35 Days of 35
CELEBRATING 35 YEARS OF SERVICE WITH $35,000 COMMUNITY FUNDRAISING CHALLENGE
Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society has raised $57,702 in donations with the 35 Day Community Fundraising Challenge.
The fundraising campaign was part of the society’s 35th Anniversary celebration, whereby private donor Clasina van Bemmel committed to match funds raised by the community, up to $35,000. Community donations totaled $22,702 over the 35 day period, and Ms. van Bemmel surprised the community by donating the full $35,000.
Funds donated by Clasina van Bemmel are designated for long term housing for women, youth and children fleeing violence, and the balance of the funds will support underfunded programs, including the Squamish and Whistler Drop-In Centres, and the Children Who Witness Abuse Counselling program.
STORIES OF IMPACT
“Wow I can’t believe it’s already the 35th Anniversary for the Women’s Centre! I was introduced to the Women’s Centre in 1985 by someone who introduced me to the Executive Director at the time who ended up becoming one of my best friends. Meeting the women at the Women’s Centre saved my life, not just physically but emotionally as well. They guided me to help myself as best as one can do financially when you have no money and two children 2 and 5 to look after.
I was 26 years old when I became a single mom with 2 young children after a tumultuous marriage that was abusive. Being a single mom, I was out of my league dealing with life as I was protected in my childhood so was not prepared to be a single parent. That’s when I heard about the Howe Sound Women’s Centre.
The Howe Sound Women’s Centre has always been a part of my life in one way or another over the last 25 years. I was asked to join the Board of Directors of the Women’s Centre a few years ago. Being asked to be on the Board was an honour for me as the Women’s Centre was there to guide me in the right direction other than of course my family and close friends. In my 4th year of being on the Board I became the President of the Women’s Centre. I had come full circle starting as a young single mom who was scared of her own shadow and coming out of an abusive relationship, to 26 years later having the privilege of serving as the President of the very Women’s Centre that was there for me in my time of need. This Centre has served the community for 35 years and offers services such as the Drop-In-Centres, Transition House, Children & Women’s programs, wellness programs, and a pro-bono legal clinic. The Centre also has an enterprising non-profit business (Pearl’s Value & Vintage) which, in turn, helps subsidize many of these services thereby helping keep our Centre to the community open. I have always been indebted to the Women’s Centre, they will always be close to my heart.”
“It’s a safe environment that provided me with the opportunity to ask questions, express fear and concerns and feel supported.”
“Twenty years ago, I applied to join the Howe Sound Women’s Centre as a support worker when it was based on Second Avenue. I clearly recall sinking into a comfy pale blue couch and scanning unassuming spackled walls covered in bright calls to action. I was handed a friendly cup of coffee and asked, ‘What does feminism mean to you?’ Dianne Faux, Melany Crowston and Marie McKinney became my mentors, guiding me to be actively self-aware (of my own privilege) and to never judge any woman who walks through our doors. Through time and practise, I have come to better understand the motivations and choices made by women in desperate times.
I hold the following meme close to my heart: Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be Kind. Always.”
“One year ago I felt I was leaving my life behind, but now I know I have actually found my life – a newer, happier one where I’m determined, driven, passionate, and destined again to rediscover my passion.”
“While volunteering for Howe Sound Women’s Centre, I have learned the staff have an extremely difficult job. They work to raise awareness about and provide support for gendered and intersectional violence against women, adjusting their services as needed. They operate a women’s centre in a time when many other similar centres have closed due to funding cuts. The staff interact with the darkest parts of Squamish daily, in spite of job insecurity and funding difficulties. They do all of this with a passion and grace that is inspiring to witness.”
“As a facilitator of the Mama Baby Connection program, I was honoured to witness and hold safe space for women to come together and share fears, joys and anxieties about their journeys towards motherhood. Many of these women are new to Whistler and do not have family, or close friends near them. Over the 6 week period, I watched them form friendships and a network of support. I believe this is invaluable and will not only help to support women but their children and the community. I personally believe this was the biggest benefit of the program. On top of that, with the help of the passionate and experienced team, they learned tools to support their pregnancy, birth, and early days of caring for an infant. All of their questions and thoughts were honoured and discussed. It was a complete joy to witness this coming together and exchange of information, discussion and support.”
