Alisa’s mother describes a day when her perfect world crashed.
In June 2009, five-year-old Alisa told her mother that she had been sexually abused by someone whom she loved and trusted – her father.
“I felt like I had been hit into left field and was too consumed with grief to be able to function,” the mother says in a heart-breaking letter.
“I existed like this for many, many months, all the while trying to fight an unthinkable fight for my child.”
When Alisa revealed her secret, there was no centralized place in Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows where victims of such abuse could for help.
Now three years later, a new pilot project hopes to fill that void.
Alisa’s Wish Child and Youth Advocacy Centre aims to provide wrap-around service for children and youth who are victims of abuse or witnesses to violence and their families.
The centre is the result of more than two years of collaboration between Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Community Services, the RCMP, the Ministry of Children and Family Development, Act 2 Child and Family Services, the school district, Cythera House Transition Society, victim services and the courts.
Alisa’s mother wrote a letter to explain why such a centre was needed, saying a streamlined process, where services are easily accessible, is instrumental in one’s healing.
“This is a long and exhausting journey and one that needs to be supported by a team that can assist them in bringing resolution to a very difficult situation,” she says.
Based at 11796 Fraser Street, Alisa’s Wish provides a safe, family friendly environment where police can conducted interviews.
The centre’s child and youth advocate helps families access the services and support they need to recover from trauma, working with clients as young as four.
Alisa’s Wish coordinator Camia Weaver explains that could mean finding a family a new, safe place to live, helping children switch schools, navigating the complex court system or finding a counsellor.
The centre can also assists in the investigation and prosecution of offenders as the victim is less traumatized and able to provide crucial evidence.
“We work in a multi-disciplinary team model,” added Weaver.
“It’s really important for the different agencies to talk to each other to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.”
Alisa’s Wish has been operating since last April and is currently applying for federal funding to expand and continue the program for two more years.
The need for its services became indisputable last year after Latif Hamad Tata was accused of molesting several young children at his wife’s daycare.
“It made us realize that there were many parents who lacked the information on how to make their child as predator-proof as possible,” said Weaver.
On Tuesday, stones were placed in MacLean Park in Pitt Meadows and along a river path in Maple Ridge Park to mark National Victims of Crime Awareness Week.
“We wanted to acknowledge the pain that abused children have gone through, to honour the hard path back to being whole again and the importance of those who help them on their journey,” says Weaver.
• Alisa’s Wish hosts a public education event on Saturday, April 12 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Maple Ridge Baptist Church – 22155 Lougheed Hwy. Dr. Deborah Bell will explore the concept of resiliency and shares how to raise resilient children. The Sexplainer Marnie Goldenberg will discuss how to raise sexually intelligent kids. This is a free event but registration is required. Register at 604-467-6911 or online at tinyurl.com/locpgus.