Leadership Winnipeg Reflections

February 6, 2020
Post contributed by Jodi Bond as a part of the Leadership Winnipeg program.

As I reflect upon our Leadership Winnipeg session, I am humbled and extremely proud of the non-profit Indigenous-led organizations we had the opportunity to meet. At the end of this session, I can confidently say I am grateful to these incredible organizations for the role they play in our community and I am proud to be a Winnipegger and Manitoban.

Let me give you a better idea of our day. Our leadership class met at the Chamber, boarded a bus, and began our road trip (no bus songs but lots of conversation, laughs, and prizes). Below, I touch on some of my key takeaways from the day; however, I would highly recommend taking some time to dig into these organizations further. They truly are incredible and each doing their part to help reduce poverty, provide training and life skills, and provide opportunities for employment.

Stop #1: Urban Circle Training Centre:
Urban Circle is an organization that provides education and life skills to individuals on welfare to help them gain the confidence, education for career and life development all while ensuring the integrating of their Indigenous history is incorporated into the teachings. Urban Circle helps to restore peace and culture and is a home away from home. While parents go to school during the day, their children can attend Makoonsag (“many little bears”) Intergenerational Children’s Centre where they are taught about the sacred 7 teachings: love, humility, respect, truth, wisdom, honesty, courage.

We were introduced to the Executive Director, Haven Stumpf who is an incredible woman, full of joy, with contagious laughter. We began our day with a traditional sage smudge to cleanse ourselves and bring a sense of peace and tranquility to our day. I learned smudges are typically done with one of four sacred medicines: sage, sweetgrass, tobacco, and cedar. We learned the incredible stories of Haven, Vicki, and Patti – each having experienced difficult childhoods and trauma throughout their lives and how Urban Circle helped provide them with support, education, life skills, and a career. These strong women and their families have had experiences most of us will never experience and even through the tough times, they persevered and kept going to improve themselves and to dedicate their lives to helping others in the community. To quote Haven, “be grateful for what we have in today’s world.”

Stop #2: Wahbung Abinoonjiiag
Our session began with a traditional honor song and tobacco offering. The honor song was an incredible song and drum beat to ask Creator to look upon us today. It was a beautiful experience.

Wahbung Abinoonjiiag is a domestic violence prevention centre for families. Their goal is to end the cycle of violence for the children of tomorrow. Their facility sees approximately 1500 women annually and offers trauma therapy, counselling, residences for women experiencing domestic violence, youth programs to help build self esteem and reading literacy, and offer daycare programs. With the training and skills learned at the facility, there is also the opportunity to gain some work experience at Wahbung Abinoonjiiag. It is a safe space for those experiencing violence in the home and the staff and visitors have a strong bond.

Dana Riccio-Arabe, Executive Director, introduced us to the concept of running your organization as if we were all in a canoe. Picture your team in a canoe padding down the river with the mindset of “We’re all in this together, working towards a common goal. In order to achieve that goal, we must all paddle in the same direction and work as a team.” Wise advice. It’s easy to see the love and support of everyone in his facility and how they provide a home away from home for anyone in need.

Stop #3: Mother Earth Recycling
Mother Earth Recycling is a 100% Indigenous owned stepping stone into the workplace. They provide work experience, and skills to gain entry into the workplace. What’s incredible about this non-profit is they also provide their employees with a job coach to help them find child care, housing, and any other assistance to help address logistical or family challenges so when they are ready to enter the workforce, they don’t have to worry about some of these other stressors and can focus solely on work.

On top of the incredible support and training they provide to their employees, this facility recycles electronics, appliances, box spring mattresses, batteries. They currently have a mattress and foam recycling project where they recycle 98% of all materials from box springs. They are the only company in Manitoba that recycles mattresses. The foam is used in carpet underlay, the wood is shredded and used to make bio fuel  at a local Winnipeg company, the springs are recycled, and the only waste (2%) is the fabric from the mattresses. If you know of any businesses or people interested in the fabric, it is free for the taking: reach out to Jessica Floresco.

When electronics are donated, there are a couple of options: you could agree to have the laptops/devices wiped and resold to help entrepreneurs with start up companies, or people who looking for more affordable technology (items for sale can be found in their storefront). They also have a machine that will destroy memory boards for privacy protection and then the remaining parts will be disassembled and recycled appropriately.

Stop #4: Social Enterprise Centre
We met a handful of organizations at the Social Enterprise Centre, all of whom leverage each other in some sort of capacity with their interconnected resources.

Some highlights include:

-LITE: An organization who uses social enterprise products to provide job training experience, connect people and youth with each other, and resources to help them flourish. Some of the projects may include “odd jobs” such as the 2019 holiday box, filled with a homemade candle, bath salts, and pottery. Employees were taught how to make the products, enhancing their creativity, and also strengthening their knowledge of marketing, sales, and business.

-BUILD: As the name would suggest, they provide local contractor type services. What’s incredible is they take a strategic approach and are looking at the complex problems of poverty and how to provide the skills and training to better equip individuals looking for work, to help provide a better way of life. Candidates enroll in a six month course, where they will receive a variety of training and education, as well as apprenticeship experience.

-AKI: This company is working towards powering Indigenous economies with energy and food security to build green economies. They are integrating sustainable energy solutions, such as solar panels, biomass, and geothermal units in several northern communities. AKI has developed an agri training hub in Garden Hill as a way to teach locals how to farm and grow fresh produce, as well as education of students. AKI is also selling a ‘healthy food box’ that ships throughout northern communities as a way to introduce healthier foods at a reasonable price. The intent of AKI’s initiatives are to create a community hub and improve local economies.

If you’re interested in learning more about, or supporting, any of the non-profits mentioned in my blog, please see the below links for more information: