Bethany Hope Centre a ‘one-stop shop’ for young parents in Ottawa
From the clean, bright and beautiful building, to the carefully planned and thoughtful programming and resources, to the dedicated and welcoming staff, the Salvation Army Bethany Hope Centre has it all.
This is a place that young parents can go where they will feel welcome, safe, and nurtured.
At Bethany Hope Centre, young parents can get the support they need to thrive, not just only as parents, but as individuals. It is without a doubt, an asset to young families in the Ottawa area.
Jessica, 21, and Martyn, 22, are one such couple. When they found themselves pregnant with their son Niyko, now 15 months, they were united in their wish that their son have the best start possible in life. They sought help and support from Bethany Hope Centre to do so.
These two are a happy and loving young couple who have fought hard against a lot of adversity in their lives and are striving to be the best parents they can be.
Prior to having their son, both struggled with drug addiction and Martyn was a self-described “street kid.”
This couple turned a corner when they inspired each other to get clean and a few months later, Niyko was conceived.
Their son brings them a lot of joy, with Martyn describing, “what he makes me feel and what I feel towards him is the maximum amount of love that a human can express.” With Jessica adding, that Niyko “made our lives better.”
The family has made regular use of Bethany Hope for nearly three years and Jessica says, it is “the best thing that ever happened to us besides our son.”
“Our life was spinning in cartwheels, he was the anchor, keeping our feet on the ground,” she says, adding, “a child doesn’t need perfect parents, they need happy parents. We sure are happy, and it has a lot to do with Niyko.”
Naomi Praamsma is the executive director at Bethany Hope. She has a background in child and youth work, and graduated from Algonquin in 1993. She spent 13 years working with abused women in the shelter system. As she describes, “at that time I became involved with the Young Parent Support Network, and doing a bit of work in the network, “I started to become very interested in the window of opportunity in the lives of young parent families, because many young parents, when they have that child, they identify that as the moment when they realize that they wanted to do something different with their lives.”
Praamsma describes this as what she loves best about working for the Bethany Hope Centre: “that moment of opportunity. We get to be a part of young parents’ lives at a point where they are leaping into change and leaping into a new place in their life.”
She gets to see people finish high school, get back into the workforce, or go to the workforce for the first time, and develop a sense of confidence that they are capable of supporting their families themselves.
“When you didn’t grow up in a family that taught you a lot about healthy family lifestyle or parent-child engagement, then it’s not something that always comes naturally,” Praamsma says. “Parenting isn’t always easy, and so you can imagine when you’re parenting with all those other barriers of age, low education levels, limited employment opportunities, probably poor housing situations, when you’re in those kinds of environments, parenting becomes even more stressful and challenging. So, being able to be part of helping the parent-child bond because we’re improving all of those other things around it… we work from a holistic approach, so being able to improve all of those barriers actually can really support the parent-child relationship at the same time. I am just passionate about the work.”
The centre is described as a “one-stop shop” for the participants by Praamsma due to the well-thought-out programs and services providing holistic support for those that walk through the doors.
Resources offered include parenting classes, playgroups, employment support, and life-skills programs.
Onsite is an industrial kitchen for their food programs, a health clinic offered in partnership with Bruyere Family Health Team, and a Learning Coach Program, where students can complete courses to obtain their high school diploma. While parents make use of the wide variety of programs or work on their courses, their children are welcomed into the supervised playroom.
On Fridays, parents can make use of the Nourish Family Food Centre Food Share that is set up market-style at the centre. For those that require it, healthy lunchbox items for school and daycare-aged children are also available. The health clinic is also open, so if a parent has a question or concern, they have direct access to a health professional.
“Every staff who is in the centre is a point of contact,” says Praamsma. “There’s always someone who is checking in, who lights up for them. There’s always opportunities to connect. It’s something we’re very intentional about. We want people to feel welcome and cared about when they are here.”
For Sophie, a smart and well-spoken 29-year-old, this aspect of the Bethany Hope Centre was important in helping her improve her love for herself. Sophie is the mother of Arianna, 5, and Wyatt, 3, who she describes as “my world.” Of her experience at Bethany Hope, she says, “I went through some hard times when I first started coming here. One of the staff members asked me how I was doing, and I kind of fell apart.” They told her about the counselling services. She felt that the sessions helped with soul searching on her part. “For the first time in a long time, I started to feel good and I was being heard, which made a huge difference for me. That in itself was what really changed a lot for me because it opened new doors.”
Sophie is sad about “aging out” of the program, which she describes as a “safe haven,” but she has made amazing strides in five short years. The Hope Ventures entrepreneur program she participated in at the Centre in 2017 helped her build her confidence and led to her deciding to go to college. She has since graduated and is working as a medical office administrator, a stepping stone to her fulfilling her ultimate entrepreneurial dream of owning a home and land where she can expand her pet sitting business.
An alumni of Bethany Hope is Barbara Peters, 54, and a married mother of two children (a son, now 38, and a daughter, who is 27).
“In 1980, I lived at Bethany Hope Centre. At that time, Bethany Hope Centre offered accommodation for expectant young mothers,” says Peters. “I was supported with nutrition, education, clothing and spiritual counselling. Once my son was born, Bethany Hope Centre was a place that I could go to for support and education for myself, in order successfully parent my son.”
She loved that Bethany Hope Centre was somewhere she could go where she did not feel judged.
“They provided me with guidance and encouragement,” she says. “I felt empowered to succeed with my education in order to provide a good life for my son and myself.”
Peters, an ordained minister and entrepreneur, now holds a bachelor of arts degree from Carleton University and has been employed with social services for the last 30 years.
As she writes via email, “Bethany Hope Centre was my only support when I was pregnant with my son. I could not afford to pay them for anything. I had made a promise to myself, almost 39 years ago, that I would support Bethany Hope Centre in the good work that they do and give back to them.”
Peters is now a member of the Community Council, a group of volunteers who provide strategic advice relating to program and funding matters to the executive director. It seeks to raise the profile and resources of the Bethany Hope Centre in the community to enable their effectiveness.
“From a resource standpoint, it’s of value to the community to support these young families who are vulnerable,” says Praamsma of the Bethany Hope Centre. “They are our neighbours, their children are in the same schools as all our children, and I think that the community needs to be aware of the fact that these families are benefitting from the supports at Bethany Hope Centre, and that by benefitting (them), the whole community benefits.”
How you can help
- Donate funds or items that support the centre and the families
Fundraise for the centre’s services
About the Bethany Hope Centre
Improving the well-being of young families in Ottawa for more than 80 years, the Bethany Hope Centre is a community centre offering multiple services for young parents (13-29) and their children (0-6). The six key areas of family well-being that the Centre focuses on are the following: financial health, emotional health, mental health, physical health, spiritual health and community. Health care, counselling, child development, education and employment resources and healthy food programming are offered by Bethany Hope Centre.
Find more details about the Bethany Hope Centre and their services on their website: http://www.bethanyhopecentre.org/
They are also active on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
“I wish more people who have a hard time would actually reach out more to places like this. I know it changed my life. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have this centre.”
- Sophie, Bethany Hope Centre client