A new perspective through Leadership Winnipeg

January 22, 2020
Post contributed by Alec Ruest as a part of the Leadership Winnipeg program.

Last Friday was a packed day of leadership stories through both social justice and social enterprise lenses as we visited hubs in the North End and North Point Douglas area.  The part of the day that I continue to carry with me was the morning.

We began the day as guests at Urban Circle Training Centre with a smudging ceremony. The space is instantly welcoming and provides a variety of education and training programs for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit women and men in Winnipeg.

We got to hear the direct impact of the centre on the lives of three women who now carry out its work. Haven Stumpf (Director of Operations), Patti Wandowich (Intake Coordinator/Recruiter/Community Laison) and Vikkie Brown (Intake Assistant/Building Manager). They were candid in sharing their experiences and maintain such humility when talking about the work they now carry out every day and the positive impact they bring to so many.

Urban Circle provides so much more than a learning space. It’s a safe space that passionately encourages and works at restoring pride and culture. It does all of this by meeting students where they are, by building in culturally appropriate teachings into their programming and grounding it all to the 7 sacred teachings (humility, respect, truth, wisdom, honesty, love and courage). They strive to create a better future for the next generation and with the Makoonsag Intergenerational Children’s Centre next door they action this principle by bringing generations into the same space and fostering those 7 teachings at all stages of life.

Our next stop of the morning was Wahbung Abinoonjiiag, a non-profit organization that offers programming and services to empower children, youth and families to end the cycle of violence through holistic healing and Indigenous teachings and activities. The space is instantly bright, safe and gives you the warm happy feeling of being home. We were greeted by the executive director (and fellow cohort), Dana Riccio-Arabe, and led to a sunny open space with a wall of photos of past and current individuals affectionately coined “the warrior women”.

Wahbung leads their work within an empowerment and human model meaning they strive to create a pinnacle of stability in the life of all those that walk through those doors and to meet those individuals where they are today. They make decisions based on what’s right for the person and do so proudly. Their work is guided by the community and they have fully embraced this in their current strategic planning process.

They are currently beginning steps to broaden their services with an expansion into property management and the creation of a cleaning company. Both will be avenues to further support the people that come to Wahbung whether it be housing or employment.

I loved getting to meet some of the incredible powerhouse people behind the work that our community and city truly needs. The impact of getting to hear from these leaders who shamelessly carry out their work with endless empathy, courage and empowerment of others has inspired me to get further involved in creating that better future.