleeping in a bus shack and moving couch to couch). I lost my job and didn’t know what I was going to do.
My mom was in the city and told me that we had to go to Villa Rosa. At the time I was scared and 20+ weeks pregnant. I didn’t want to go. I knew nobody and felt alone. Little did I know that I was going to find a forever family. They taught me so much during my short stay and made me become an amazing mom! Now at 28 years old, I have 3 children (5,4 and 2) and the boyfriend (father of my child) is now my husband of 3 years. Villa Rosa was a place of safety and comfort! Thank you to everyone at Villa Rosa for all they did.
Villa Rosa Moms Are My Heroes
It is a scary, complicated world out there and everyone needs to have people to look up to: heroes. As a longtime volunteer at Villa Rosa I truly see the moms as my modern day heroes. I admire their commitment, compassion and drive to succeed - for their babies and themselves. They are quiet heroes too; they aren’t on centre stage for public accolades - they receive them from their happy, healthy babies! Real heroes in my book. I’ve learned a lot from these moms. Thank you!
Michelle – I Remember My Stay Like It Was Yesterday: A Great Experience!
I was a resident at Villa Rosa, from April to the day my baby girl was born July 4, 1973. My stay there was such a great experience. The Sisters were warm and welcoming, as were the House Mothers. I was also very lucky to have the same situation with my own family: very loving parents and brother. We all had chores to do, school was provided, crafts and crochet were taught. Gee - I made so many blankets! Excellent food too.
I remember one evening I was in my room talking to my roommate, and Sister Dufault came in to say goodnight to us. Sister said to me, “Michelle you are in labour - I will go call your parents.” In surprise I said I didn’t have any pains at all. I felt fine. She insisted I get ready to go to Misericordia Hospital. My parents came for me and 16 hours later my baby was born! How Sister Dufault knew it was my time is still a mystery to me. I remember my stay there like it was yesterday. My daughter is doing exceptionally well and has given us two wonderful grandchildren.
Joanne Adair Loves Her PCC Shifts
My life at Villa Rosa as a volunteer in the Parent Child Centre (PCC) has been so incredibly rewarding. I actually believe I receive more than I give! PCC is my place of Zen. I’m Joanne Adair. When my friend told me about the possible opportunity to volunteer at Villa Rosa (by hugging wee ones), I was sold! I contacted the Coordinator of Volunteers, Cindy, and as quickly as I could, met with her and went through the necessary criteria. I wanted to ensure I would have a chance to volunteer with the moms and their precious babies. I have now been doing this weekly (including the summer months) for the past 4 years, loving every shift I attend and complete. It is truly an honour and a privilege to be connected to Villa Rosa in this special way.
I lived at Villa Rosa in 1984. This was my first (and only) child, and as a young single mom, I was really scared! I learned so much in my time there! It really helped to alleviate my fears about pregnancy and childbirth. It also provided
me with many activities to enjoy while waiting for my child to be born. The staff and Sisters were so caring and compassionate! I felt so at home! Thank You Villa Rosa, all these years later, for being there for me when I needed you! ❤ ❤ ❤
Hi, my name is Tanya. I was involved with Villa Rosa twice, although the first time I don’t remember! My biological mom lived at Villa Rosa when she was pregnant with me. She was only 15 and had made the difficult decision to give me up so I could have the kind of life she was not able to provide at such a young age.
I was born March 11th 1977, and was adopted 13 days later. My parents who adopted me were very open about my adoption, and shared as much information as they could about my birth mom and why she gave me up. This was the first time I had heard of Villa Rosa.
My parents also volunteered at Villa Rosa when I was a baby, so they could share their positive story and possibly help other moms who were considering adoption.
17 years later, I found myself in a similar situation. I was pregnant, and not sure if I would be able to do it on my own.
I remembered that my birth mom had lived at Villa Rosa, so I looked it up to see if it was still around- and it was! I moved in during the first few months of my pregnancy.
While there I continued with school and looked at my options regarding my baby. I ultimately decided I would parent. I took all of the classes I could, and learned how to cook, budget, and parent. My son Nicholas was born April 1995.
After he was born, I continued to go to school while he was safely cared for in the Parent Child Centre. My next step was moving into the post-natal apartments. This prepared me for living on my own with my son.
Finally, I finished school and moved into a Manitoba Housing apartment while I attended college. I did not have a vehicle, so I took 2 busses (over an hour) every morning and home from Red River College with my son, who went to daycare there. I graduated from college with honours, and applied to the University of Calgary to get my bachelor’s degree. My son and I moved out there away from all of my family and friends because my program was not offered in Manitoba. I graduated again with honours.
Today I am married with 3 more kids, ages 7,9 and 12. I work with children with disabilities in the school system. Nicholas is 23, and has lived on his own for 2 years now. He graduated high school, then went to college and is now a boilermaker. He travels a lot for work, and loves his job. I could not be more proud.
Thank you Villa Rosa for helping me to become the best mom I could be. I am forever grateful for all of the help I received.
I’m 20 years old and have a 4-year-old daughter and 1-year-old son. I’m currently attending the University of Winnipeg but I would not be where I am right now without the help of Villa Rosa.During both my pregnancies, I attended Villa Rosa and I’m grateful they accepted me.
