Where Did We Come From and Why Are We Here? (Part I)
Updated: Nov 16, 2019
1982 - A group of women came together to form a self-help network. They held their meetings in the home of one of their members. These women then took it upon themselves to undertake a survey asking the wider population of women in Campbell River what services they needed. Campbell River women responded by saying that they wanted a place downtown where they could feed and change their babies, have a coffee, meet other women and get information.
1983 – The Campbell River Women’s Resource Society was born, and the Society applied for, and received, funding from the Women’s Program - Secretary of State for its initial operational expenses.
1984 – The Women’s Centre opened its first drop-in centre on Shopper’s Row.
1985 – The Centre, having outgrown its original storefront moved to a new location on 10th Avenue, where it stayed for the next 22 years.
2013 – The Centre moved from its third location on Ironwood Road, to its new home in Rose Harbour.
2019 – The Women’s Resource Society succumbs to financial pressures and is formally dissolved, but only after the Campbell River Transition Society adopts the Women’s Centre and pledges to keep the Drop-in Centre opened.
So there’s the basic timeline, the historical skeleton on which the Women’s Centre rests. But what, I hear you asking is the work we do. Well as you can imagine, in its 34 years of operations the Centre has undergone a lot of changes. When I first started volunteering at the Centre in 1986, it was opened 40 hours a week, and had two Coordinators, support staff and an army of over 100 volunteers. It ran Court Watch and Ad Buster Programmes, offered workshops and courses on self-esteem, assertiveness training, anger management and self defense. It hosted discussions about gender politics and women’s spirituality, and was a safe place for women to come together and explore life’s larger themes. In those days the Centre was able to provide extensive training to its volunteers, many of whom went on to attend further training in peer-counselling skills and became skilled peer counsellors themselves. In addition, the Centre was also able to provide child-minding supports that allowed women to more easily participate in the life of the Centre. It was an exciting time.
2001 brought a change in our provincial government which resulted in the defunding of Women’s Centres. The operational funding that had provided our organization with stability disappeared almost overnight. As a result, many of our province’s Women’s Centres ended up either closing or transforming into “Family Centres” or in some cases “Friendship Centres”.
Here in Campbell River the Board of Directors and their senior manager made a Herculean effort to not only keep our Center open but also to continue to honour its original mission: “…. To provide services dedicated to the education, support, communication and empowerment of women in a safe and unique environment….” They were successful in their endeavours, although it meant running the Centre with a much-diminished staff, and virtually no programming. With no one available to organize or support them, over time, our corps of volunteers dwindled, and when I started here in 2004, as a Coordinator of Volunteers, I inherited a rooster of just two active volunteers.
I suppose this “fall” from our glory days could all be considered very sad, but I prefer to look at this in a different way. I prefer to look at our Centre, with all its ups and downs, as the concrete embodiment of the spirits of the thousands of women who have passed through our doors. Like our clients, the Centre has proven itself to be resilient – determined and creative in the face of adversity, and responsive to the needs of those around us.
*Just an authors note: I’ve started this Blog with the aim of celebrating the life of the Centre and the lives of women in general. If you have experiences or stories you’d like to share drop me an email. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org