History - How the dream began
In the fall of 2019, a group of women from Squamish United Church began to gather and talk about their dreams for the Sea to Sky Cooridor. We dreamt about an organization that was truly welcoming to all people, no matter their socioeconomic status, gender identity, race, culture, or religion. We surveyed and discussed gaps in services for children and families in the corridor. With a desire to assist individuals and family units to grow in health and wellness the dream of The CUP began.
As a group we saw a thirst in our region for a spirituality that is open to exploration of faith and wellness. Squamish in the most recent census received the title of “least religious town in all of Canada.” We understand many people’s fear of or inability to relate to organized religion. We also know many are searching for depth and meaning in their lives beyond the confines of a particular worship style. Everyone of us understood this search in our own lives and so we wanted to create a safe place for all people to bring their true selves with or without any particular faith expressions.
The name The CUP started to bubble forth as this group imagined offering events that assisted people in filling their life cup to overflowing. After a particular night when the vision of the cup really began to overflow, Karen went to a retreat. The first practice the facilitator had the group engage in was to pick up a cup and share how ‘the cup of their lives was being filled.’ The name of the CUP stuck ever since.
Community leaders throughout the corridor have expressed a need for more opportunities for children, youth, and families to have a safe place to explore spirituality, health, and wellness. Programs such as big brother and big sisters at this point in time are not functioning in our area, and the youth centre is currently closed. We long to fill in some of these gaps with services and offerings for children and families.
In March 2020 a leadership team was formed out of members of Squamish United Church. This team consisted of 11 people with diverse age demographics and history with SUC: Kelly Banna, Grace Halverson, Heather Mann, Louise Martin, Bruce Larson, Julie Larson, Vicki Haberl, and Ian Kent, Dalia Shehata, Michelle Ulmer, and Rev. Karen Millard. In addition, Rev. George Meier, commissioned by the Pacific Mountain Region of the United Church of Canada, was present for all of our meetings and helped to gently guide our discussions.
We spoke significantly about the crucial need for leadership and community partners. Each team member did their own work and exploration around faith and our particular purpose in the community of Squamish. This work had a significant impact on the direction of this project.
Squamish, British Columbia is a community that is undergoing great change. This once small logging town is now one of the fastest-growing communities in Canada, with a population growth of 13.7% (Statistics Canada, 2016) between 2011 and 2020. Its natural beauty, outdoor lifestyle, relative affordability, and proximity to Vancouver have attracted many young families. Today, children under the age of 14 comprise almost 20% of our population (Statistics Canada, 2016).
This rapid growth has stretched the resources in the community to the point where children are being left behind. During a packed seminar by Dr. Vanessa Lapoint on “Erupting Angst” in December 2019, Trudie Neubert, a Parent in Residence with Family Smart, explained that children in Squamish report anxiety nearly twice that of the national average, at a rate of 6%. Parents struggle to find resources to help children with mental health disorders. Nicole Babuin, an SD#48 teacher says, “I see a lot of kids at school with mental health issues, kids who need positive adults”. Allison Green, MC RCC of Grasshopper Counselling, noted that many children feel intimidated by the options that were available such as the (now closed) Youth Center and Tim Horton’s. She stated, “It would be great if the youth had more access to mental health support ... it would be great to have a drop-in center where children could be informed and access mental health[sic] services.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated these issues. The Squamish Reporter announced that in May of 2020, Squamish had the deadliest drug-related month ever at 18 deaths in the North Shore/Sea to Sky area (Squamish Reporter, 2020). However, in this time of increasing need, resources continue to decrease. Squamish’s Big Brother/Big Sisters has closed its doors; a closure that will impact the 155 families that used its services (Squamish Chief, 2020). There has never been a more critical time to partner with organizations that support Squamish children and youth to create a community with their best interests at heart.
Our Leadership Team appealed to the Pacific Mountain Regional Conference for assistance in our desire to create a new organization that sought to meet these needs in the Sea to Sky Corridor. With their generous support we were able to begin The CUP Wholeness Centre in January 2021. We give thanks every day for the trust they have shown us. This support has created the opportunity to live out a dream that cares for our community body, mind and soul.