Essentials for women

The United Way is pleased to welcome NOW Canada as one of our newest Community Partners!

When a community need is urgent, and resources are limited, non-profit organizations innovate to make change happen. That’s exactly what is happening in the Essentials Program at NOW Canada.

Founded in 1999 as the ASK (Ask, Seek, Knowledge) Learning Centre, the Essentials program has served hundreds of sexually exploited young women. NOW Canada staff and volunteers enthusiastically support the potential of these women and girls (and their children) to lead healthy empowered lives free of exploitation and abuse.

It’s all there in the name; NOW stands for New Opportunities for Women. For women and youth looking to make positive lifestyle changes, the Kelowna-based organization offers one of the most comprehensive continuums of care in the province.

Recently, the province of British Columbia made changes to funding for employment programs. NOW Canada staff responded inventively to ensure that Essentials would remain available. Their determination is fueled by first-hand knowledge of how the program changes lives for the better.

“We’re in a position to go forward into developing something that will offer more opportunities to women and youth,” says Liz Talbott, Executive Director of NOW Canada. “Not only does the community tell us this is a need, but the statistics also say it is a need. So we need to listen to that. We need to get creative.”

Getting creative meant that this team took on some extra maintenance chores around the new Tutt Street Place building, to free up financial resources for client programs and supports. They did so with good humour, and extra dollars are being redirected to services and resources. In addition to services like the Essentials program, clients can access assistance in the form of food cards, play therapy for children, and trauma therapy for youth and adults.

The delivery of the Essentials program has also changed, with clients remaining enrolled for four months instead of three. The life-skills component has been expanded as a result of feedback from clients and staff, and clients also receive training employability, relapse prevention, healthy boundaries, positive attitudes and behaviours, anger management, critical thinking and body image workshops, budgeting, and employment readiness. Clients are supported in finding volunteer roles in the community, which helps to build skills, connections and confidence.

The women and youth receive a lot of individual support and advocacy, as well as case planning and follow care after they complete programs. Peer mentors are an especially important resource for clients.

“A peer mentor has come through the process of recovery, and can show someone it is possible,” says Talbott. “They speak in the classroom, take clients to meetings, or for coffee. They really are an integral part of success in the classroom.”

This program is changing lives. You can see it in the faces of clients greeting each other, hear it in the voices of support staff, and read about it in their program reports and statistics. The NOW Canada programs are flexible, realistic, and focused on the needs of the clients. This all becomes even more remarkable when you realize they are serving 29% more women than last year.

NOW Canada won the Central Okanagan Foundation Volunteer Organization of the Year Civic Award in 2011, and were humbled by the recognition. It’s easy to see why this organization was chosen, especially when you see the long list of organizations with whom they collaborate, and hear their success stories.

“It’s challenging work, but we wouldn’t be here if we didn’t want to rise to the challenge,” says Talbott. NOW Canada has well over 100 beds operating in Kelowna for women, youth and children who are working toward better lives.

Change starts here, because organizations are responding to community needs with creativity and passion. To learn more about NOW Canada, please visit www.nowcanada.ca/

To find out how you can be part of change for organizations like NOW Canada, please visit www.unitedwaycso.com

More Change Starts Here articles

About the Author

The mission of United Way is to improve lives and build community by engaging individuals and mobilizing collective action.

We call this our Community Impact Mission. Community impact is about achieving meaningful, long-term improvements to the quality of life in Canadian communities, by addressing not just the symptoms of problems but also getting at the root causes. It’s about making fundamental changes to community conditions.

United Way is achieving this mission by moving people from poverty to possibility, promoting healthy people and strong communities, and supporting all that kids can be.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories