Lives Changed

Through the Eyes of an Intern

Tabitha : February 24, 2015 3:30 pm : Lives Changed, News

“As a multi-cultural Christian outreach and community centre, The Lighthouse demonstrates God’s love by offering unconditional hospitality, by sharing our resources and by helping people in need.

We offer an atmosphere of respect, dignity and security in order to address spiritual, emotional and physical needs, all in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

– The Lighthouse’s Mission Statement

As an intern at The Lighthouse over the past four months, I have witnessed first-hand the above mission statement in action as the staff and volunteers at the centre work together to embody the love of the gospel message. They are in essence the hands and feet of Jesus here on earth to many marginalized patrons in the downtown area as well as new comers to Canada particularly from China, Vietnam and Spanish-speaking regions of the world. It has been an exciting journey partnering with The Lighthouse for this season!

During this time I have had the privilege of observing some of what happens on a weekly basis with the Vietnamese programming and Food Bank operations. I was able to see the mutual respect between clients and staff as groups met to plan for catering events and discuss parenting skills. These groups met the concrete needs of clients in a safe and nurturing environment where they could discover the love and compassion of Jesus. Additionally, in my experience with the Food Bank operations, I was able to see the relational approach to ministry and individual attention and care given to each person who came through the doors. I could see the spirit behind Jesus’ words in Matthew 25 verses 35 and 40 at work through The Lighthouse ministries: For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” indeed, Jesus goes on to say – just “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Beyond these experiences, my main focus was to assist Rita Wong in the various facets of the Chinese ministry in Scarborough. This involved the implementation of English classes, the dancercise program and special outings such as apple picking and TTC tours. As a Canadian born Caucasian, this has truly been a cross-cultural experience for me! I have learned so much and have only seen a snap-shot of all Rita is involved in as she also ministers in Markham to a group of Chinese women, as well as to a group of children and their families in Scarborough particularly during the summer months. Beyond these groups there are individuals in these regions who seek the aid and care of The Lighthouse through Rita, and she continues to be involved in programming offered through the downtown centre. For example, during early spring she aids clients with their income tax returns – a service which many benefit from and would have difficulty with otherwise. Though much of Rita’s ministry takes place outside of The Lighthouse centre, it still very much embodies the mission of the centre by fostering community and offering hospitality to new comers from China who have settled in the Scarborough and Markham areas.

One of the Chinese ministries which I would like to highlight is the ESL program which occurs weekly out of a Chinese church in Scarborough. Of the ministries I have been a part of, I have had the most opportunity to enjoy friendship with these students who are about 60 in total. The majority of these students are seniors who find fellowship, community and hospitality through this ministry. The English teachers are all believers who integrate lessons of faith with lessons of grammar. The environment of love, care and compassion exemplifies the gospel message and once a month the Mandarin church hosts a worship service and meal after the classes to share the gospel with the students. This approach is both relational and culturally relevant with the tight-knit community environment fostering a safe place to explore the gospel. One of my favourite lessons was one in which Rita urged me to teach the past tense using the Christmas story found in Matthew. The students were engaged and interested in knowing the meaning behind Christmas. Beyond class time, special outings such as TTC tours provided opportunity to meet students’ needs while also providing a small-group context in which to deepen friendships.

Fewer things are more worthwhile than this, to be an instrument of God’s peace and hope in a world that does not know the love of the Father. According to Rita, approximately 80% of the students and 50 % of the dancercise class are not followers of Jesus – yet each week these programs provide opportunity to discover more about who God is and experience his love first-hand. I have been blessed and enriched by the time I have spent with Rita and the Chinese clients who have taught me more about community, sharing, hospitality and looking out for one another. I am grateful for this experience and pray that God would continue to bless the ministry of The Lighthouse through the care and support of donors like you. I also invite you as a reader to join in the vision and mission of The Lighthouse by getting involved and volunteering – you will be glad you did! Thank you for taking the time to read more about how God is at work in and through The Lighthouse,

May God bless and keep you!

Michelle Bauer
Student Intern Fall 2014

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“Mi casa:” Celebrando 16 años con mis amigos de la 3ra edad

Tabitha : February 22, 2015 3:00 pm : Lives Changed, News

“Mi Casa”, el cual comenzó hace más de 16 años luego de ver la necesidad en la comunidad hispana de crear un lugar para el adulto mayor donde pudiera compartir sus alegrías y tristezas y a la vez sentirse útil dentro de las actividades que el centro compartía.

Mi historia comienza hace más de 15 años cuando me invitaron a reemplazar una voluntaria en el banco de comida de Lighthouse. Luego ya pude integrarme al grupo “Mi Casa ”el cual se transformó en poco tiempo mi segunda familia. Fue después en ese mismo año que comencé a trabajar con diferentes actividades para este grupo de ancianos tales como paseos, artes plásticas, estudios de la biblia y grupos de conversación, También les ayude con buena información sobre los servicios en la comunidad Hispana pero lo más importante, fue y es el de compartir mi amistad y cuidado hacia ellos.

No puedo expresar con palabras todo el apoyo que este hermoso grupo ha significado para mi sin dejar correr lagrimas por mis mejillas y recordar todos los momentos de alegrías y tristezas que ellos compartieron conmigo, fueron en esos momento y aun hasta la fecha de gran apoyo para mi vida.

Cada vez que llego me reciben con un gran abrazo y me hacen sentir una persona Importante en sus vidas…Al comenzar en el grupo mi prioridad era servirles y aportar lo que se necesitara, pero al pasar el tiempo me di cuenta que además de yo entregar mis servicios recibía a cambio mucho amor y cada vez me sentía parte de un hermoso grupo, el cual siempre está en la disposición de acoger a todo aquel que lo necesita.

Ellos han formado un pilar muy importante en mi vida, la de mi esposo y mi hijo, ya que al dejar nuestro país solo con una maleta cargada de sueños y anhelos, nos enfrentamos a un nuevo comienzo, en donde el grupo nos brindó todo ese amor que dejamos atrás y nos ayudaron a que el tiempo de espera de nuestra situación migratoria se hiciera más corta y llevadera.

Por ultimo quiero agradecer a todo las personas que trabajan en The Lighthuose, en especial a nuestra coordinadora hispana Samia Saad por su gran apoyo y amor y además agradecerle a Dios por haberme permitido conocer mi segunda Familia “Mi Casa”

Doy Gracias a Dios por permitirme ser parte de este grupo y por haber conocido a mi segunda Familia.

-Irma Luque

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New Year – New Beginning

Tabitha : January 2, 2015 3:30 pm : Lives Changed, News

With the start of a New Year comes new beginnings and The Lighthouse offers a new beginning to many of our clients in need. For Linda, a mother who managed to escape domestic abuse and start a new life with her children (full story in Spring 2014 newsletter), this opportunity for a new beginning is the hope to which she has clung onto, as she remains resilient and positive in her ongoing journey. This is the continuation of Linda’s story as she remembered the birth of her new child in the spring of 2014.

Childbirth is one of the most stressful yet joyous moments in the journey of motherhood. It is a time of celebration with family and friends, and a time of sharing in the miracle of life. For Linda, this happy occasion was overshadowed by the feeling of overwhelming loneliness and worry. As the time of delivery approached, Linda was filled with dread, concerned with how she would cope and care for a newborn without the support of family and friends, and worried about the well-being of her elder daughter who was in foster care pending Linda’s discharge from Mount Sinai hospital. The following are extracts of Tiffany’s interview with Linda on her recent experience:

Color Picture 1“Childbirth was so difficult. With all the stress in my life, I knew that my pregnancy was not stable, and the delivery would not be easy. I felt quite sad and alone during my time at the hospital. I was placed in a room with 4 other ladies surrounded by their happy families. It became all the more obvious that I have no one with whom to share this time.

“During the birth, I bled a lot, and I ended up staying at the hospital for 4 days and 3 nights afterwards. After the birth, I was constantly dizzy and tired, basically lived on milk and cereal and unable to provide care to my newborn. Thankfully, Rita and her church friends visited me. They brought food and spent time with me every week, they even brought me clothes and magazines to read. They cared for me like family.

“As I was discharged from the hospital, I thought to myself, “How am I going to care for a newborn all by myself?” I was also worried about my older child feeling left out and neglected, as she was still under foster care. I wondered, “How is she going to cope with a younger sibling when she returns to my care?” I was very weak after being discharged, and then my newborn became sick from dehydration and was admitted into Sick Kids Hospital for observation. I felt terrible as a mother, like I was constantly letting my children down; I didn’t know what to do or how to fix this. And once again, Rita and her friends came to my assistance. With their weekly visits, I felt encouraged, and that I was strong enough to get through this for my children. They kindly gave me pointers and assistance with caring for my newborn, and donated $130 to help me financially through this difficult time. I am just so thankful for their ongoing support and care of me and of my children.”

Colored Picture 2This past autumn, Linda and her children finally settled into a family-friendly subsidized housing apartment. It is an affordable place where they can truly settle down and call Toronto home.

“Despite our success of escaping from an abusive home, I still look back and regret that I didn’t pick a better father for my children. But now I know I have to focus on moving forward, so that I can grow and mature to be a stronger person and mother for the well-being of my children. In the future, I want to go to school and church, make new friends and create a safe, happy and healthy life for me and my children. I am more than ready for a new beginning.” 

Please continue to pray and support Linda as she settles into her new home and prepares for another Canadian winter with her children. Contact Rita at 416-535-6262(ext.223) if you would like to know how you can be a blessing to Linda and her children.

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Lives Changed @ The Lighthouse

Tabitha : October 31, 2014 4:00 pm : Lives Changed, News

From our Vietnamese Summer Camp volunteers:

When I first began to volunteer at The Lighthouse, I did not intend to make any new friends or build any sort of relationship with others. My only goal at the time was to gain my volunteering hours, and have fun with Henry Tang and the kids. However as each day passed, I felt more open and comfortable with everyone and eventually ended up becoming great friends the other volunteers as well as the campers. I believe this is due to the fact that The Lighthouse is made up of such amazing people who are honest, reliable, respectful and fun. I feel as if we have all bonded into one big family, where everyone matters and we look after each other. I enjoyed the time I had at The Lighthouse and will definitely volunteer again next year and the year after and the year after that and the year after that year and so on. #lighthouse4life

– John Lee

I had a great experience working with The Lighthouse. Each family reminded me of how a well-constructed family should be. Through the camp, I have developed responsibility, commitment and leadership capabilities. I really hope to be able to volunteer for The Lighthouse next year to see how much the children have grown. Thank you.

– Alexander Do

I’d like to start off by saying that I had fun every single day of camp. For me, it was easier since there were only a few little kids in my group. But I’d like to try supervising a different age group next year. That means that I’ll be back next year! It’s really unique how The Lighthouse’s Vietnamese Summer Camp allows parents to stay and do activities with their kids. The volunteers were also amazing and fun to work with. Thank you for being an amazing coordinator along with Tabitha (summer student). I hope to see you all again at the Christmas event.

– Richard Vu

To hear more about the Vietnamese Ministry at The Lighthouse, RSVP to our Annual Dinner on Saturday November 8th, 2014! For more information about The Lighthouse’s Annual Dinner, head to our events page for details.

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Love + Teamwork = Lives Changed

Tabitha : October 17, 2014 4:00 pm : Lives Changed, News

Love + Teamwork = Lives Changed
by Yao Dan Cao and Tabitha Peiris

The Lighthouse was very busy this past summer, especially in hosting our three summer camps: the Chinese children’s summer camp, the Hispanic family camp and the Vietnamese family camp. Each summer camp is unique with respect to the community it serves, how it is run and its key goals. Although each camp is distinctive from the others, the three camps often share in their philosophies, strategies and resources. For example, while the art therapy program was initially introduced as a sort of pilot project for the Hispanic family summer camp, for the first time this year, due to the success of art therapy in identifying and addressing certain emotional and social difficulties, the Vietnamese family camp augmented its programming by hosting an art therapy workshop. All three camps also share the holistic philosophy of The Lighthouse in the planning and implementation of their programs, that is to say, the programs seek to resolve underlying problems experienced by camp participants by addressing not only their more immediate physical needs but also their social, emotional and spiritual needs.

For this newsletter, we’ve interviewed a selection of our volunteers and participants to share with you their observations and experiences in how The Lighthouse’s summer camps have impacted the lives of their participants, including themselves. We had the pleasure of interviewing Tracy, a long-time volunteer of the Vietnamese family camp, Maira, a participant in the Hispanic camp, and Anita, a volunteer of the Chinese camp. Here is what they had to say

  1. How did you come into contact with The Lighthouse?

Tracy – I was asked by a friend to help out with the Lighthouse in 2011. They needed someone to do arts and crafts with the kids, so they asked me to do it, and I volunteered. So I’ve been helping at the Lighthouse with Tabitha [Tabitha Peiris, summer student and regular volunteer] and Tracy [Tracy Dang, Vietnamese Administrative Assistant] whenever they asked me to.

Maira – A long time ago, fifteen years ago, my friend invited me to one of The Lighthouse’s Christmas parties, and that’s where I first met Samia [Samia Saad, Hispanic Counsellor and Program Coordinator].

Anita – I came into contact with The Lighthouse through Rita Wong [Chinese Counsellor and Program Coordinator], whom I got to know when I was seconded to her church. (I was seconded to Toronto Chinese Alliance Church on 1st Avenue while working with Child Evangelism Fellowship). I was reaching out to the unreached children in that Chinatown area.

  1. How has The Lighthouse assisted you? (If applicable)

Maira – The Lighthouse has helped me a lot. I came to Canada from Guatemala with my whole family, knowing no English at all, and it was very hard back then. One day, I was given deportation notice of 48 hours back to Guatemala, but Samia helped through it. I have now been in Canada for 25 years, and am a Canadian citizen. Another time, my apartment was on fire back in 2000, and The Lighthouse and Samia helped me a lot. I have also finished the manicure class, am currently part of the make-up class, and hope to take the haircut class in the future. I also come to the food bank once in a while. I’ve received very good help from The Lighthouse.
Anita – The Lighthouse had assisted me in filing my income tax returns. Rita helped me out for a few years until I could find someone else to help.

  1. What impact do you think The Lighthouse has had on the children and families who attended the Summer Camps?

Tracy – I feel like this gives children and their parents a chance to have fun together and bond. I understand that parents might be too busy for their children, which can result in the kids filling in that emptiness with friends. With The Lighthouse events, I feel like the parents don’t have to keep up a barrier of being an adult, but get to enjoy and laugh with their children. They can show kids more about themselves and build a connection.

Anita – I think the Children Summer Camp held in Scarborough area (Calvary Logos Baptist Church) is a great help to families who cannot afford to pay too high a fee for children camp elsewhere.  I was involved from last year and could see the positive changes in a number of children’s character and behavior, especially for those who accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord.  This change was seen during the camp and one year after that. And for this year, most volunteers saw such changes during the camp as well. It is quite amazing.  I am sure, through the children, the parents are also more open to bringing their children for other church programs such as Sunday school, etc.

  1. What is your favourite aspect about volunteering or participating at this year’s Summer Camp?

Tracy – I really enjoyed watching the families work together for the art therapy. I always think that family is important, so to see kids and their parents laughing brings me joy. I never got that chance with my parents since they were always busy working; so I feel that things like these will stick with the children even when they get older.

Maira – I’ve never had experience working with children aged 4-6 before, and it was a beautiful experience. I also got to experience working with the Art Therapists, and learned a lot from them. My daughter also learned a lot – she expanded her skills in the arts, and is not afraid of making new friends anymore.

Anita – My favorite aspect about volunteering at this year’s Summer Camp is to counsel and pray with the children to accept the Lord Jesus into their hearts. This is done with much explanation on who Jesus is, what Jesus did for them, and why. It’s so precious to see them confessing their sins to Jesus with sincerity.   It’s my joy to see the children feeling so happy when they knew that Jesus’ blood could cleanse their sins and made their hearts clean again. God is good!

 

  1. What is something that stood out to you during camp/what was your favorite aspect of camp?

Tracy – This year, I’ve learned to understand the kids a little bit more. I know that there were a few rowdy kids, but I understood that they act like they do because they want to be noticed or given attention to. When I helped one of the kids with their craft because they got frustrated, they turned very timid instead of their usual outgoing self. I felt like some of the more outgoing kids were lonelier and wanted to be accepted by their peers.

Maida – Todo. I had a very good time. What I loved about it is that it wasn’t just Samia’s camp, or The Lighthouse’s camp – it was everyone’s project. Everyone did an excellent job with so many responsibilities. The food was also very good.

 

  1. What is one thing you would tell others about The Lighthouse / its summer camps?

Tracy – [regarding summer camps] It’s a wonderful experience, whether you’re a parent, kid, or volunteer. You learn to connect to others and help make a difference in someone’s life or see something different in your own life. It may not be the most extravagant thing in the world, but it still touches you in a way.

Anita – [regarding summer camps] I would say that the spiritual support given to families is more effective and long lasting, because follow-up activities are conducted to maintain the relationship with “clients.” Also, usually the focus is just not on the adults or the children, but the whole family. I must say, what I know and experience is largely confined within my involvement in the Chinese community.

Maida – [regarding The Lighthouse] Es un centro que ayuda bastante a las personas, especialmente a los recién llegados. Tambien nos da una buena orientacion a donde encontrar ayuda. Tambien es un lugar muy confidencial. (It is a centre that offers great help, especially to new immigrants. It also points us in a good direction to where we can find help. It’s also a very safe and confidential place.)

 

 

 

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