Shalom Counselling Services Helping People Grow Toward Peace and Wholeness

News & Events


Upcoming Events


Counselling Care Fund: Shalom Partners for Mental Health


Update: $18,000 needed to reach our goal. Thank you for the $52,000 that has been contributed to provide subsidies for counselling at Shalom!

To celebrate Shalom’s 35 year commitment to affordable and accessible counselling, Shalom is launching the Counselling Care Fund: Shalom Parners for Mental Health.

The Counselling Care Fund will provide subsidies for people who cannot cover the full cost of counselling.  Each year, 9 of every 10 people receiving counselling at Shalom require some level of subsidy.  The Counselling Care Fund ensures that fees are not a barrier and people from all walks of life can access needed services.

To launch the Counselling Care Fund in recognition of Shalom’s 35th anniversary, a lead donor has generously committed $35,000, and is challenging Shalom supporters to match this gift!

Working together to respond to needs in our community. Please help us reach our goal.

Counselling Care Fund Goal: $35,000 in donations + $35,000 matched = $70,000 for counselling subsidies

 To give to the Counselling Care Fund please contact Shalom at (519) 886-9690 or donate below.

Link: Donate to Shalom Counselling Care Fund


Recent Events

Latest Newsletter

Shalom's newsletter Seedlings is published twice annually (spring and fall). Read the Fall 2018 edition of Seedlings. To read past publications refer to our Seedlings page.


Annual Stewardship Report 2017

Contains key information and statistics about the work of Shalom. 

 2017 Annual Stewardship Report

Download PDF of Annual Stewardship Report



10,000 Steps for Shalom 2017



Thanks to our sponsors:

Lead Sponsor

C.L. Martin & Co. Limited


Sustaining Sponsors (Providing refreshment stops on the trail)

Roth Nowak Insurance Brokers

Menno S. Martin Contractor Limited

Encouraging Sponsors (Distance sponsors)

Kindred Credit UnionLeis Pet Distributing Inc.

Eby Financial GroupRBJ Schlegel Holdings


Annual Stewardship Report 2016

Contains key information and statistics about the work of Shalom. 

 2016 Annual Stewardship Report

Download PDF of Annual Stewardship Report


Struggle and Hope: One family's journey with mental illness

By Melody Leclair, MA, Registered Psychotherapist

I had the privilege of speaking at the Shalom Fundraising Breakfast in May 2016 on the topic of our family’s journey with mental illness. As a counsellor and someone who has personal experience supporting a family member, I felt compelled to share from these dual perspectives.

According to statistics, one in five people will have a mental illness in their lifetime. This means that we are all affected in one way or another. Rationally, it should not have come as a surprise when one of our children was diagnosed with a serious mental health disorder, yet emotionally we were completely unprepared.

You can well imagine the shock we felt as parents facing the diagnosis of our child. No amount of psychology training, work experience or parenting could have ever prepared us for the ambiguous journey that would ensue: crisis, shock, grief, inpatient/outpatient care, doctor/psychiatry appointments, medication; all a part of our child’s experience of a “new normal”.

Initially, these were dark and difficult days for our family; for what happened to one of our members happened to all of us. What we needed most was, and continues to be; safe places to talk about our experiences and get support.

The diagnosis and treatment of mental illness is complex. Recovery is a process and ambiguity is part of the journey. For this reason, some people are uncomfortable talking about their mental illness and/or supporting someone who has one. It has been said, people coping with mental illness have a lot more to deal with than the disorder itself. Some say that the stigma of mental illness, and the prejudices they encounter because of it, are nearly as bad as the disorder’s symptoms themselves.

As I reflect on my experience of stigma, I am struck by its complexity. For me to accept the reality of my child’s diagnosis meant I had to confront my own biases, beliefs and assumptions about mental illness. You may not know you have them until it happens to you.

Meals and cards

For me this included the cultural stigma of silence and shame, self-stigma, and disbelief that this could be happening to our child, to me, to us, and the myth that faith makes us immune from pain. Thankfully, as we dared to share our pain, people shouldered our burdens. Meals, cards, prayers and visits sustained us during the uncertainty of crisis, and in time brought us to a place of hope.

It has been three years since our child’s initial diagnosis. While there have certainly been ups and downs, as parents we are learning that mental illness does not have the last say. Diagnosis is an important part of the solution. There is life after diagnosis. Things change and can get better. We can adapt and do things differently. New dreams are possible.  

