Chi miigwetch, thank you, for your past support. Your generosity has helped Wabano be a lifesaving hub for more than 20,000 Indigenous people in Ottawa. I am reaching out to you because we urgently need your support now.
Winter is coming. Growing up, many communities would prepare for winter by banking up the snow at the base of our houses to insulate our families from the bitter cold. At Wabano we are now preparing for a harsh winter, finding ways to insulate families who are most in need.
We know that this year will be one of the hardest for those we serve. As pandemic restrictions continue, our clients face food and housing insecurity, mental health strain and isolation at levels never seen before.
8 out of 10 of Wabano’s clients live in poverty. Living below the poverty line means hungry children living in substandard housing. It means seniors not able to buy medication. It means single mothers not able to provide nutrition for their babies. COVID-19 just magnified these struggles and added many more.
The COVID-19 lockdown brought:
- More isolation, especially among seniors and those without technology
- Dramatic increase in food insecurity, shortages of groceries and supplies
- More mental health crises, suicide attempts and ideation
- Unprecedented hardship for the homeless whose access to shelters, even washroom facilities and day programs was cut off for more than 2 months
Wabano quickly adapted to this new reality.
As the largest Indigenous organization in Ottawa, and the only one providing comprehensive medical and mental health crisis services, Wabano remained open to provide these essential services. However, our other in-house programs stopped.
To compensate, we quickly changed gears, re-deployed staff and focused on the most critical needs. Our primary focus was to ensure that our most vulnerable clients were not hungry:
- Staff made and delivered 1,680 hot meals to seniors and more than 400 food baskets to families in just a few months. They delivered groceries, cleaning and hygiene supplies, and learning aids for children.
- Program staff delivered breakfast kits, care packages and grocery cards to young families and single mothers.
- Housing staff used an outreach van to check on clients living in shelters or on the street, delivering food, grocery cards and hygiene supplies.
Then, we took care of clients’ health needs:
- Staff found ways to keep in touch: Wabano’s most vulnerable clients received regular wellness checks to see how they were doing and learn what they needed. Over 7,000 wellness checks were made!
- We turned to technology to provide safe ways to provide support, stay in touch with clients and offer intervention. When clients did not have a computer or Wi-Fi connection, my staff found resources; when clients didn’t have a phone, we took a cell phone to their home so everyone could speak with a doctor or mental wellness counsellor.
- Mental wellness staff responded to almost 500 walk-in visits and conducted 500 phone counselling sessions, supporting clients in recovery and responding to the increase in anxiety and fear that so many experienced.
It was a true test of our resolve. Wabano’s team proved itself every day in every way. I know this because I heard directly from clients. Their appreciation was so deep and so sincere. Although it was definitely the worst of times, it also gave me new confidence that we can meet any challenge. No matter what, we will find ways to provide loving and respectful care for those we serve.
But now we face an escalating crisis once more.
Wabano now faces a double challenge: a significant revenue decline due to having to cancel our Gala and other fundraising activities; and mounting evidence that the winter will mean increased need for Wabano’s critical services.
The pandemic taught us the fundamental teaching of reciprocity, that we are all connected and reliant on one another. I am writing to you today because you have demonstrated that you care about everyone in our community, especially our most vulnerable.
An Elder recently shared with me the teaching of the Cree word kiýipi (pronounced kēpē). Kiýipi is both action AND inaction. While kiýipi has two opposite meanings, its meanings represent two sides of a common concept. On the one side it means: go in a hurry; act now. On the other side it means lie down and rest.
At its heart, kiýipi is teaching us about reciprocity – how the actions of one can impact others.
For those in our community who are struggling to survive, struggling with COVID-19, it is their time to kiýipi “lie down, rest”. For those of us who are comfortably living above the poverty line, it is our time for action. It is our time to kiýipi “act now”.
You can help make a difference for people in critical need, whose time it is to rest and who are not able to prepare for winter without our support.
Thank you for considering how you can kiýipi for our community this winter.
Donations can be made easily on our website, link here by mailing a cheque, or by phoning us.