“When I first entered Howe Sound Women’s Centre, I was immediately struck by how welcoming it was. Over the years the Women’s Centre has helped me with a wide array of supports from crisis support to food hampers and other necessities. They’ve always been there for me and helped me grow into the mature and beautiful young woman that I am today.”
“After dealing with hospital bedside care, and the following responsibilities when my Mother passed away last year, and my Aunt passed away this year, I was stressed to the hilt. I am immensely grateful to the Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society, and to the facilitators for allowing me to participate in the exceptional Women of Wisdom Outdoor Healing Journey. It was a blessing to be a part of this heartwarming experience.”
“I have witnessed firsthand the impacts of violence and racism on our women and children. Women are forced into the sex trade for rent or bills, and the perpetrators of the missing and murdered women from the Highway of Tears are still at large. Baby boomers are left with unresolved issues from the residential schools that need attending now more than ever before. We need to get the word out there. I believe that we as women can get things done.”
“Everyday, I witness women’s strength, resilience and resourcefulness as they navigate incredibly challenging situations and weigh difficult decisions. While significant gains have been made over the past 35 years, there is still so much more work to do in speaking out against systems that fail women, and challenging prevalent attitudes, norms and behaviours that condone, excuse and encourage violence against women. I am grateful to work for an organization committed to advocating for the needs of women and children to improve their safety, access to services and equality in society.”
“At the Women’s Centre, I feel heard- really listened to and understood.”
“I’m really grateful the Women’s Centre has a program for moms to be. It gives me support, a safe environment, new connections and makes me feel special as a woman. Allison and Carla are amazing, knowledgeable and make sure we felt good in our bodies and minds. They constantly check on us to see how we feel, what we like to learn about and create a strong connection between other moms. The program taught me how to breathe, be strong, take care of myself and baby, prepare for birth, and I met other pregnant women. Every time I visit a class I feel like this is “my (mine and baby’s’) moment” and I leave very happy at the end of the class. Whistler is a special place and the Women’s Centre has an non-replaceable place in the community.”
“I like that my girls were able to meet a diverse group of girls and share common experiences that bond them – from artistic activities to athletic pursuits and all the great guided conversation that happens in between. You do an excellent job of providing them a safe place to express themselves in ways they feel comfortable.”
“My daughter was going through a lot of changes that were causing her some stress and therefore health issues. A friend referred me to the Women’s Centre where I could find help and support for my daughter. We were introduced to the program. I was beautifully amazed how supported we were. We were always well greeted and welcomed. My daughter and myself were feeling much better after a few consultations. This is a place I feel appreciated, reassured and hopeful regardless of my issues or weaknesses. Thank you to all the Spring Creek team.”
“We are ‘blessed’ to have such an organization within this corridor, ‘Happy 35th year’ Howe Sound Women’s Centre. With the support and help of HSWC… I feel this gives our women and children the strength to make positive changes and look towards a better life. Also, it is important to acknowledge the impacts of colonization and recognize that it continues to exist and affect Aboriginal women, men and their families. By understanding the intergenerational effects of colonization, we can begin to address current issues and create a better future for Aboriginal women, girls and their families.”
“It has been wonderful to have access to the Girl Groups for our daughter, the camp last summer was especially great! I’ve really enjoyed the yoga and other classes through the Centre- one of my favourite’s was the Sound Healing with Laura Berdette. You do great work and we appreciate you being here. Thank you so much!”
“The Women’s Centre was a beacon of light on a very dark and arduous path.”
