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Simchat HaChagim

Simchat HaChagim is a collaborative project between The Chai-Tikvah Foundation, a registered non-profit agency providing supportive housing and programming for the mentally ill within our Jewish community, and Spark of Brilliance, a community-based mental health initiative that promotes healing through creative arts workshops. This project proposes to provide a festive and creative venue for those suffering loneliness and the stigmatization of mental illness, to come and celebrate the Jewish Holidays in a warm, kind and safe environment. Celebrations will include the food and traditions of each holiday, and will spotlight the individual gifts and talents of those attending the celebration. Creative arts like storytelling, music, painting, and photography will serve to help promote Jewish heritage. Rosh haShanah, Sukkot, Hanukkah, Tu B’Shvat, Purim, Pesach, Shavuot, and Tisha B’Av will be celebrated throughout the calendar year. The artistry coming out of these celebrations can also be hung in local galleries, put into books, etc., thus helping to bring mental illness out of the shadows, and highlight the contribution those suffering can, and are, making to their respective communities.

Need: 

A need exists to create opportunities for those suffering with mental health issues to re-enter mainstream society in a manner that is valued and celebrated, and which helps create a space in the world for our most vulnerable citizens, their family allies and support networks. This creates a society in which the gifts and talents of all people of all abilities are recognized and honoured. One in three families will know what it is to love and support someone with a mental health issue. One in five people will experience a mental health issue in their lifetime. The growing population of people with the “lived experience” has created a sub-culture that is isolated and living in poverty, with few supports, and often displaced from family networks. It is the role of those among us who are the privileged people on this plant to “raise holy sparks” and practice “tikkun olam”. Chai-Tikvah and Spark of Brilliance have identified a need within the Jewish Community for creative opportunities for our most vulnerable citizens. Holiday time can be difficult at the best of times, and to make it even worse, many people have difficult family situations and are alone during these celebrations.

Goals, Objectives & Measurement: 

This is a powerful community-based initiative that fosters healing and transformation; and has significant impact on the lives of individuals with serious mental health issues, addictions and other life challenges, as well as their family allies, and the mainstream community.

Our goals are to:
enhance quality of life for people with the lived experience;
heighten public awareness of our special needs communities;
dispel and eliminate stigma;
assist in the re-entry to society of our most vulnerable citizens;
create a more understanding and compassionate society;
build strong communities recognizing and celebrating the gifts and talents of all citizens;
diminish hospitalizations and “revolving door syndrome" and admissions;
build strong community partnerships and sustainability; and
generate a roster of creative mentors and volunteers.

Chai-Tikvah and Spark of Brilliance will continue to evaluate and address needs through public and community forums, family and individual needs assessments, research, on-line and live surveys, etc.

Opportunity for Involvement: 

Chai-Tikvah and Spark of Brilliance will require support from SixPoints in the area of promotion and recognition through press releases, website linkage, presentations to like-minded organizations, etc. Community Partnerships are the backbone of these organizations and assistance in identifying potential partnerships through SixPoint resources would be useful in building our base and recognition. To be officially identified as a Chai-Tikvah Foundation and Spark of Brilliance major funder and to use the SixPoints logo, etc. Volunteerism and involvement in projects is always an opportunity.

Time Frame: 

Simchat HaChagim is a two-year vision, with weekly programming, as well as celebration of the Holidays. With the success of this programme, we believe that additional funding and resources will be forthcoming to continue this investment into our Jewish vulnerable. Success breeds success.

Sponsor/Staff: 

Chai-Tikvah Foundation and Spark of Brilliance sponsor this project. Two staff from Chai-Tikvah and two staff from Spark of Brilliance will be used to lead this project.
We hope to recruit potential community partners, like the Prosserman JCC and Koffler Centre.

Organizational Structure and Expertise: 

The Executive Director of Chai-Tikvah and staff have 30 years of expertise in providing support and services to our population of participants.

The Chai-Tikvah Foundation operates Club Simcha, a weekly social recreational programme. It is funded by UJA, and runs out of the Prosserman JCC.

The agency also has Case Management Services.

Spark of Brilliance offers its Founder and Director with 12 years experience in building chapters and offering arts-based programming and services in 6 communities across Ontario, as well as having generated an international presence in Cuba, New York and other European countries.

A Spark of Brilliance administrative support person and a roster of community partners, creative mentors and volunteers, etc.

www.sparkofbrillance.org will support the claims of the organization's ability to deliver services and testimonial documentation can be obtained from numerous high profile organizations such as; The Canadian Mental Health Association, The Grand River Hospital, Homewood Health Centre, Trellis Mental Health & Developmental Service, Ignatius Jesuit Centre, The Mood Disorders Association of Ontario, The Ontario Trillium Foundation (Regional and Provincial), United Way, Guelph Arts Council, Waterloo Regional Homes, Green Shield Social Surplus Project, the Guelph Enabling Garden, The Working Centre (Kitchener), The Bookshelf in Guelph, Guelph Community Foundation, The City of Guelph, United Way, and many more.

Criteria that Enhance Competitiveness: 

Sustainability – Chai-Tikvah has 30 years of successfully working with the chronically mentally ill. Spark of Brilliance possesses 12 years experience working with those suffering mood disorders. It has been able to amplify the positive effects of its programming by building on success of one project that sequences into another. Success of Simchat HaChagim will bring these two organizations, as well as the gifts and abilities of the participants, into broader view, giving impetus to other ventures. Mental health can also be brought out of the shadows and out of the basements of our Jewish community, and more help and resources can be found to help individuals and families dealing with these illnesses.
Scalability – This project could easily be expanded to include daily/weekly programming for this vulnerable community, teaching things like nutrition, job coaching, physical wellness, etc.
Replicated – This project is an investment into Jewish lifestyle and into the needs of those suffering mental illness. The concept of creative arts – stand-up comedy, musicals, painting, poetry writing, etc. – being used to celebrate the Jewish Festivals, and encouraging the abilities and gifting within this community, is easily replicated.
Proposal – The innovation of this project is that the artistry coming out of the celebration of the Chagim can be put into books, hung in galleries, or sold. Individual lives are impacted for the better, as they are recognized outside of the stigmatization of the mental illness.