When I first went to Villa Rosa I felt a little uncomfortable but that feeling soon changed. All of the staff are really good at what they do. They made it so much easier to want to go to school every day. I only encountered positive attitudes and smiles from all of the staff – they have the best high school in Winnipeg!
My last year as a Day Student at Villa was by far the hardest because both of my children had chicken pox close to the end of the school year and not at the same time so I missed almost a month of school. This set back made my last few weeks extremely stressful because the two courses I was struggling to finish were not easy ones and I only had a few days to study. When I graduated from Villa Rosa, I received an Independence Through Education Award from the Villa Rosa Endowment Fund. Villa Rosa changed my life for the better!
A Stormy Day Doesn't Keep Valerie From Coming to School
It’s 9:30 a.m. I have about an hour and a half to get myself and Olivia ready to head out to school. As I’m rushing around to make sure I have everything Olivia needs for the day, I look out the window to see how the weather is. My eyes open in shock, seeing the snow fall and hearing the wind howl.
I start to dress Olivia in her warm, cozy snowsuit and fluffy wool hat. As I'm doing that she starts to scream and cry. Hearing her get upset makes me feel frustrated. I distract her with a rattle and she finally calms down. I rush out the door as quick as I can because if we miss the bus, we will be late.
I push the stroller through the deep, thick snow. I feel myself getting mad. Why did I even bother going out on a day like today? I look up to the sky and think to myself, this is all going to be worth it in the end. I’m doing all of this because one day, I’m going to find a job and better myself. If I do that, Olivia will have a better life too.
Looking around, as I continue to struggle pushing the stroller, I see people standing at the bus stop shivering and shaking. The crunching of the snow beneath the stroller wheels keeps getting louder and louder.
The bus finally arrives 10 minutes late. By that time, I feel sluggish and chilly. We finally arrive at the bus stop close to school. I look down the street and can barely see. The snow is blowing a lot more from when we first got outdoors. As fast as I can, I run, pushing the stroller. The sidewalks are slippery and icy.
As Olivia and I walk into the school doors I feel glad to be inside. I start to take Olivia’s snow stuff off. As I’m doing that, she looks up at me and gives me a huge smile. She has no idea how much time and effort mommy has put into getting us here. I start to laugh. I sit down with some friends and we talk about how hard being a single mom can be at times. We all agree: we’re doing everything we can to be better mothers for our children.
Just another stormy day.
A Giant Weight Off My Shoulders
I was 28 years old when I sat staring at the faintest pink line on a white stick: a pink line that would forever mark all that lay ahead and all that went before. I felt, joy, fear, excitement and worry, and although I knew my friends and family would be shocked and speechless, I also knew they ultimately would be supportive.
However, the one thing none of my friends and family could provide was enough money. I was making barely enough to pay the rent and money became increasingly tighter as my physical health caused me to miss work due to morning sickness, sciatica and high blood pressure due to stress and worry, which landed me in the hospital.
The hospital social worker recommended Villa Rosa, but I thought it was only for teenagers and that it also sounded too good to be true. I made an appointment anyway, and during my tour, I kept waiting for the catch. Until I realized there was no catch – this place was going to give me a rent-free home, feed me healthy, nutritious meals and allow me to finish my high-school diploma! Were they serious?!
Moving to Villa Rosa was the best thing that could have happened to me. It was as though a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders.
I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, and I was able to work on my schooling in an environment of support from amazing teachers and comfort because of the wonderful care my new baby girl was receiving just down the hall from my classroom.
I graduated in June 2008 and received an Endowment Fund scholarship that would allow me to continue to educate myself beyond the walls of Villa Rosa. I knew that if my little girl was to have everything I wanted her to have, I needed to be better than I had been. She deserved a mom who believed in herself so that she would learn that confidence and perseverance lead to good things. She needed me to succeed. And with Villa’s help, I did.
Shelley Girardin – I was desperate and ready to change my life
How to describe in very few words how Villa Rosa impacted the outcome of my and my son's life is very difficult, almost impossible, but I will try. September 9, 1996, 33 years old, pregnant, newly widowed, clean and sober only for ten days, after years of substance abuse, I was desperate and ready to change my life, I would do anything! I was referred by my doctor and I was so scared - I did not have anywhere else to go. Villa Rosa took a chance as we all knew I was very high risk. I knew I needed Villa Rosa to help me to help myself as I had lost so many simple life skills most would take for granted. I didn’t know how to take care of myself, let alone a baby. Villa Rosa's staff were there to help. From the cooks and social workers to the RCWs, cleaning and child care workers and volunteers and the Administrative team and Board Members - they were there for me. And of course, there was Sister Adrienne. She taught me forgiveness, compassion, discipline, self-love and self-worth, selfless and a smile that would light up the room. I will never forget how non-judgmental she was toward me and others.
My life has not been easy and I assure you there have been trials and tribulations, however, I have a good life, with purpose. I could have not dreamed big enough to know how my life has turned out thus far, as a mother, a daughter, a sister, an auntie, a friend, a contributing member of my community. I continue to give back what was lovingly been given to me as an act of paying it forward. Thank you for being there for me and so many other moms just needing a safe and nurturing place to be for a short while. “What seemed at first a flimsy reed proved to be the powerful and loving hand of God.” Meegwich.