As we accept the reality of the situation we can empower ourselves, our child, and others to find the courage to fight through and talk about it. By talking about mental illness we can create more safe spaces to become part of the solution. This is why my family and I chose to share our story. For us, talking about our experience is healing. By giving voice to our pain we hope to help others to do the same, so that nobody has to stand alone.

I encourage anyone who is struggling or supporting a person with mental illness to reach out and get support. Courageous vulnerability is all that is required. Consider the benefits that counselling, community, and medical supports can have in improving the quality of your life or your loved ones.



Past Events

10,000 Steps for Shalom 2016

On an overcast, drizzly Saturday morning, September 17, 2016, over 60 walkers, runners and hand-bikers joined us for the inaugural 10,000 Steps for Shalom: A walk/run for mental health. Spirits were high and everyone had a fabulous morning, with most people running or walking 10km, or 12,500 steps.

10,000 Steps for Shalom

There were lots of smiles and great conversations with other event participants and trail users, helping to reduce the stigma of mental health.

10,000 Steps for Shalom

The goals of 10,000 Steps for Shalom are to encourage active living to promote mental health and well-being, and to raise funds for counselling at Shalom for the over 90% of people who benefit from subsidies for counselling. Thanks to the fundraising efforts of 10,000 Steps participants, over $25,000 was raised to make counselling affordable for everyone.

We want to thank all of our event sponsors, donors, and participants for making our first 10,000 Steps for Shalom  a resounding success. We look forward to seeing you next year!

10,000 Steps for Shalom



The Gift of Resilience

By Wanda Wagler-Martin, MSW, RSW

“For the human soul is virtually indestructible, and its ability to rise from the ashes exists as long as the body draws breath.” (Alice Miller, For Your Own Good, 1980)

This quote has long inspired me, and I feel grateful to have witnessed the power of resilience enacted in people’s lives. Observing the journey of healing, has underscored the vast potential in each of us to move through and beyond life’s challenges. We all know those who have lived through the unimag­inable, and have demonstrated the resumption of hope and purpose. At Shalom we are daily witness to this.

Resilience, as defined by the American Psycholog­ical Society is:
The process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress—such as family and rela­tionship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means “bouncing back” from difficult experiences.

People seeking service at Shalom already demon­strate a measure of resilience when they reach out for help. While we manage many things in life, drawing on our skill sets and communities of support, at times we may need something more. We can be resilient and still be overwhelmed by the difficulties we face. Being resilient simply nudges us to take the steps that may be needed. For some, counselling is the avenue chosen to assist them in restoring a sense of hope and well-being.


Resilience is a skill that we can develop. While some people may appear to flow more easily with life’s ups and downs, each of us can grow our resil­ience by practicing behaviours and thoughts that allow us to respond to difficulties with flexibility and perspective. When we practice resilience in small ways we will be able to draw on these skills when life brings greater challenges.

We can build resilience by nurturing our relation­ships and ensuring that we are surrounded by a network of support. We also build resilience by putting things in perspective. How we name what happens in our life has a big impact on how we feel

about things. Accepting the reality of struggle in life is an important part of being able to face the dark times with courage and resilience.

Henri Nouwen, writing in Life of the Beloved, points out how easy it can be for people to experience any pain as a confirmation of the negative feelings they have about themselves. He writes, “There is always something in us searching for an expla­nation of what takes place in our lives, and if we have already yielded to the temptation of self-rejection, then every form of misfortune only deepens it.” (p.96-97). When things go wrong, instead of understanding that life contains challenges and struggle, we may be tempted to assume that our struggle is simply confirmation of our negative self-view. Practicing resilience means pushing ourselves to reframe these experiences in ways that do not reinforce this perspective.

We don’t typically choose what difficulties come our way, but we do have choices about how we respond and what steps we take. We are also nat­urally more resilient than we sometimes imagine. However, when someone finds themselves in the midst of an immensely difficult situation they are often surprised by how readily they draw on re­sources that they may not have known they had. Our level of resilience can surprise us and equips us to take one small step at a time to find our way back to a place of well-being.

May we continue to celebrate the gift of resilience as we see it expressed in people’s lives and as we commit to continuing to grow our own capacity for it.


