Our Voices is a place for members of the St. Leonard’s community to tell their stories. Our employees and board members, our clients and participants, our volunteers and students, all have a voice in helping others and each other to know who we are and what we offer. Every voice matters.
Stories that appear here are shared with the permission of the storyteller. Out of respect for their privacy, names or identifying information may be edited, or there may be edits for clarity. The details of the story will remain faithful to how it was told.
“I hope this letter finds you well. As you may remember, the last time I saw you I had just begun the process of court.
It is my pleasure to tell you that I have overcome my weaknesses, my trauma, my anger, and negativity. I have evolved into a very ‘good person.’
I learned a lot through all the therapy I went through with you and the other places I went to. I learned a lot through everyone I have met and worked with. And I came to a conclusion that sums up everything I learned: I have learned that all the answers to everything are within myself. It is up to me to be aware and mindful of that. And the other thing I have found is that working together with people and helping each other is the way to live.
I used to see everyone as against me. I trusted no one, I didn’t want to be around anyone. But now I feel very empathetic, I want to help others and work with them, not against them. Working together and having positive relationships with others is truly the most beautiful thing in this world. There is so much we can learn from a single person, and there is so much good we can do by working with them.
I must thank you for everything you have taught me, and for being the positive role model you played on my life. I look up to you and respect you very much for being such a kind person, dedicating your time and energy to help kids go down the right path, and I am grateful that you see the good in others and have no judgment upon them. I know it made you sad to know I was arrested again, but just know I am free from my past and moving on to better things. (A person from the London Family Court Clinic told the Crown of my successes, and the Crown said she is not surprised).
I am in the position I am today because I will not let down those who have helped me get here. I must do what I can to make every moment of my life better than the last, and do what I can to help others get here as well.
Since we last met, I broke up the toxic relationship I had with my ex-girlfriend, and I moved back in with my parents and fixed my relationship with them. Things have never been better in our house. It wasn’t easy, but I approached them and had a heart to heart conversation with them — something I have never done before. I care about my parents more than ever, and I want to show them I appreciate them through my actions of doing well, because I know that all a parent wants is to see their child do well. Since we last met, I’ve done many volunteer hours for a homeless soup kitchen, and I finished high school a semester early with a 90% average for Grade 12. I went to SWAC and got a college credit.
Through the college, I gained interest in one of their programs of carpentry, renovations, and business. I joined the year after working for a renovation company and became top of the class. I was the class representative and the student ambassador of the School of Building Technology, where I attended meetings with some of the biggest companies in Ontario through the London Home Builders Association. I gave out dozens of business cards, met many people, and represented my school very well. I built a huge workshop with my own hands in our backyard, and I am going on to start my own business in carpentry and home building/renovations.
I am now teaching my own friends the things I have learned from you and everywhere else I learned. I see that emotional regulation and mindfulness affects so many more people than I understood. I’m doing my very best to help those who seek help and I am passing the wisdom you taught me along. I am very grateful for the things that have happened, because I wouldn’t be who I am today without them. I do this for you, and everyone else who has helped me. Understand that my success is our success. Thank you for doing your part, and I thank you for helping me and seeing the good in me.”
My name is Jane Smith and I’m a 39 year old woman residing at Maison Louise Arbour (MLA).
I came to St. Leonard’s on September 27th, 2018, from Grand Valley Institute for Women. I had just served a two and a half year sentence for bank robbery.
After I left Grand Valley, I thought coming to MLA would be easy with the attitude that I had. Well, needless to say, my attitude needed to change! Due to my poor attitude, I was sent to Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) to sit and think for eleven days on what I was going to do!
I was overwhelmed with everything; new rules and a new way of living. So I thought to myself, ‘Jane, get a hold of yourself! What would it hurt to change?’
After eleven days, I came back to MLA with a different attitude, and it was scary. I don’t trust people, and I’ve been let down in the past. I thought that I wasn’t going to get anywhere. So at that point, I knew I had to change. It was hard at first to ask staff for help and to trust people that I didn’t know. But I had to get through this somehow and make these changes. I was thinking, ‘Jane, you have to make the first move, and ask for help.’
It all started with a day planner to schedule activities to do each day. As I was filling up my days with programming, I was thinking, ‘what are my goals for my residency and how do I go about setting them?’
A staff member pointed out that I was already completing goals each day through my planning. As the days went by, I was busy. And as a woman not from London, I was worried about going out into a city I knew nothing about. So again, I asked for help!
The staff members were so nice and patient with me. They sat down and showed me the way! Each day, I would go out into the unfamiliar city and accomplish my daily goals!
As the second month rolled by, I was getting the hang of things. I started to open up more and talk about my challenges, finally accepting them.
I can say that I was a violent person that had a temper. I didn’t know how to control any situation without using anger.
I took a program in Self-Management (SMP), which was a twelve-week course. I can honestly say that I use the skills I’ve learned in real life. An MLA staff member was the facilitator, which made things easier. She made it real by pointing out which skills I was already using, and giving me examples from my day-to-day life.
Each day I had a program to go to, filling my calendar. I look back at my past and I say to myself, ‘what the hell was I thinking?! I was not well!’ The staff at MLA helped me and if it was not for me asking and trusting, I wouldn’t be on Level 3 today, working my way toward discharge planning.
My current goals are to complete anger management and addiction programming, continuing to attend my church group, and my ongoing participation in my healing circle at SOAHAC.
As of now, I’m managing my own day planner without assistance from staff. I’ve built the trust of staff and within myself!
For a woman like me, doing the same things for 39 years, I can now say that I have changed. Change is hard to do, but you need to find yourself and have the motivation. I wonder about the support I thought I didn’t have! Again, old thinking leads to old behaviours. I realized this whole time I had support the moment I asked for it!
Now, don’t get me wrong, I had questions pop up in my head: can I change from a violent woman with an extensive criminal record?
I’m here to say yes, anyone can do it, even a person in my situation.
I feel I owe a big thank-you to MLA staff for believing in me and supporting me through all of my changes! I couldn’t have done this if I didn’t ask for help and put my trust into the staff.
I can say that now I have gained better self-control, and am more comfortable talking about my feelings and challenges.
So I would like to say thank-you to the staff at MLA for helping me find the person I need to be.
Derek's Poem, "Restoring Potential"
Derek, an employee of St. Leonard’s, wrote this poem, and thankfully agreed to let us share it!
Societies all over the world have different ways of thinking of crime and punishment,
Which breaks down to the ultimate form of judgement.
Guilty or not guilty may be the fundamental question,
But understanding someone in their context requires reflection.
Are people truly good or truly evil, we may never fully understand,
However, the honourable course of action is to lend a hand.
St. Leonard’s Community Services London & Region is an organization with high excellence,
In which its leadership and staff are filled with compassion and benevolence.
The diversity of the people who walk through the door,
Range from healthy, ill, happy, depressed, rich and poor.
From prisoner release, to homelessness, to individuals with a disability,
All will be treated with the utmost respect and dignity.
Despite all the differences, people generally want to reach or restore their potential,
As the issues they typically face become existential.
One of the greatest gifts that humans can experience is watching someone grow,
Although it is extremely difficult to measure and show.
So let us support one another in our work together,
As our approach to restorative justice is much better.
Thank you and Merci to all those who take up the cause,
As your efforts and dedication will always make us pause.
Well done and congratulations on your success,
As we would expect nothing less.