Jen Galda is an aspiring photographer with a passion for pooches, people, and social justice. A teacher by trade, she is currently working in the marketing field for a boutique Architecture and Design firm. Through her experience and networking within the Urban Exposure Project, Jen has connected Calgary agencies to her company’s monthly corporate giving challenges. Her Project focuses on the residents of Rainbow Lodge, the families of Native Network and Metis Calgary Family Services. Assisting over 14,500 community members annually, their approach to services create lasting impacts, empowering individuals, families, and the urban aboriginal community to meet the needs of their children.

This is her photo essay from the 2016 Urban Exposure Project.

1. Dwight

A portrait of Dwight

Dwight was open about his journey to the Rainbow Lodge, and his story moved me beyond words for the better part of the evening. From a life of addiction, homelessness and neglect, Dwight is now thriving within the Rainbow Lodge Community. He has quite literally been through it all. Yet Dwight possess strength and determination beyond measure. This community’s holistic approach to services, and unwavering support of “clients” or community members, is something to be celebrated. Dwight is currently living in the 32 unit complex, a single father to his children, and accessing programs and education so he can better support those around him. Dwight inspired me more than he may ever know.

2. Casey

Casey smiles for the camera

“The best thing you can do for your kids is give them your time.”

Casey has lived at Rainbow Lodge for eight years with this wife and three children. Initially homeless and lacking the stability required to support his family, Casey turned to the Rainbow Lodge because he was seeking change. The Rainbow Lodge provided him with housing, accessible services, and a community of which he actively takes part. Casey, and his wife now work full-time. They cherish moments with their family and seek to continually grow. Casey is now giving back to the community that helped to stabilize him, through Metis Calgary Family Services (MCFS), a United Way partner agency, he prepares daily lunches for the community children.

3. Nicole

Nicole and her family smile for the camera

Nicole is a mother to four amazing children aged three, five, seven and nine. A resident of Rainbow Lodge for the last seven months, Nicole has set herself on the right path with the all of the community supports she requires. Her youngest child attends Medicine Wheel Preschool, a program offered through MCFS that seeks to support and encourage child and family development through all physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of life. Nicole is an active participant in the preschool parent nights, crafting with other parents for her children’s regalia or jigging shirts.

4. Cody and Amy’s family

Cody, Amy, and their children, Thomas and Marissa

I learned so much from Cody, Amy, and their children, Thomas and Marissa. Did you know you can harvest Saskatoon berries and Sage on Nosehill?  It’s also home to a large man-made medicine wheel, a place to make offerings to the four directions and align with nature.

Thomas is an active participant in MCFS’ Aboriginal Student Program, a stay-in school initiative that incorporates tutoring, extra curriculars, excursions and positive social support. The program has been so well received that Marissa is anxiously awaiting to begin the program even though she is three years away.

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