When you’re searching for help, whether you need legal advice, mental health resources or financial aid, Cynthia Drebot, Executive Director of the North End Women’s Centre in Winnipeg, says you should look first in your own community. “It’s not just a matter of convenience,” she says, “it’s because the organizations often understand the needs of their community and tailor their resources to suit them.”
One of the best ways to find these resources, she says, is by asking other people in your network. In fact, community organizations get most of their clientele by word of mouth, and it can often lead to resources that you may not realize are right in your own backyard. Case in point: neighbourhood family centres, which offer a variety of services from helping people access food and housing to programs for literacy and social activities.
And once you find an appropriate organization, you may be surprised by the extent to which they can help, says Drebot. Many of the organizations work to decrease the barriers that prevent people from being able to get help in the first place—for example the North End Women’s Centre provides transit passes for those wanting to get to a workshop, and childcare while they attend a class. Through the Centre, women can work at a thrift shop in exchange for the organization paying their damage deposit or their hydro or phone bill.
“We have women who come to our drop-in who may have originally walked in the door not knowing what we do, and from that they are set up with a counsellor and work through a year of challenges around domestic violence. Then, they may sign up to take a mindfulness or a self-esteem workshop with a group of other women,” says Drebot. “And that idea of connecting with other women is huge—it reduces that sense of isolation.” That’s something which is valuable to everyone.
By connecting with others in your neighbourhood, you may receive far more than you expect—not just a solution to that original problem but a circle of support that will help in all areas of your life.