New program asks young women to choose life

Plans for a residential program for young female victims of abuse and other issues are in the works through the Choose Life Ministry.

The local ministry was founded earlier this year by Glen Ewen resident Shelley Boyes. It will offer a home for women between 18 and 29, who are suffering from drug addiction, eating disorders or abuse to seek freedom from those life-controlling issues.

Boyes decided to found the ministry following some experiences with her daughters.

"I've had some tragedy in my life," she said, noting she lost a daughter who was killed in an alcohol-related car accident. "I've also had two younger daughters who have struggled with drugs and alcohol. There's lots of bad things that happen to people. Everybody has a story."

Boyes said she approaches these issues through her faith, particularly referring to a line of scripture that reads, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

The Choose Life Ministry is now holding its inaugural red carpet gala on Sept. 21 at the Living Hope Community Church in Estevan.

Boyes said it was after the turmoil in her family's lives that she decided to find what good could come of it.

"As I was working through all of this, I tried to establish the good that could come out of this kind of tragedy," said Boyes.

She was introduced to a home in Nashville called Mercy Ministries, which has chapters across North America and is the basis for Boyes' program.

She said the success rate for women leading productive lives coming out of that program is above 90 per cent. Boyes become a partner with the ministry, and as she got more involved, she thought it was something that could be implemented in southeast Saskatchewan.

"I put it on the shelf for awhile, then I said, 'OK, if this is the direction I'm supposed to be going, I need some open doors.' Then everything really just kind of fell into place."

In January, Choose Life Ministry registered as a non-profit corporation, establishing a five-person board of directors. Since that time, they have partnered with a number of people and have had 30 to 40 acres of land donated just west of the Manitoba border and north of the North Dakota borderline.

That is where the home will be built, with plans to construct building that can house 20 women. The plans have been drawn, and they are now looking to secure funding to build the home.

Boyes noted that they will run their program entirely in-house, and the women who seek help from Choose Life Ministry will be residents of the program for a minimum of six months.

"It's going to be modelled a lot after Mercy Ministries, but we do have some really good programming in our church for helping people work through addiction issues," said Boyes. "It's an extremely structured program."

The women are included in house duties, and will do a little bit of cleaning and their own laundry. They are responsible for all the things they would do if they lived in a regular home, said Boyce.

As a faith-based organization, there will be Bible study and worship sessions included in the program. There will be both individual and group counselling offered at the residence, delivered by certified counsellors, as well as a fitness component, with volleyball and soccer offered outside and a fitness room available for the winter months.

"Some of the girls that come to the home probably won't have finished their Grade 12, so they'll have an opportunity to do that, and that will be instructed by certified teachers as well. The girls who have completed their Grade 12 will have the opportunity to learn other skills."

Boyes noted that after being there for a certain length of time, visitors would be allowed to come see the residents.

Staff will be on-hand at the home around the clock, and Boyes said they will likely be employing interns from Bible colleges to run the day-to-day operation of the building.

Boyes said women find themselves in need of a program like this for a number of reasons, but often there are similarities in the source of the problem.

"A lot of times the root causes are the same. It's maybe a hurt or a wound that they've experienced, or maybe a loss in their lives that's causing them (leading to the trouble)."

She said they will likely be about two years raising funds before they will be able to build the residence, and in the meantime are looking to partner with individuals who can provide small monthly donations.
The Sept. 21 fundraiser is going to be an "elegant and exquisite" evening, said Boyes. With a red carpet leading to the main doors, valet parking will be available for all.

The evening will include a dinner emceed by former Estevanite William Sinclair and feature comedian Matt Jernigan. There will be a presentation on the ministry and a live auction to cap off the evening. Doors open for the Sept. 21 event at 6 p.m.

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