Bridging a Gap: Family Starts Over Thanks To Bridges

WorkBC Bridges participants Ruth and Vee Anderson enjoy the view of Vernon creek from Vernon Restholm, where Ruth now works as the Recreational Coordinator.

Ruth Anderson takes hold of the handrail and crosses the bridge that spans over Vernon creek. She has taken many senior residents of Vernon Restholm, the retirement residence where she works as the Recreational Coordinator, to the other side to visit the lush vegetable garden and gazebo.

However, on this day she has her 22-year-old adult child, Vee, by her side. Standing on this bridge together is significant, as both have embarked on separate journeys that have led them to WorkBC Employment Services’ Bridges Program.

Bridges is an eight-week group-based workshop that supports people who are survivors of violence, abuse, or other circumstances, and then helps them gain both confidence and employable skills.

It was ten years ago when Ruth took the program. She has since become a Bridges ambassador.

“I tell so many people about it and how it helped me land back on my feet, so when Vee told me that Bridges was a go, I did a happy dance,” says Ruth.

Feel the Fear… and Do it Anyway

Ruth quotes from the book, Feel the Fear… and Do it Anyway, written by Susan Jeffers, to explain how she managed to escape from a verbally abusive relationship coupled with a childhood-borne learning disability (dyslexia) to be able to go back to school and embark on a new career with a renewed confidence.

Back when she was living with abuse, she suffered from anxiety, self-doubt, and a severe lack of confidence.

“I had young kids back then, and I knew I needed to do something different to get me on the right track,” says Ruth, who decided to leave the abuse and visit the Employment Centre (now the WorkBC Centre) in Vernon for help.

“I was answering questions during the Creating Career Possibilities workshop, and I started crying. I didn’t know where to start. That’s when I was told about Bridges,” says Ruth. “Bridges came along at the perfect time, as I was able to practice what I was learning. I was just so ready to take my life back.”

After finishing the course, Ruth took on odd jobs as a Cook and Housecleaner before her Case Manager arranged for her to job shadow as a Recreation Aide at a seniors residence.

Through WorkBC Skills Training funding, Ruth was sponsored to become a Certified Health Care Assistant. After graduating with honours in 2013, she worked at a few seniors’ residences before being hired at Vernon Restholm.

“I knew back when I started with Bridges that this was what I wanted to do. It just took a few twists and turns to get there,” says Ruth.

Not only does Ruth work with seniors, but she also volunteers with several local groups and is known to show up at events as Flutterby the clown as a member of the Kalamalka Caring Clowns.

“When I first went to Bridges, I took a colour personality test. Back then, I was a blue-green introvert, and now I am an orange extrovert.”

Vee’s Story

“My mom used to have a sign on a mirror that read, ‘You are looking at the face of the person who will determine your happiness today.’ It took me a long time to understand that,” says Vee.

Bullied and ignored at elementary school, Vee eventually made friends at secondary school but suffered from poor esteem.

“I did OK at high school when I had a routine and set goals, but after graduating in 2014, I rolled downhill with mental health issues and poor coping mechanisms,” says Vee.

It was last New Year’s Eve, while home alone, that Vee experienced an epiphany.

“I had that moment where I had enough. I was done feeling this way. I was stuck and wanted a solid change,” says Vee.

Like Ruth before her, Vee visited the WorkBC Centre in Vernon and met Case Manager Penny Monkman.

“Penny suggested I apply for Bridges, and I told her that my mom had gone through the program, and it had changed her life. It made her who she is today.”

After taking the one-week Creating Career Possibilities workshop, Vee applied for Bridges and was accepted.

“I think because I am a reflective person and am self-aware, it helped me through the program. It reminded me of what my mom taught me, and it has brought my relationship closer to my mom,” adds Vee.

Since graduating from Bridges in April, Vee has been able to start a new career.

“Before Bridges, I didn’t have any idea for my future. Now I want to build a tiny house and start a dog grooming business. I now have a five-year plan of where I want to be, and I have even been able to get a work job placement through WorkBC at a dog groomer’s.”

The next intake for Bridges is in early-September, with an information session taking place Aug. 26. For more information, please contact WorkBC Vernon at 250-545-2215 ext. 219