Andrew Debicki — November 25, 1954 – February 10, 2016
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our treasured colleague, staff member and friend, Andrew Debicki. Andrew passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on February 10, 2016 at Hamilton General Hospital, surrounded by the care of his wife Wendy and their children. He was 61 years of age.
Andrew was Shalem’s WrapAround Development Director and the National Development Director for Wrap Canada. He was a leading figure in the development of WrapAround across Canada. Andrew was passionate about WrapAround and the impact it has with families who have complex needs.
His loss is keenly felt by the WrapAround community across Canada and by the Shalem staff. Our Inbox at Shalem has been flooded with accolades from around North America for Andrew’s work and his legacy, with expressions of deep sadness and loss from community members, WrapAround facilitators and preeminent figures in the world of mental health.
Eric Bruns, the Director of the National WrapAround Initiative in the United States, wrote, “We are deeply saddened by the loss of a man who, to my eyes, was a national treasure for Canada.” He was indeed a national treasure.
Andrew delivered WrapAround training all across Canada since the mid-1990s. Currently in place, as a result of Andrew’s work, are WrapAround training and coaching arrangements with five Public Safety Canada-funded youth-gang prevention projects in Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg and Montreal (two sites), and with Healthy Child Manitoba, a major cross-departmental initiative to support child and youth wellbeing in that province.
All of us at Shalem and Wrap Canada will be honoured to carry his work forward, built upon the remarkable legacy that he has left.
But it is Andrew the person whom I will remember most. We first met in 2002, before either of us came to Shalem. Both of us started our journeys with WrapAround in the early 1990s—two of the first people in Canada to do so. We worked very closely together, and we were good for each other. Before he became a staff member, Andrew was instrumental in WrapAround becoming embraced by Shalem as one of its core services. But above all, he was an extraordinarily generous, kind, humble, sacrificial and gifted man, an outstanding husband, father and grandfather, and an exceptional staff member.
Let me close this all-too-brief tribute by giving Andrew the last word. These words appeared in a recent Shalem Networker issue. After he died, his wife Wendy posted them on her Facebook page, saying, “This was my husband. It says it all.” I couldn’t agree more:
I feel blessed every morning when I wake up knowing that I live in Canada, a country filled with hope and endless possibilities.
And yet across Canada I have met some youth and parents who are filled with despair. They see no possibilities for themselves, for their children, or for their partners.
These feelings of despair have often led them to thoughts and actions of anger towards others. These same feelings sometimes lead them to giving up, to acts of self-harm and, occasionally suicide. This is the reality that way too many children, youth and adults and their families in Canada face on a daily basis. Their lives are impacted by the facts that most of these people are dealing with abject poverty, have been or are at risk of becoming homeless and have experienced violence either in the home or on the streets. Many of them also deal with serious physical and mental health issues, and social isolation.
This is the context within which I work.
I provide training, live field coaching and project development support to teams of staff in implementing the Canadian WrapAround model with the children, youth and families whom they serve. I am currently working with staff in Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal and Winnipeg, as well as on reserves north and south of Brandon. I am providing support to staff working in Youth Gang Prevention projects who are implementing the Canadian WrapAround model. I come away from working with these groups of staff and the people whom they are serving feeling awestruck by the need and by their response to it.
The purpose of our work in WrapAround is to provide unconditional support to those most in need, to assist them in accessing and engaging in new possibilities for themselves, and to connect them to positive social supports and people in their community who can “wrap” services and supports around them in order to assist them in developing a long term community of support for themselves.
We do this by building on their strengths and connecting them with the people they want to have on their team. Yes, their strengths and the support people that they choose. In spite of the incredible challenges they face and the problems that they are dealing with they still have strengths and the capacity for change.
This is not a quick process. It can take anywhere from a year to sometimes two or even three years. We don’t quit until we are sure that they can move forward on their own.
And, most important of all, we assist them to find hope again in their lives for a better life today, tomorrow and into the future.
Please pray for Wendy and their family. Support for them can be directed here.
Mark Vander Vennen, MA, M.Ed, R.S.W., is Shalem’s Executive Director and served as the Founding Board Chair of Wrap Canada (2008-2015).