Capital Daily

Bridge for Women Society's Employment Program For Women Who Have Experienced Trauma

Episode Summary

For Good News Friday, we learn about a local program that helps women who have experienced trauma reclaim their personal and professional lives.

Episode Notes

For Good News Friday, we learn about a local program that helps women who have experienced trauma reclaim their personal and professional lives.  

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Episode Transcription

Disclaimer: This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 

Jackie: Hi, my name is Jackie Lamport. Today is Friday, September 3. Welcome to the Capital Daily Podcast. Today on the show, the Bridges For Women Society offers women with trauma the ability to gain control over their lives and navigate them towards success in their personal and professional endeavours. Best of all, it's free. Today, we learn more about the program and its impact on the people who go through it. 

The employment program at bridges for women's society offers women who self-identify as having experienced trauma, violence, abuse or neglect to reclaim their personal and professional lives. Today, we learn more about the bridges for women employment program with Patricia Rosen, the Interim Executive Director of Bridges For Women. Before we speak to her, we hear from a woman named Teresa who went through the program in 2009. She said the program gave her self-esteem, and she was no longer afraid for her future. 

Teresa (audio recording): The program builds you up. That's how I found the program because, as I said, I started being down and depressed and scared about my future. And when I graduated, I had self-esteem. And I felt good about myself; they made me feel that everybody on this planet is a worthwhile person as gifts to offer people in the world.

Jackie: She also says she wishes the program was available for everyone everywhere.

Teresa (audio recording): I wish there could be Bridges in every Canadian city; cities all over I shouldn't just say Canada, but cities all over the world for women and one for men to actually because men also experienced trauma as boys. So I would like to see that type of thing develop in the future for more people who have come through different traumatic situations in their lives. 

Jackie: And now we speak to Patricia Rosen, the Interim Executive Director of Bridges for Women. Patricia, welcome to the podcast.

Patricia: Thank you, Jackie. 

Jackie: Can you first tell me what exactly Bridges For Women is? 

Patricia: So Bridges For Women Society is an organization, and we're located in Victoria, of course, that provides support services for women who have experienced trauma. So healing and support and also it has this other component of helping women work towards self-sufficiency.

Jackie: When did it get started?

Patricia: So it's been around since 1988. Five women founded it, and we call them the founding mothers, three of whom are still around. And we're still in contact, and they had this vision. They had this real understanding that what was happening for women was that they were returning to unsafe situations for themselves and their children because of financial reasons. And so they understood this real strong linkage between healing, the need for healing and this idea of creating something for their future. 

Jackie: How do women qualify for your programs? 

Patricia: So there are a few ways our program is funded under advanced education skills and training. And they provide the core funding for it. People are how they qualify, they have experienced trauma, and their goal is towards employment. Some people may need education before they need employment, but their ultimate goal is working towards employment. And then, we have an intake process, so we'll talk about its various aspects and what is involved in being in the program. The program is six months long. Also, while people are attending the group, they receive counselling. 

Jackie: I also read that you focus on being inclusive to all types of women, right? 

Patricia: Yeah, to anyone who identifies as a woman.

Jackie: And before we get super specific about the employment program, what other kinds of programs do you offer? 

Patricia: We have an online program that’s Moodle-based, so that's number one. And we also offer Indigenous programming. And so there's a cultural component to that as well. So that's used for settling and using tools for a healing process as well.

Jackie: Now, let's talk specifically about the employment program. How does it work, and what are some of its main features?

Patricia: So our six-month program at the beginning, we focus on settling nervous systems for sure. Also, really looking at the impacts of trauma, how it has affected people and then developing some tools, and some understanding around boundaries and assertiveness, those kinds of things. As people move along in the program, we explore what might be a good career fit. And then, we move into topics like how to build a resume and do an interview. One of the other cool things that we do at bridges is that we get the community involved. So we have women out there and various professions who come in and tell their stories of the careers where they go to, sometimes we do like job fairs, we've gone out to employer's places as well. We haven't been doing that in the last year and a half, as you can imagine. There are various components to it. So really providing a real place where people can feel connected to the community. 

I think there is also something else that I wanted to talk about because we're resurrecting another program that we have, the mentorship program. This is for people who have completed the program and they could still use support. So we have volunteer mentors in the community who work one-on-one with clients towards their employment or our future goals. Okay, so people who go through this program can continue to receive support, even awesome if you think about a continuum of support for women. So when a person leaves a situation like domestic violence, that would be the first stage. So they would be getting support like housing and all that kind of stuff. I want to say, and then the next phase is the second stage, which is housing. So bridges would be considered as a third stage. So women have already achieved a lot of stability in their life, and then they move towards something more sustainable. 