Living with "Why?": Support after a suicide loss

By Susan Schwartzentruber, MSW, RSW

Death by suicide continues to be a significant mental health issue in the Waterloo Region and across Canada. A recent article in the Waterloo Region Record indicated that 66 people died by suicide in 2013, a 57 percent increase over the previous six years. Nationally, in 2011, 3728 Canadians died by suicide, an average of 10 people per day. These numbers highlight the unfortunate reality that suicide impacts many people locally and nationally.

Since 1996, Dena Moitoso from People Needing People Bereavement Counselling, provided this support group to the community. The early participants guided the program and created a new name for the group to define its purpose. Dena shares the following:

They chose “Why?...” because they wanted a safe space to ask the question as many times as they needed until they did not need to ask it as much. Fully aware that the question may never be answered, it was the process of questioning that was most important. A strong element of education in the agenda allowed for the question to have some organization to it, so the topics were chosen as a vehicle to explore deeper the complexity to the question ‘why?’

plant in rockOver the course of time, research and science have been integrated in the program. Today, this ‘trauma informed’ group process, provides an opportunity to soften the ‘noise’ of the WHY, so that individuals can move towards honouring their grief and in turn honouring their relationship with those who they carry in their hearts.

This past year, Shalom was one of the local counselling agencies who piloted and facilitated the “Why? Support After A Suicide Loss” group. Dena trained facilitators from four different agencies with the curriculum and she provides ongoing consultation and support. Funding for this program is provided by the Local Health Integration Network through a partnership with the Waterloo Region Suicide Prevention Council.

Shalom’s first group met in the winter of 2015 with 11 participants. Due to space restraints, we relocated to an adequate space at Erb Street Mennonite Church.

We are in the midst of facilitating a second group session which started in October with 12 participants, and are pleased to be able to use Shalom’s beautiful and spacious group room for the ongoing group sessions.

“Why? Support After a Suicide Loss” is a 9 week group specifically designed for individuals who are facing the unique challenges of a traumatic grief after a family member or friend has died by suicide. A loss after suicide is considered complicated grief, and as such, it is more severe and longer lasting. These groups not only provide a therapeutic experience, but also provide an opportunity for individuals to connect with others in a supportive manner.

A predominant feature that loved ones struggle with is facing the ongoing stigma of losing their loved one by suicide. The stigma impacts how or who they talk to and they often feel isolated in their grief process. Feelings of guilt and/or shock also complicates their grief. It is unfortunate that stigma surrounding suicide continues to be present, especially in light of the prevalence of death by suicide in the Waterloo Region and across the country.

The “Why? Support After Suicide” group meets a significant need for those who feel confused, hurt and isolated in the wake of the trauma of suicide. Group participants commented on their experience of support and connectedness with each other. We hope that Shalom can continue to provide a space and place of healing and peace as we walk with these individuals.


Open House

Shalom celebrated the successful completion of the “A Growing Home for Shalom” expansion project at an open house and ribbon-cutting on Thursday, December 10, 2015. The “Growing Home for Shalom” expansion project has provided additional space for Shalom’s work of affordable and accessible counselling for people from all walks of life.

The open house was attended by a community who believe in the importance of the affordable and accessible counselling services provided by Shalom, including Shalom’s supporters, Board of Directors, representatives from partner agencies, government and community.

Executive Director, Wanda Wagler-Martin notes that, “Shalom is surrounded by a ‘community of care’ who supports this work and indeed makes it possible.”

Taking a walk through the newly renovated building provided community members with a glimpse into the new spaces that are available for counselling. The first change that greeted visitors to Shalom was the expanded waiting room, a bright, spacious and welcoming introduction to a renovated Shalom. All 11 counselling offices were on display, allowing guests to see where the counselling at Shalom takes place, and snacks were available in the expanded group room.

In dedicating the renovations at Shalom, Board Chair, Brenda Leis described this process as, “expanding on the legacy of Shalom’s commitment to providing affordable and accessible counselling services in our community.”

Awareness and demand for counselling services at Shalom continues to rise, and has risen by a third in the past three years; through this expansion, Shalom is doing its part to meet this need.


2015 Spring Breakfast with Orlando Da Silva

Orlando Da Silva, guest speaker at the 2015 Shalom Spring Breakfast, provided inspiration and hope to the over 200 friends and supporters of Shalom gathered at Waterloo North Mennonite Church on May 2nd for the Spring Breakfast.

