Women rising to the challenge

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Charity Spotlight: This blog post was provided by Vanda Henriques and Sandra Scian of Working Women Community Centre, as part of our ongoing charity spotlight series.

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The Working Women Community Centre (WWCC) was established in 1976 to address the issues of newcomer women escaping social and political strife in the 70’s.  Working with a “women focused” mandate, we have grown to serve the widest possible client groups in the four quadrants of the city and assisting them with the ABC’s of settlement such as: English language instruction, direct counselling support services, as well as integrated women’s supportive and abuse counselling. Our holistic approach concentrates on the family with education support services, extensive engagement and social networking and community building.

My mother has been in Canada for 4 years now.  We could tell she was struggling, but didn’t know how to help her.  My brother googled and found the HUB and suggested she go see.  It’s close to home for her and she can walk.  For the last year, I have seen a big change in her.  She smiles a lot.  She talks more often to my children.  She is more confident.  She speaks English very well, and now she is learning computers and even using Skype.  She wants to learn more and teach me too… (Family Member)

WWCC has always believed that all women have a lot to offer and that they have a rightful place “at the table” in decisions about what happens where they work and live.

What makes our programs so different – and also so effective – is that we connect people outside of a “service” context and help them re-build their social networks and create new communities of connection and support.  When a woman connects with WWCC she is not only helped with her specific need or issue – which could be anything from finding work to learning a new skill, to getting help with her children’s school –  but she is encouraged to step up to the plate and seize opportunities to engage with others and build her network and community… (Program Manager)

Every Tuesday afternoon a group of ladies come together and chat, laugh, share and make crafts in our Gladstone location.  From sewing, to jewellery making, to knitting, and needlepoint, to painting – whatever suits their mood.  The difference with this group of ladies is that they are originally from the four corners of the world.  They practice speaking English to each other.  They teach each other to sew.  They even sell what they make and use the money to buy more supplies.  The arts group has become a fixture of our community programming and one of the most treasured by our participants. 

I didn’t know what I would see.  But I was welcomed – so warm.  I come each week and look forward to seeing my new friends and showing them my work.  I feel proud.”  The art program is one of Working Women Community Centre longest running and most treasured (Maybe say – “has become a fixture of our community programming and one of the most treasured”(Arts group participant)

In all areas of the city, HIPPY (Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters) is a hallmark to WWCC.  In fact, we are the only organization in Toronto that offers this amazing and effective program.  We believe parents are the first and best teachers for their children.  The goal of the program is to help the family’s settlement, and with the help of a Home Visitor, parents are enabled to play a key role in their children’s introduction into kindergarten.  Since the launch of HIPPY in the Jane/Finch community the program has grown to support over 320 families across the city.  Not only that, but WWCC has created employment opportunities for graduates of this program to become Home Visitors themselves. For many, this is their first job in Canada.


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The Victoria Village HUB is just that – a hub of activity.  Each week the commercial kitchen comes alive with the smells of delicious food being prepared.  Partnered with a culinary college students learn food prep, storage, safety, cooking, baking, and food service.  Sometimes its curry, maybe pasta or even chicken – there are always lots of freshly prepared veggies.  Staff and volunteers and even other clients can pay a nominal fee and have a hot and healthy lunch – made by friends.  Over 1,000 meals are served each year in this exceptional program.

At the HUB, there really is something for everyone.  No one is exempt – we have seniors, young parents, young adults, and even school aged kids.  Each year, 20,000 people come to our space.  We welcome everyone. (Community Development Worker)

In another part of the HUB the Connector space is a co-working space to those young professionals who may not be able to afford office space otherwise.  For the youth of east Toronto, access to workspace within their own community is vital.  Meeting rooms, desks, internet, networking, workshops all available to individuals who are building their business.

This space is really great.  Now I don’t have to go downtown for co-work space, or use a loud coffee shop to meet with potential clients, or even spend money on rent that I don’t have.  And the people here are really great at supporting me and what I need to succeed. (Youth Entrepreneur)

One unique feature is the Oriole Community Garden, with over 100 plots maintained by 600 local residents in a dense newcomer population. This garden is another opportunity for interaction, where everyone helps each other, shares knowledge and even what is grown.

I like the garden because I can help my family grow our vegetables.  Yeye told me he used to have a garden when he was my age.  (Young Gardener)

Today, we continue helping the most vulnerable members of our community, in every way we can.  With each year that passes more and more women and families are turning to us for support and services.  This year, our organization was able to help over 10,000 individuals and family members become confident and contribute to their new home and community.

We are constantly looking for new challenges and programs to bring even more impact to our communities.  Not just new Canadians, but also teen moms, LGBTcommunity, abuse survivors.  For instance, in partnership with George Brown College, we have developed a chance for young moms to get their GED and continue their education.  Many young moms felt they had to sacrifice their (post) secondary education in favour of caring for their child.  Many of these women have lost sight of what they could become, and that they already have the skills to succeed.  This program is designed to help young moms reach their potential, and become confident women.

My mom immigrated to Canada and didn’t speak a word of English.  When she was pregnant with my brother she went to the hospital and delivered him without understanding what the delivery room staff were telling her.  Can you imagine that?  Delivering a baby is scary enough, but that is just incredible.  It is women just like her that are being helped by WWCC.  No women should feel so scared or isolated.

To learn more about Working Women Community Centre, please visit their charity profile >>> 

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