Jackie: Now, you'll often get many people who have children, perhaps they're single mothers, even what kind of accommodations are made for those people? 

Patricia: So we have. I want to say that we have a really wide variety of people who come to bridges. So some people who have lots of education and some people who don't. So I want to say how much our percentage is, maybe 30% are single parents. For women in general, the additional support that we provide is childcare and transportation to attend the program. And when we met in person, we would often make meals for them. 

Jackie: I think a lot of times, the barrier for these kinds of programs for women is that they can't make it work with their life. So you're bringing the program to their lives and making them integrate a lot more smoothly. 

Patricia: Yeah, and I want to say, Jackie, just taken on to what you said, precisely knowing how the impacts of trauma have affected their lives, because it affects all parts of their lives, from confidence, for sure, you can imagine that, but also some, some real practical things, people may have withdrawn, and so even getting that ability to go out there in the world, or even showing up for a class is pretty profound.   

Jackie: What's it like for somebody who goes through this program?

Patricia: It's quite fun to see some of this. One of the things that we do is that we have a graduating class. Then, we have classes that overlap at the same time. So we'll have a class that is starting and we introduced them to each other. So the graduating class tells the new class what they've learned about themselves since they began the program, and it is fascinating, as they're doing that, they're looking at the people who just started, and they can see themselves and how far they've come. We also go through a very big graduation process because people have often experienced trauma and have had horrible endings. This is why we do a corrective experience in our graduations. Part of that is reflecting again, on themselves and kind of in what their hopes and dreams and that kind of thing. And in that regard, they're always like, "Wow, I am such a different person." There are so many possibilities for me now that I never really saw before.  

Jackie: It seems like the approach is to provide these resources, this learning experience, and make sure that people rehabilitate their entire personality and experiences. Do you focus a lot on ensuring that you're addressing the person and not just the skills that the person needs? 

Patricia: One of the things that we kind of like to say, at bridges, like we provide a container. And this is so that, so women can actually see, for example, with their gifts and talents at the beginning of the program, we will maybe ask them, "What are your gifts and talents?" And they say, "Well, I don't have any," but they do; they can't be able to see it. So that's our job really, is to walk alongside and provide the right container so that they see themselves for who they really are. 

Jackie: And what's the lasting impact of that? 

Patricia: We hear all sorts of things like people who have come back like can come back to us and tell us years later that some of the things that they've they've really done, they often want to reach out and help other women. They are doing that because they see that there certainly I do see this too, and when I'm in bridges, I'm here because of all the people who are here before me. And so it's a metaphor for me because I feel like I'm standing on my shoulders. Of those, even those founding mothers that I was talking about earlier. The women who go through the program see that as well as that they're part of that whole continuum.  

Jackie: Is there a cost? 

Patricia: There is no cost to the program. 

Jackie: Yeah, that's incredible. So are there ways for people who like the idea and want to support the program to donate or help out? Or is this all funded by the government? 

Patricia: We do have funding from the government. We also get support for fundraising, and we actually do our own fundraising. We also have donations and a variety of donations, and people can if they go to our website, which is There is a donate button right at the top, and there's also lots on our website to talk about the programming that we do. We're very excited because we just launched our workbook called bridges to healing. This is another way that service providers in the community can work with people and develop some of the same tools we're using at bridges. So we're going to have our e-store going up later this week.  

Jackie: Well, so later this week, this is Friday, and people will be hearing this. It should be up right now. I understand that you're also currently accepting applications for the West Shore program. 

Patricia: That's right. So we were planning our foray into back in-person programming to have an office on the West Shore. And that's where we intended to do it. And with the new measures that are coming out from the provincial health office, we've decided that we're going to go back to online programming, but yes, we are. We're recruiting now for that session, which will begin the last week in September. 

Jackie: Perfect. Patricia, thank you so much for this.

Patricia: Thank you, Jackie. 

Jackie:  If you want to read more about the program and Teresa's experience, you can check out the article by Good Newsletter Editor Emily Fagan at And if you want more good news in your inbox every single Friday, make sure to subscribe to the good newsletter, which you can do at Capital daily dossier. And if you want to help support Capital Daily's local journalism and connect your business with our engaged and curious Greater Victoria audience of over 50,000, email our partnerships team at advertising at 

Thanks so much for listening today this week. If you enjoyed the podcast, please leave a rating and a review. And also, subscribe so that you don't miss any episodes going forward. We post new shows every Monday to Friday. My name is Jackie Lamport. This is the Capital Daily Podcast. We'll talk to you tomorrow.