Interval House of Ottawa
Holidays at IHO: Jamie's Story
No one wants to spend the holidays in a shelter; however,
it’s a reality that many women and children who are fleeing domestic abuse will face this year. Ever wonder what it’s like around IHO during the holidays? Here’s Jamie’s* story.
When I realized it wasn’t safe for me to go to my parents for Christmas, I was heartbroken. But my abuser knew we would likely be there and I didn’t want to put anyone at risk, so I decided to stay at IHO with my 7-year old daughter, Ella.
I didn’t know what to expect over the coming month, but all December long I watched the house transform.
It started with decorating. Early in December, the child and youth team helped the children decorate the house. Garland, fake snow, lights, and more! I remember driving back to the shelter one night after work
and seeing the lights on outside. It filled me with a sense of comfort I didn’t think possible, considering everything I was going through at the time. I began noticing more and more gifts being dropped off at the front office. At my next meeting with my women’s counsellor she asked me for a wish list for Ella and myself. I was confused. She said that companies and individuals sponsor families in shelter to ensure that everyone has a gift for the holiday season. As if that wasn’t enough, I learned that lots of other donations of new toys, pajamas, and other fun things come in throughout November and December and that mom’s are able to go and choose an item or two to wrap up for their children. I was working part-time then, and any extra money I had was going into savings after my ex-partner had drained my account. It may seem small or trivial, but the fact that I was able to personally pick out a gift for my daughter was so special to me and I am so grateful to everyone who made that possible.
Mid-way through the month, there was a big party for all the women and children. There was a magician, games, and Santa even made a special stop. I remember looking around the room at all the moms; they had the biggest smiles on their faces watching their children. It’s a moment that will always stick with me. To top it all off, on Christmas Day there was a delicious holiday meal. Turkey, mashed potatoes – the whole deal! Ella and I went to bed with full bellies and full hearts that night.
Last year was tough for Ella and I. It was a tough decision to leave my partner and seek help, especially during the holiday season. That being said, when I think back about my IHO Christmas I have many fond memories. Together the staff, community, and residents came together to create small moments of joy wherever possible that made my impossibly tough situation just a little easier to bear.
*names and details have been changed for privacy
IHO would like to thank all our supporters this past year for allowing us to help Jamie and Ella and other families like theirs. Wishing you a happy holiday season and all the best in 2020!