When it comes to building a healthy community in the North End, Diane Roussin and the staff of Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre are some of the local experts.
Since 1984 Ma Mawi has been offering a range of family and youth programs dedicated to rebuilding Aboriginal families with the firm belief that the entire community has responsibility for the healthy development of future generations.
One of its largest projects was to help revitalize the old North End YMCA-YWCA on McGregor Street that had fallen into disrepair over the years. “People could remember what it once was and how it could be a gathering place again,” says Roussin. Through extensive community consultations, lots of fundraising and reconstruction the old North End Y got a new lease on life. It opened in late 2009 as Win Gardner Place.
“We think of it as the living room of the North End,” she says. “The coffee is always on. Families can do some laundry, use the phone or Internet or engage in many of the numerous programs for families, youth or seniors. It has become a point of wellness in the North End.”
With three community-care sites and over 50 programs and services with numerous partners and funders, Ma Mawi has become respected as an organization that understands the needs of Aboriginal families in the North End and is helping improve their lives.
So when Roussin says the social well-being of the North End needs more than Ma Mawi, you listen. “As an Aboriginal organization we know people walk in the door as a whole person and we have to understand all their needs. It’s the same with a neighbourhood. The neighbourhood is a whole and the parts are all so integrated. And so if one part is not healthy it affects all the other parts,”Roussin says.
“Part of what makes a neighbourhood unhealthy is if it is trying to survive without a good financial institution, because residents then become reliant on expensive payday-loan options. We are social service providers but we know banking is a service we all need,” Roussin says. “A good financial institution contributes to good health. Having financial options is so important and is part of a person’s overall health, just like having a grocery store in the area or a drop-in centre for kids or seniors.”
Learn more about how Assiniboine’s McGregor Branch brought financial services back into the North End.
Excerpt from asterisk October 2012 print edition.