2015 breakfast

The 2015 Spring Breakfast featured a beautiful sunny morning, with spring flowers brightening the tables, good food and great company. Following updates on the past year at Shalom, and on the “Growing Home for Shalom” capital campaign, Gloria Eby, campaign manager for Orlando Da Silva when he ran for public office, introduced the morning’s speaker.

serving breakfast at 2015 spring breakfast

Mr. Da Silva’s talk entitled “A Successful Depression” was a powerful message about the realities of living with depression and mental illness while being a successful lawyer. It was a story of struggle, pain, joy, and hope; a story that captures the essence of many people who come to Shalom seeking counselling services.

In his address, Orlando Da Silva described what it was like for him to live with depression. He talked about knowing he was depressed when he no longer felt like playing the violin or watching football. He shared about the ways that depression causes him to want to sleep constantly.

Yet, most inspiringly, Mr. Da Silva spoke about actions that could help in situations of depression. Actions like breaking the pattern of waiting until someone it at rock bottom to seek help, or taking care of yourself, your loved ones and your coworkers. Actions like discussing issues of depression and mental illness without ridicule, scorn or judgment. And reminding people who are experiencing depression that there are better days to come and that there is hope.

Orlando Da Silva presentation

Orlando Da Silva encouraged everyone to continue the conversation about depression and mental illness, and to reduce the stigma associated with depression and mental illness which keeps people silent. Through his honesty and authenticity, Orlando Da Silva is providing an important voice in the discussion about depression, mental illness and reducing stigma.

To find out more about some of the programs Orlando Da Silva has started at the Ontario Bar Association, visit the following links for the Ontario Bar Association programs, Opening Remarks and The Mindful Lawyer series.

Orlando Da Silva, Wanda Wagler-Martin and Andrew Roth

Thank you to everyone who attended the 2015 Spring Breakfast, all of the volunteers from Waterloo North Mennonite Church, everyone who provided updates, and especially to Orlando Da Silva for inspiring and challenging us!

We look forward to seeing everyone at next year's Breakfast.


Understanding Depression

By Paula Quarrie (from the Spring 2015 Seedlings Newsletter)


Recently I was asked to speak on the topic of depression and while researching for the talk, I came across some surprising statistics.  The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that by 2020 depression will be second only to heart disease as the leading cause of disability worldwide.  In Canada, at any given time, 3 million Canadians are being affected by depression. Women are twice as likely as men to suffer from depression.

Given depression’s prevalence, our lives will be touched at some point either by experiencing it ourselves, or by supporting a family member or friend.  Despite how commonplace depression is, less than one third of sufferers seek treatment, largely due to the stigma attached to mental illness.

Window into a cabin
In order to combat this stigma, it is important to empower ourselves with knowledge about the illness and to dispel depression myths.  

First and foremost, depression is an illness, not a choice.  It is not the fault of the person experiencing depression and they cannot choose to just “snap out of it.”

Secondly, depression can happen to all kinds of people.  Although there is no known cause of depression, it is considered to be a “biological, psychological, sociological” disease.

Thirdly, depression does not look the same for everyone.   Depression occurs on a spectrum from mild to severe and at times can be life threatening. It is not just a matter of being sad. Symptoms are varied and can include emotional, physical, behavioural and psychological symptoms. Often depression causes individuals to isolate themselves, withdrawing from friends and activities that they once enjoyed.  It is important to remember that some people will go to great lengths to hide their suffering, and that it is not easy to recognize these symptoms even in those who are closest to us.

Finally, it is important to know that depression is treatable. Having an appointment with your family doctor to discuss your symptoms can confirm if it is depression. Because the causes of depression are multifaceted, it is important that recovery includes a number approaches.  Treatment of depression can include lifestyle changes –diet, exercise, and sleep. Therapy may include talk therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and Mindfulness Based Cognitive therapy. The support of loved ones, family and community is essential for the recovery of those who are battling depression.


A Growing Home for Shalom Groundbreaking Ceremony
held on April 9, 2015

 groundbreaking dignitaries

Shalom Counselling Services celebrated the start of significant renovations to their Waterloo-based counselling centre with a ground breaking ceremony on Thursday, April 9. The “Growing Home for Shalom” expansion project will increase Shalom’s ability to provide affordable and accessible counselling to people from all walks of life.

