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Connecting with Aboriginal Women

February 17, 2012

After spending the night of February 14 at Vancouver’s Aboriginal Mother Centre, an organization dedicated to moving at-risk mothers and children off the streets, I wanted to share my thoughts with you in this first blog.  

I grew up in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., surrounded by Aboriginal culture. I have always felt a strong bond with Aboriginal families and children. This is why I continue to go to the shelters and organizations that help them in overcoming challenges, and which shed light on the needs of Aboriginal women.

I believe that the best way to connect with Aboriginal women is to be where they are, at the heart of their lives, even if for a short period time. And so, as part of a three-day visit to Calgary and Vancouver, I spent the night at the Aboriginal Mother Centre in Vancouver. This shelter is home to women and children who are at risk and in need of a roof over their heads. From the beginning, I knew my stay was going to be a unique experience because I was so warmly welcomed. This visit provided me with the precious opportunity to listen to the stories of very courageous and resilient women. 

I also went to the Carnegie Community Centre, in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES), on Wednesday afternoon. I love their mission statement: “To nurture mind, body and spirit in a safe and welcoming environment.” And I must say that you can truly feel a great energy as you step into the building. So much so that I decided to go back to the Centre in the evening to listen to a concert in the company of three Aboriginal women I met at the mother centre. Many of the participants I had met earlier were at the concert. Later that evening, we continued to another centre not too far away (the Friendship Centre) for a potlatch of the Northwest Coast people.

These few hours spent at the Aboriginal Mother Centre and in DTES were an extraordinary way to gain insight into the strength of these communities.

Sharon Johnston