How the pandemic sent me on a path of learning at Serenity Renewal for Families

By Natalie Bell, Child and Youth Care Student, Algonquin College – Placement at Serenity Renewal for Families

The strike of the global pandemic in 2020 changed the labour market worldwide. Businesses had closed their doors and people found innovative ways to earn an income while staying safe at home. It was during this time that social media overflowed with professionals who showed off their new passions and skills leading them to brave, new careers. Meanwhile, many parents found remote working as a solution to managing their parenting responsibilities while ensuring that the bills were still paid. It was during this time that despite being a single-mom, I decided, like so many others, to take a leap into a new career that has always incited my passion. I decided to go back to school to study in the 3-year Child and Youth Care program offered at Algonquin College.

Child and youth care practitioners work in the social service industry to assist and support children, youths, and families who can benefit from further developing their social, behavioural, and learning skills. This work is close to heart as children grow to be our future leaders and role models for the next generation. If they are provided with the right tools, they can shape the future for the better.

Gratefully, in my final year of the program, I have been offered the amazing opportunity to complete my field placement at Serenity Renewal for Families—a non-profit organization with a mission to help and heal individuals and families affected by any form of addiction.

While my official start date at Serenity Renewal for Families was September 12, 2022, I had been attending several meetings since May with my placement supervisor and the program facilitator. These meetings gave me the head start that I needed to become familiar with the agency, the wonderful staff, and the family programs.

My role at Serenity Renewal for Families as a child and youth care placement student includes working alongside Dawn Hajjar, the new Family and Youth Coordinator, and Lynda Donaldson, Family Programs facilitator, to organize and facilitate the family programs; performing Family Program intake assessments; and participating in staff and board meetings.

It has been an incredible experience so far. Especially, as the family programs at Serenity Renewal for Families are just returning to in-person since the pandemic begun. The two programs that I am currently co-facilitating are the B.A.B.E.S. (Beginning Awareness Basic Education Studies) program and Strengthening Families for the Future. Both programs are for families with children under the age of twelve.

I have been working on modifying the B.A.B.E.S. program to enhance its relevance to the children of today. The updated sessions include colourful visuals that promote diversity, inclusive games and activities, dancing, and mindfulness exercises. Participants will be actively engaged while learning or improving skills to help them understand the effects of substance use in an age-appropriate manner. In addition, children will develop good decision-making skills, coping skills, and will learn the connection between their feelings and self-image. Respectfully, the experience of modifying and presenting this program has been exciting and motivating.

Another task that I have graciously accepted at Serenity Renewal for Families is sharing the responsibility of conducting Family Program intake assessments. As a member of the Youth and Family Programs Team, I perform assessments to determine a family’s needs, strengths, and how our programs can be beneficial. This also provides me with the opportunity to introduce myself to the clients and to establish a client-care relationship.

Getting to know the clients, hearing their stories, and actually being in a position to support them is the experience that I have been seeking as a placement student. Serenity Renewal for Families offers that and more. It is an organization that proudly supports inclusion both within the clientele and staff. With a mission to provide care for all involved family members or loved ones affected by addiction, this organization keeps its doors open for everyone.

During the pandemic, I took a leap onto a new career path that led me to completing my field placement at Serenity Renewal for Families—and I could not have been more glad.

For information on any of the programs please check out our website at
To donate to families needing assistance, call 613-523-5143 or visit