“As a member of the board of the HSWC I am regularly impressed by the dedication and care of the staff and volunteers. This creative, diverse group of individuals cares deeply for the lives and well-being of women and children throughout the corridor. From front line workers in the transition house and drop in centres, to counsellors and program managers, all the way to administrative staff and ED, there is a dedication to the work of ending violence in the corridor. I have witnessed many of them live out the vision to create ‘a day when all women and their children are valued and lead healthy lives – supported,connected to the community, and violence free.’ It is evident that the care this organization offers is changing lives and building a better world. Thank you for all you do.”
“I’m a single woman in Whistler having a baby. I went to the Women’s Centre to see what support was available. It’s a safe place where you are supported in a confidential and caring manner. I found the Prenatal Mama Baby Connection program being offered through the WC. This program has given me the confidence and support to bring this baby into the world that I didn’t have before coming to the Women’s Centre.”
“My first interaction with the Women’s Centre came as a board member and I was immediately impressed and in awe of the Squamish and Whistler Drop-In Centres and staff. Both spaces are warm and inviting and the team is creative in how they make the space feel safe. I feel proud to be part of such an important community group and look forward to growing our presence in Pemberton and area in the future.”
“For me, celebrating 35 years of providing services to women and children of the Sea to Sky Corridor means acknowledging the past, being aware of the present and dreaming of the future. There are a number of women I never met to whom I owe my thanks for their dedication in making their vision a reality, including Elsie Andersen, Marie Campbell, Mary Reed and Sandra Bauer who were instrumental in establishing the Women’s Centre.
Yet it is the women I did meet – strong willed independent feminists with hopes and dreams for women’s equality and empowerment that hold fast in my mind. One of these women, Mary Billy, who was one of the original group of women that saw the need for a Women’s Centre in Squamish, was a mentor to many women over the years. The teaching I received from Mary Billy who joined her ancestors in April 2015 is about remembering and honouring those women who are no longer with us due to acts of violence against women and girls. She taught me the power of our words can be what keeps memories alive and how important it is to be aware of the horrors that occur so we can work towards ending violence. One of the ways she accomplished this was through her creation of the Femicide List which she began after the murder of 14 women on December 6, 1989 at the École Polytechnique de Montréal, a list Mary continuously kept up to date until her health no longer allowed her to continue and passed it into other hands to maintain.
In 2001, I was given the opportunity to meet those who are responsible with providing women and children throughout the Sea to Sky Corridor fleeing situations of domestic violence with a safe place to go – Melany Crowston, Marie McKinney and Dianne Faux.
These are the woman who taught me the importance of activism and using our voices for those whose words have been silenced by domestic violence and systemic oppression. I proudly took to public awareness events such as marching down the main street of Squamish alongside Marie and Melany as we engaged in a ‘funeral procession’ in 2004 to protest the cuts to Women’s Centre funding across BC by the Liberal Government. Melany Crowston, who passed suddenly of a heart attack in September 2006, taught me the importance of providing information and waiting for seeds to grow, a method of seeing the world that provides me with the patience to work with the challenges that may arise in our day to day work.
There are those who have been a part of my growth as an employee and others who continue to help me grow and develop along the way – amazing, talented colleagues and supervisors who keep me grounded and others that teach me to fly and to them I am thankful.
My deepest gratitude for the teachings I’ve obtained in working for the Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society goes to those astonishing individuals who pick up the phone or walk through our doors. The women who find the strength and courage to make decisions day after day to do the best they can with what they have in that moment of their lives, whether that decision is to remain where they are or to take that step into the abyss to build a new foundation upon which to stand. The women and children who walk through our doors have taught me so much about the power of humility and empathy, honouring me by sharing their life stories and allowing me through that sharing to continue to learn more about resiliency and determination of the human spirit every day.”
“Silence is sometimes more powerful than words when you know you have been helped so much. When you come here and you are in silence it means you are at peace. Silence is a state of being. That’s what I feel when I come here. When I come here and I don’t feel like talking I can still feel safe because that is the atmosphere that has been created. To come here is fun for me, for coffee, to exchange clothes, I come here all the time ’cause I like it.”