“This expansion will allow Shalom to increase our capacity to respond to the growing needs in the community while treating our clients with the respect and dignity they deserve,” said Andrew Roth, Board Chair.

Groundbreaking attendees, including Shalom’s supporters, representatives from partner agencies, and all levels of government, demonstrated the community of care that surrounds Shalom.

“The work of Shalom is only possible because of the many people who believe in the need for accessible and affordable counselling services,” said Wanda Wagler-Martin, Executive Director of Shalom, “it is only through their support that this work is possible.”

The support shown for Shalom by our community at this event was inspirational. Thank you to everyone who attended for making this event such a positive beginning to the construction phase of the "Growing Home for Shalom" expansion project.


A Bicycle Built for Two held on May 3, 2014

On May 3rd, 2014, Shalom Counselling Services premiered two performances of the new play, A Bicycle Built for Two: A Playful Reflection on Marriage. In 2013, 27% of Shalom clients sought counselling because of relationship difficulties. Marriages face many struggles, and this project was initiated to promote healthy relationships and create a dialogue on marriage. The goals for this play were to:

  • Educate regarding healthy marriage
  • Encourage people to work at strengthening their marriage relationships
  • Inspire people to trust in the value of long term marriage commitments

 Shalom partnered with MCEC to better meet these goals, and recruited the talented theatre company, Theatre of the Beat, to write and perform the play. They masterfully portrayed Shalom and MCEC’s vision with relatable, hilarious scenes and powerful acting. Following each show audiences had the opportunity to participate in a "Second Act" which continued to explore the topics of the play, providing the audience with an outlet for questions, comments, and the opportunity to discern response to the issues of the show. The members of Theatre of the Beat as well as Wanda Wagler-Martin, the Executive Director of Shalom Counselling, and Jeff Steckley, the Congregational Ministries Minister for MCEC, sat on the Second Act panel and facilitated meaningful and honest discussion.

Both shows were extremely well attended, as was the breakfast that accompanied the morning show. Thanks to all who came out to support Shalom’s work. Shalom would like to give a special thank you to MCEC’s Legacy Initiatives Fund as well as Paul and Darlene Wideman whose support made this project possible. Additionally, Shalom would like to acknowledge the contributions of our breakfast sponsors: Mersynergy Foundation, Mennonite Savings and Credit Union, Roth Nowak Insurance Brokers, Eby Financial Group, Murray Leis Construction, Wallenstein Feed and Supply Ltd., Leis Pet Distributing Inc, Mennonite Foundation of Canada, and Yantzi Timber Mart.

A bicycle built for two poster



30th Anniversary Celebration held on April 20, 2013

Shalom Counselling Services celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2013. A special dinner was held on Saturday, April 20, 2013 at St. George Hall, 665 King St. N., Waterloo, to mark this significant milestone. The event was sold out with 425 people attending. Shalom thanks all who attended for making this event such a success!

The keynote speaker was Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. His address was titled "Lessons My Mother Taught Me." In 2011 Martin placed 6th on the Thinkers50 list, a ranking of the most influential global business thinkers. He is the son of Delphine Martin, Shalom's founding executive director who died on September 5, 2012. Shalom thanks Roger Martin for speaking at this event. Watch the video on our YouTube channel.

Shalom also thanks our Lead Sponsor - Wallenstein Feed & Supply Ltd, and our other corporate sponsors - Albert St. Development Corporation, BLT Farms Inc, Dueck Sauer Jutzi & Noll, Green Horizons Compact Sod, Mennonite Foundation of Canada, Mennonite Savings & Credit Union, Miller Thomson, Roth Nowak Insurance Brokers, Systematix, Tri-Shan Property Management, Van-Del Contracting Ltd, and W-S Feed & Supplies Limited - for their strong financial support.


The Honourable Michael Wilson Speaks about Mental Illness

The Honourable Michael Wilson, former federal Minister of Finance (1984-1991) and Canadian Ambassador to United States (2006-2009) spoke at Shalom's Fundraising Breakfast on May 5, 2012 at St. Jacobs Mennonite Church. Mr. Wilson is passionate about combatting the stigma of mental illness and spoke on "Mental Illness: The Cost of Doing Nothing." Read a summary of his key points or watch a CTV inteview with Wilson on our YouTube channel. Shalom Counselling Services thanks the Honourable Michael Wilson for his advocacy on this important issue and for donating his time and wisdom for our event.