On suicide watch, Margarita finds happiness again

Margarita was born in Canada and for a while lived with her mom, step-dad, sister and brother. Her mom was a roller coaster — she was on top of the world and then terribly depressed. When Margarita was nine, her mother’s mood swings were diagnosed as bi-polar disorder.

Margarita had a good relationship with her step-dad, but her mom’s behaviour drove him away when she was 12-years old. Her mother spiralled downward and took her kids with her.

Soon, Margarita’s brother moved to his own place because he couldn’t take it.

“I started thinking negative thoughts and wanted to give up on life,” Margarita remembers. “My mother would tell me that l was so bad and lazy — she would constantly put me down.”

One day, Margarita’s mom told her “she wished she had aborted” Margarita.

“This was my breaking point and that day was the first time I slit my wrist, says Margarita.

She was hospitalized at Sunnybrook Hospital and diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

Margarita continues cutting herself

At Sunnybrook, Margarita tells the psychiatrist about her mother and her life at home. She was then referred to Sancta Maria House, but the self harm didn’t stop.

“I continued cutting myself and l was so depressed that I couldn‘t get up in the morning to go to school,” says Margarita. “Instead of yelling and screaming at me like my mother did, Sancta Maria House staff would talk with me about my life and how they could help me to cope.”

Margarita continued to see her psychiatrist at Sunnybrook and Sancta Maria House staff was invited to sit in on some of her sessions.

“This was really helpful,” says Margarita. “I started gradually getting up and going to school and attending my classes.”

Friendship formed for life

Margarita was able to get all her credits to graduate from high school. Sancta Maria House staff threw her a graduation party.

“One thing that I will never forget is the friendships I made with the other girls at
Sancta Maria House,” says Margarita. “We had lots of fun memories together and we will be friends for life.

During her time at Sancta Maria House, Margarita visited her mother often and their relationship got better over the years. When she turned 19, she decided to return home.

“I realized that my mother needed me and I felt that l could help her,” said Margarita.

Sancta Maria House continues to supportMargarita through the After Care program. The after care worker checks in with her once a month to see how things are going.

“I am so thankful to all the staff that helped me along the way and gave me all the words of encouragement and praise,” says Margarita “Without their help l would not be where I am today.”

Newcomer and abused, Sandra find stability and a new beginning

Sandra was born in Nigeria and raised by her mom until she passed away when Sandra was seven. Then Sandra’s grandmother looked after her until she was 12-years old.

When most kids are getting ready for their final year of middle school and trying to figure out who they are in relation to their peers, Sandra moved across the Atlantic to live with her dad and step-mom — she found herself in a new country, culture, and family with no friends. Her father and step mom had two children together.

“My I felt like an outcast; I spent most of my days in my room crying,” says Sandra. “I tried to be a good daughter but whatever I did was never good enough.”

Sandra’s father would hit her and call her stupid, she said.

“I remember one day when my step-mom beat me up so bad that I ran away from home,” says Sandra. “I slept in a park that night, because I had nowhere else to go.”

Guidance counsellor intervenes to help Sandra

At school the next day, a teacher found Sandra crying and took her to see the guidance counsellor. Sandra, teary eyed, opened up to her counsellor about her abuse at home. Her counsellor suggest Sancta Maria House.

Sandra went for a tour, but was unsure about living in a group home. She gave it a try and found it hard at first.

“I hated strangers telling me what I could and could not do; I swore at staff, was rude to them, and would not complete my chores,” recounts Sandra. “Even though I was so disrespectful to the staff they were still kind to me.”

One day, Sandra got into trouble at school and was sent home for the day. When she got home, staff listened to her. They went to school with her the following day and supported her in talks with the Vice Principal.

“Since I came to Canada. it was the first time that an adult really listened to me, believed me, and took my side,” says Sandra.

Sandra reconnects with her family

After some time, Santa Maria House staff encouraged Sandra to call her dad. She was hestiant but missed her family.

“My dad was happy to hear from me and we both cried, says Sandra. “With help of the staff our relationship got better.”

Hey family visited her at Sancta Maria House and were happy that she was in a safe place.

After graduating from Sancta Maria House, Sandra rented affordable housing at Quinn House, while studying social science at York University.

Julie loses everything and finds a new family

All Julie remembers of that night was the sounds of sirens filling the night sky and people taking her away. Her life, at the formative age of 11, changed forever the night her mother died in the bed next to her.

“After that awful night, things only got worse for me,” says Julie.

Julie bounced around a number of foster homes – never finding a place to call home, never finding the love that was lost.

Eventually, her dad re-entered her life, only to bail shortly there after and send her back to foster care, because he “couldn’t handle it,” says Julie.

Again when she was 14-years old, her father came into her life to “give it another shot,” says Julie. Unfortunately, the suffering continued. She experienced a year of abuse from her new step mom, who resented having her in the house.

Social worker intervenes to end the rollercoaster

“Luckily I had a great social worker at school and she got me into Sancta Maria House – I lived there for over a year and in that time I was able to focus on school and getting my grades up,” says Julie.

Julie had her own room and made some new friends, but it was hard a first getting used to new people, rules and housemates.

“Somewhere along the way I became part of the family,” says Julie.

The staff was always available to talk and even though they were not her parents, they helped her “through thick and thin,” says Julie.

Eventually she graduated from Sancta Maria House to Quinn House and was able to put her life skills into practice, while the care continued. The staff from Sancta Maria House “still check on me and make sure I am ok,” says Julie.

“Just saying ‘thank you’ is not enough,” says Julie.

Searching for two years Marah finds a way home

Marah didn’t get along with her mom. She never knew who her dad was. Fed up with life at home at the confusing age of 14, she ran away from her Calgary home where she lived with her grandmother and mother

“I lived on the streets of Calgary for a while until I decided to come to Toronto – I managed to hitchhike my way to Toronto,” says Marah.

She lived with a cousin for a while until things fell apart and she got kicked out. Marah heard about Sancta Maria House through a youth shelter and decided to give it a try.

They never gave up on me

After being homeless for two years, she moved into Sancta Maria House residency.

“I was not happy at first because I hated the rules and structure; I was rude to the staff, but they never gave up on me,” says Marah.

She said the staff was always kind, even though she hurled mean and terrible words at them. Soon, she was able to get back into a school and get some credits towards her diploma.

She found a warm, safe bed and home cooked meals.

“Christmas was the jackpot! It was the best Christmas ever,” says Marah.

Find home again

During her time at Sancta Maria House, Marah was encouraged to work on her relationship with her mom. She was given five dollars a week for a phone card to call her and chat. At the end of her stay at Sancta Maria House, she decided to move back to Calgary and continue “working on my relationship with my mother and grandmother,” says Marah.