Updated: Sep 6, 2022
When talking to people about the work Women's Centres do I often find it really helpful to tell them my personal story, because it’s a text book example of the magic that can happen when women support each other.
So long ago (but not too very far away) my marriage to my emotionally abusive partner was unravelling. I found myself alone and isolated raising a two-year old and a four-year old virtually on my own. I was broke, lost, confused, and embarrassed at my situation. My mother (an extremely wise woman) insisted I go to a Women’s Centre and talk to them about my circumstances. After some personal resistance on my part, I reluctantly (more to get my mom off my back than anything else) agreed to drop in at the local Women’s Centre. I was greeted with open arms, and a lovely, older women put aside everything she was doing and sat with me. The first thing I told her was that I didn’t even know why I was there, just that my mom had made me come. She just laughed and said, "Well since you’re here we might as well have a cup of tea.” Her gentle, caring, and accepting manner made me feel so comfortable that, before I knew it, my story was pouring out.
When I left the Centre that day, I had a plan, I had a list of resources and I no longer felt alone. Months later I relocated to Campbell River and one of the first things I did was go to our Centre. I signed on as a volunteer, and began a twelve week training course, followed by another training course in Peer Counselling. I was on Social Assistance (as it was then called) doing a lot of volunteering in the community and getting ready to go back to school, when the Social Credit Government (remember them?) cut welfare rates to single mothers. I was devasted and panicked. One of the Coordinators at the Centre told me not to worry, they would help me find a job. Which they promptly did. I began working at the Transition Society in 1987, which was the start of my professional life in social services and later in non-profit management and consultancy.
I look back on my own career that has now spanned four decades (Wow! Does that ever make me feel old!) and for the most part I’m satisfied with the contribution I’ve been able to make to my community. As an individual, I’ve done my best to “pay it forward”, as have the dozens of women I’ve met over the years who have had similar Women’s Centre experiences. My co-worker (another really wise and kind woman), when asked whether we “still” need Women’s Centres always says, “When we support and empower women they are better able to support and empower their own families. Healthy families make for healthy communities and healthy communities benefit us all.”