of basic math and reading skills, art, drama, and
music therapy. Volunteer teachers help members
form reading and writing groups. The daily practice keeps people’s skills current. In 2016, members wrote a children’s book, Toby to the Rescue.
(It’s available through the church’s online store
and the profits go back to St. Columba House.)
This year’s project is a choir and members have
already been asked to sing at several community
events in Montreal.
Hand-in-Hand is just one of many long-term
programs that Saint Columba House offers. There
is a seniors group, pre-school, after-school program, and a lending library with over 2,500 titles
in French and English. “Our books go in and out,
and we give many away,” says Lisson.
Those books are often found in the tiny hands
of children in the pre-school. Modelled after the
Head Start programs that started in the United
States in the mid-60s, this initiative helps three
and four year-olds get ready for school. Learning
shapes, colours, numbers, letters, how to use scissors, paste, paint, and most of all get along with
other children in a group, are the marks of success.
Intensive speech therapy is also available. “We
had one little boy who couldn’t speak at all when
he came here. His mother travelled every day from
the northern part of Montreal to bring him. Two years later
when he went to kindergarten he could speak and knew how
to behave well in groups of children,” Lisson recalls.
At the heart of Saint Columba House is a deep commitment
to being a ministry. “We are called by the Gospel to be here
with our neighbours; we walk together through their lives.
Spirituality and compassion are big parts of what we do here
and we couldn’t do it without the support of the Montreal
United Churches, Quebec Presbytery,
and Mission & Service,” says Lisson. She
adds that the stable funding means Saint
Columba can focus on programs and
meeting people’s needs. “People have
told us they don’t go to church regularly,
but coming to Saint Columba House is
church for them.”
Catherine Rodd is the Executive Officer
for the Communications Unit with the
General Council Office.
For a century, a plain three-story brick building has opened its doors to residents in the Point-Saint- Charles neighbourhood of Montreal. Jobs come and
go in the community, successive waves of immigrants move
through, and poverty is ever-present. But Saint Columba
House is always there, offering a caring community, education, and hope for a better future. “We have people who have
been coming to our Hand-in-Hand Program for 30 years. We
become a family,” says Executive Director
the Rev. Patricia Lisson.
Hand-in-Hand members meet four days
a week. Isolated because of their intellectual disabilities and lack of income, they
have missed out on many of life’s joys.
And as they get older, they will outlive
their parents. “Some of our members now
live on their own for the first time, others
are in assisted living, but it can be a lonely
life,” says Lisson.
The Hand-in-Hand curriculum consists
Offering community, education,
By Catherine Rodd
and hope for 100 years
The Hand-in-Hand program lifts up
adults with intellectual disabilities.