Imagine for a moment that you are a young woman of 21. You live with 5 roommates in a big, run-down house near downtown Guelph. You're in your 3rd year of university and you're a good student. Last semester was rough, because your boyfriend of 2 years broke up with you and you found out it was because he was seeing another girl behind your back. You were angry and hurt and then you found out he left you with a parting gift - a very unexpected pregnancy. You told him, because you felt like he deserved to know, and he accused you of getting pregnant on purpose, called you some nasty names and demanded you have an abortion. You believe everything happens for a reason and you want this baby desperately, but you know that he won't support you, you are certain your parents will be disappointed and stop helping pay for your expenses, and you don't want to be a university drop out. So...what do you do?
If you are like many young people - you do a Google search and maybe you end up on a website like the SHORE center's (formerly Planned Parenthood Waterloo). Their website warmly tells you that they are supportive of your choice, no matter what you choose, but there is an accessible list of abortion centres if you want an abortion and currently just an offer to help you find a doctor if you decide to continue your pregnancy. But, you don't just need a doctor - you need a support system, a place for you and the baby to live, a way to finish your education, a job, and enough money to upgrade from your ramen noodle diet so that you can properly nourish the tiny human you are growing inside of you.
When we make abortion the "easy" option, and don't provide the comprehensive support that women need to be successful during and after pregnancy, we don't actually provide a woman with real options. We're trying to change that. This week we have launched a free and anonymous personalized pregnancy support referral questionnaire. In our questionnaire, women and girls in need will answer questions asking them to choose a primary stressor in their pregnancy, check off the resources they need from an extensive list (including housing, financial, food, transportation, and more), and identify if they have any special circumstances. From their responses, a list of relevant resources in their community (either Guelph or Fergus/Elora) is generated, complete with contact information and descriptions of the services offered.
Please consider sharing the link to our questionnaire on your social media accounts - you never know who might need the support: www.sanctuaryoutreach.com/referrals
…and I'm never going back!
For those of you who are just hearing about the Garden Fresh Box (www.gardenfreshbox.ca) for the first time, it is an initiative of the Guelph Community Health Centre, funded by the City of Guelph and United Way. This program is designed to provide individuals with accessible and affordable produce once each month. It is just $15-$20 (depending on the size of box you need for your family) to get a variety of fruits and veggies that can be picked up from your choice of several convenient community locations.
We live downtown and pick up our box just down the street at the Guelph Community Health Centre itself. As of writing this, my husband and I have participated in the Garden Fresh Box program for the past 4 months, and have been thrilled with it every time. The photo above is an actual picture of the contents of our first box. Because there are only 2 of us, we get the small $15 box and the fruits and veggies last us for a week or two.
What is so wonderful about this box is the variety of fruits and veggies that we get, that have ranged from the typical things we would buy anyways (broccoli, carrots, and potatoes) to those that are slightly out of our comfort zone (eggplant) and those we just wouldn't think to buy (peaches and plums). I can honestly say that it has encouraged us to eat healthier and more creatively, which also makes eating healthier a lot more fun. As low-income individuals ourselves, this program has been a real gift. Shopping when tight for money is daunting, but for $15 through the Garden Fresh Box we can get an amazing selection of different produce without having to stress about which items to pick, and we even end up trying new things!
If you decide to get a Garden Fresh Box (which I completely encourage), don't make the same mistake I did my first time: you don't actually get to take the box home, so make sure you bring some grocery bags with you!
My name is Brianne and I am the project coordinator for Sanctuary Outreach. The question in the title of this post is something we were asked and asked ourselves over and over when this project was in the planning stages. The honest answer is "Yes, BUT…"
Yes, Guelph is full of wonderful resources for unexpectedly pregnant people in need - Michael House, Beginnings, TAPPs (Teenage Parents Program) at the YMCA, LEAP (Learning, Earning, and Parenting) through Ontario Works, and Let's Grow Together (Stonehenge's program for moms struggling with addiction), just to name a few.
BUT, I am willing to bet that you didn't know all of those programs existed and that you don't know very much about many of them.
Our goal is NOT to replace existing pregnancy programs, but rather to connect women with them and raise awareness about them in the community.
Our mission is to create a safety net for pregnant women and girls in our community (Sanctuary) by locating a wide variety of resources and then using a variety of advertising strategies to find those girls and women and connect them with safe and helpful community-based supports (Outreach).
I look forward to sharing more about Sanctuary Outreach through this platform in the future. By subscribing to our blog, you can expect regular (bi-weekly) posts, that will include updates about our projects, pregnancy facts and information, and resource spotlights, among other things.
We look forward to connecting with you! Please feel free to leave us a comment on this post or send us a message through e-mail or on one of our social media platforms. If you or someone you know is facing a crisis pregnancy and needs support, you can reach us 24/7 by calling or texting our helpline: 519-803-0313.
Talk to you soon!