When I sat down to write this holiday note to the ASK family, my thoughts were running wild between everything that has happened over the past year, where we stand as a Society now, and where we are headed in the year that lies ahead. I started reflecting on our “Year in Review” and wondered how I would be able to effectively capture and summarize all that was 2021. Looking back, it’s hard to believe just how much has happened in a single year. Across our local communities, across our Society, across our nation, and across the globe, there were countless storms to weather, both figuratively and literally. While you were all there to witness 2021 first-hand, it is important to look back and reflect on what was endured and overcome, the positive growth and change that occurred, and the accomplishments and successes achieved. So many of you have not only faced the challenges of our work mandate in this social and environmental climate, but also have faced your own personal demands. Finding our own sense of hope that we espouse with our clients has been a critical commitment and collectively we have shown that ‘no one gets left behind’.
This past year has presented us with an array of challenges; the continuation of a Global Pandemic, an Affordable Housing Crisis, the half-decade point of a provincial Opioid Overdose Health Emergency, the unrelenting vengeance of Mother Nature providing deadly weather conditions throughout the seasons, and a hollowing reminder of Canada’s dark history of attempted genocide towards Indigenous peoples… to name a few. These challenges not only had a have a deep impact on our folks, but on each and every one of us as well. Yet, we did not waiver or move an inch in our fierce dedication to the values and vision of ASK Wellness Society. Looking at the challenges we faced, makes the work that has taken place this year that much more remarkable. I am proud that as an organization, on both an operational and individual level, we have committed to improving our cultural safety. We have accepted the need for change and improvement in our language, in our day-to-day practices, in our operations, and in our physical buildings. While we have strengthened our training with 2SLGTBQ+ and Indigenous workshops, it is only just the beginning. Strengthening cultural knowledge while removing biases will take ongoing work and dedication and I believe that while we have come a long way, we still do have a way to go on this journey.
This year we were able to continue to develop and deliver new programming and housing in each of the regions we serve. This includes the upcoming supportive housing program, Nx̌astwilxtn, that is set to open in our Penticton region in 2022. This recovery-focused supportive housing model will see us partnered with Ooknakane Friendship Centre, providing Indigenous cultural supports. We saw the initiation and development of the two 55+ buildings that will provide much needed affordable housing for seniors, Cedar Terrace in Merritt and Cookie’s Place in Kamloops. This year has also seen the adaptation of our Maverick program, from a transitional housing program to a three-tiered recovery program, an essential missing resource in our community. While we have seen the necessary growth of our housing supports to respond to community need, at the same time, it is clear that recovery and employment services have become an increased focus. Those two areas of focus will continue to be nurtured into the new year. It was fitting to conclude 2021 with our Annual Gathering on World AIDS Day, which allowed us all to pause and reflect on the critical work that we do, and ultimately to bring us back to our roots to remind us WHY we do it.
Overall, I send out this message to remind you all to stop, take a breath, and be proud of the work and energy that you put into this past year. ASK’s greatest strength is our ability to remain united as a team in spite of whatever the universe throws at us. We are a positive force in our community and alongside our community partners, we adapt based on unpredictable changes and ensure those we serve continue to feel our commitment to them, as we provide them hope. I do believe that “managing and adapting through uncertainty” is a great catchall for what the ASK team has been able to accomplish throughout the year. During these times of challenge, along with community polarization, we succeeded in focusing on our mission and our purpose. This past year we have proven our unrelenting ability to not only keep the ship afloat throughout the storm, but to also navigate the ship towards safer waters for those aboard. Now, as the countdown to 2022 has begun, we approach our 30th year as a Society. It is awe-inspiring to think that we have been providing services to the most vulnerable members of our communities for almost three decades. I am incredibly proud of the work of ASK and remain excited and ready to forge on alongside you and lead you all into our 30th year ahead.
To each and every one of you – staff, donors, funders, volunteers, community members, partner organizations and business, and program participants, I thank you for your ongoing hard work, dedication, compassion, and grit. The respect and admiration I feel when witnessing the commitment of our employees and board members in providing hope during times of such heightened uncertainty is overwhelming. Please, continue to take care of yourselves and those around you. Wishing you, and your loved ones, a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season!
Happy to have 2021 soon in the rear-view mirror and looking forward to 2022 with we a renewed sense of hope!
ASK Wellness Society, CEO