“I have worked at the Women’s Centre for over 13 years and am constantly amazed by the strength and perseverance of the women and children that we support and feel grateful to work with an organization that time and time again extends compassion, non-judgment, encouragement and expertise to support women and children in our communities.”
“The children’s counselling through Howe Sound Women’s Centre was transformative to both my child and our entire family unit during separation and divorce. Our counsellor was genuinely connected to my child’s needs and extremely adept at helping him, and us (the parents) work through a really difficult time in a very successful way.”
“As a child, I witnessed abuse in my home, and have a firsthand understanding of the devastating impact violence has on women, children, and families. The troubling memories and behavioural affects last a lifetime.
We all have a role to play in stepping up to support others when they are vulnerable. We all have a role to play in ending violence once and for all. Howe Sound Women’s Centre is the catalyst, but it is really the community behind you that will make all the difference.”
“It is most comforting to know I can always come here and be heard. No matter how big or small my problems or my joys may be, or how busy the amazing women in this office are, there is always someone available to lend an ear and really listen and care about what we have to say! Squamish women are very fortunate to have such a wonderful facility at their disposal.”
“This last year has been one of the hardest years that I have had to face thus far. I had to leave a situation that was detrimental to my emotional and physical wellbeing. I felt confused, scared and very alone. It seemed as though I had exhausted all my resources, until one day the Howe Sounds Women’s Centre was introduced to me. I am so grateful for all of the help, compassion, and care that I have received from the HSWC. From housing, job resources, advocacy, food and clothing. As well as counselling for myself and my kids.
We as a community are so fortunate to have such a genuine and authentic group of people to turn to in a time of need!
I feel so much gratitude toward everyone involved.
Thank you. I am truly blessed.”
“Until last year, I’d never even heard of the Howe Sound Women’s Centre. I’ve lived in Squamish for almost 9 years but never looked beyond my insulated community of climbers. As a professional athlete my whole world revolved around climbing and climbers. That all changed in November. The months leading up to November my world had unravelled with the painful breakdown of a relationship, and subsequent loss of my professional job because I was unable able to handle the demands of my role during this difficult time. I felt utterly lost, afraid, and alone.
But something interesting happened as I struggled to pick myself up every day. I felt a growing need to reach out to the communities of women beyond my own circle. As I reached out, I discovered the women’s centre and my world was opened to the women in my community who faced every day challenges far bigger than my own. Their resilience inspired me, and I found strength in their stories. I wanted to learn from them, and find ways to help them achieve the life they envisioned for themselves, just as I was rebuilding my own life.
Through this past year I have uncovered in myself a strength and resiliency I did not know existed. I have learned how to trust myself, and how to be a fighter. I am now studying to obtain a Bachelor of Social Work and extend my knowledge so I can help the women in our community uncover their own fighter spirit and strength to achieve everything they hope for themselves and their families. Through each other we are stronger.”
“I would like to offer my thanks to all the staff at the Women’s Centre and Transition House for their help in making sure my children and I were able to reach a safe place.”
“I come to the women’s centre for the sense of community- to talk to other women and connect. The space feels warm and comfortable and everyone is friendly.”
“I come here because it’s the only place I find support. It’s a safe place. There’s someone to talk to if I need to talk or need help… It’s a place where you start to feel that maybe you can make it; that there’s hope.”
“As a survivor escaping from an abusive family life, I can identify so strongly with the women and children who seek support from Howe Sound Women’s Centre Society. I can feel their fear and pain, as I experienced those situations so many times myself as a child.”
“Six years ago, I took guardianship of two of my grandchildren. These children had been witness to and victims of abuse. Within a week of the children living with me, I was at the door of the Women’s Center asking for help and guidance. This guidance has been ongoing in different forms for 6 years. It is not only the children who receive help. I also am able to drop in anytime and have someone to talk to about issues that come up that I have no idea how to deal with. It is not only good food and lots of love that helps children move forward, it is the caring professional individuals who work tirelessly at the centre. They are the community who is helping me raise these children. My gratitude to the ladies at the Women’s Centre is immense.“