Ashton Sharpe was born on Sunday November 8th, 1992 and for his teenage mother, Karen what began in fear has turned into unparalleled joy.
Frightened, confused and heartbroken, 19-year-old Karen Sharpe walked through the doors of Rosalie Hall of July of 1992. Like hundreds of women who had crossed the same threshold before her, Karen was about to discover healing, hope and true happiness in this special place.
Karen’s story began a few years earlier when she started to date the young man who would become very special to her. When Karen was in her last year of high school, she began to suspect that she was pregnant. She had been a good student, achieved good marks and heading, she hoped, for college and a career in nursing. Motherhood was not part of her agenda.
After confirming her condition with a doctor, Karen spent several agonizing days wondering what to do and where to turn. “I didn’t know what to do. I did know that abortion was not an option for me. I was so afraid. There was no way I could tell my parent.”
It was then that Karen remembered a friend who had been helped through her pregnancy at a place called Rosalie Hall. Summoning up every ounce of courage she could muster, she called and was relieved and uplifted by the warm reception she received. She talked to a resident counselor who advised her that she could stay at Rosalie Hall until her child was born. They would care for her during her pregnancy. She could continue her education on the premises. And after the baby was born, they would help her find an apartment. They would provide daycare for her infant child until she finished the remaining 4 credits she needed for her secondary-school diploma. And best of all they would continue to counsel her until she was ready to move ahead on her own.
With a spark of hope now burning in her heart, Karen decided that she would move into Rosalie Hall the following week. Although she was enormously relieved at this point, she still had the unenviable task of breaking the news to mom and dad. “I simply couldn’t tell them,” says Karen. “I know I should have sat down and talked to them, but I just couldn’t find the words. So, the day I left, I wrote them a note.”
“Rosalie Hall gave me peace of mind when I needed it desparately,” says Karen. “By enabling me to finish my high school education, and by standing by me, they’ve given me hope for the future.”
Two days after she left, Karen’s parents appeared at the door of Rosalie Hall. “They were so terrific,” says Karen. They were disappointed that I hadn’t talked to them, but they wanted me to know that they loved me and they understood. They told me that I could come home and they would take care of me. But I felt very strongly that I should go it alone. This was my baby….my decision….my responsibility. Plus, I knew that my parents would be moving away shortly and I wanted to stay in Toronto.”
When she was seven months in her pregnancy, Karen’s parents moved to the east coast. “I cried for a week,” says Karen. “I wondered if I could handle it all on my own. But my friends and my Rosalie Hall family helped me get through it.”
Ashton Kyle Sharpe was born in November at Centenary Health Centre. Today, he lives with his mother in a Scarborough apartment, not far from Rosalie Hall. Karen has completed her high school diploma and has applied to college, with a plan of becoming a nurse or a child and youth worker. She hopes to bring those skills back to Rosalie Hall so that she can help other young women who are pregnant and alone.
Although Karen no longer lives in residence, she is still very much a part of the Rosalie Hall family. She drops in to the monthly gatherings and she meets once a month with a Rosalie Hall community worker who helps with any problems that arise.
“Rosalie Hall gave me peace of mind when I needed it desparately, “ says Karen, my high school education and by standing by me, they’ve given me hope for the future. One day, I will repay their caring and kindness, as part of their staff or as a volunteer or a donor. In the meantime, I’ll do all I can to make sure that my son and my Rosalie Hall family are proud of me.”
In the opinion of Sister Therese Bonneville, director of the Rosalie Hall Foundation. Karen’s Rosalie Hall family is very proud o her indeed. “Karen like all of our young women is very courageous. She’s had to make a lot of adult decisions. By deciding to keep her baby, she’s taken on adult responsibilities. And she’s done it all with a grace a dignity that is at odds with her youth.”
The grace and dignity with which all the young women face single motherhood is a credit to the staff and volunteers of Rosalie Hall. Founded in 1914 by the Misericordia Sisters as St. Mary’s Infants Home, it is truly a haven of hope for young pregnant women who choose to continue their pregnancies.
Throughout their pregnancies, young women in the care of Rosalie Hall receive regular check-ups to assure their well-being and the health of their unborn children. A sister and a volunteer chaplain provide ongoing pastoral care, and many spiritual activities for the girls.
Special attention is paid to preparing the girls for the decisions and challenges they will face after the birth of their children. Those who choose adoption for their babies are professionally counseled by adoption planning workers. These workers help the girls explore issues of concern and prepare themselves emotionally to carry through with their decision. Girls who choose to keep their babies are required to attend a special pre-delivery and information-support group, where they are introduced to the social services that are available to them and where they receive vital preparation for mothering.
Through their Scarborough facility, Rosalie Hall assists nearly 400 girls and 130 babies every year. Every day, 25 young expectant mothers are in residence. At the same time, dozens more mothers-to-be and new mothers are attending Rosalie Hall programmes while living at home.
The educational programme is an integral part of Rosalie Hall because they
believe that a young woman with high school or post-secondary education has opportunities for employment that simply wouldn’t be available to her without it. If a single mother is able to care for herself and her child without having to depend on the welfare system, everyone benefits. That is precisely, the future of Rosalie Hall offers to the young women in their care-an opportunity to complete their high school education and make a life for themselves and their children.
One of the most difficult problems facing a single mother who wishes to continue her education is finding suitable daycare. Daycare spaces for infants under two and-a –half years of age are the most difficult to find and the most expensive! That’s why Rosalie Hall’s Infant/Toddler centre is so vital to the process. Today the centre accommodates 30 children, ranging in age from 2 weeks to 30 months. Knowing that their children are in a warm, loving atmosphere, and in care of highly qualified professionals, allows young mothers to focus on their studies and achieve the best possible results.
In addition to the women in residence and those attending day programmes, up to 45 young mothers receive supportive counselling and assistance through Rosalie Hall’s Community Based Programme. Social workers conduct home visits, and provide critical counseling, advocacy and networking with other agencies. Through these services, as well as referrals to community resources or support groups, almost every care or concern or a young single mother can be successfully addressed.
The compassionate care provided by Rosalie Hall helped turn the fear and uncertainty of unwanted pregnancy into a confident and joyful motherhood experience of Karen Sharpe—and for countless other young women. Rosalie Hall is helping young, single mothers build a firm foundation upon which they can grow.
Since its founding, the mission of Rosalie Hall has been to care for “those who choose life.” Their commitment to human life and dignity continues to be the driving force behind all that they do. And, with the continued help of the generous and caring donors that make their work possible, they will continue to go forward in faith.