This is the YWCA?!

I’m new. As a new staff person in Communications and Advocacy, I get to go on “The Tour” with CEO Heather McGregor. I’ve worked in Communications in Toronto for a long time because I like to tell stories. So, the prospect of an entire day with the leader of a woman-centred organization is really exciting to me! My principle responsibility at the YWCA is social media. I’m eager to learn about this place so I can tell you about it.

First stop: Elm St. The YWCA Elm Centre is the YWCA’s new 300 apartment residence. This isn’t really a stop; it’s a drive-by. This place will open this summer. It will be home to 300 women and their families, 50 of those from the Aboriginal community. It will also house YWCA administrative offices. I muse about how this will affect my commute to work but more importantly, this site is a great place for people to live — close to everything. New construction, right downtown? Wow!

Second stop: Pape Apartments. This is permanent rent–geared-to-income housing. I meet the Property Manager, Scott who shows me a bright, airy unit. He talks excitedly about finally being able to upgrade the heating and air conditioning in the building. It seems like it’ll be difficult for the residents during the construction period but what a difference when it’s finished! The second person I meet is the Community Worker, Mary. She tells me about the Positivity Group that the residents run. They set goals and hold each other accountable. As someone who occasionally takes advice off the side of Lululemon bags, I’m impressed that people come together to support each other this way.

Third stop: The YWCA Women’s Shelter. I learn a new term here—trauma-informed. The staff group tells me that trauma-informed means knowing that suffering through traumatic events has a profound impact on behaviour and action, no matter how small or simple. The staff run the shelter knowing that everyone there has been deeply affected by violence. They know that the smallest things can become huge concerns because the women there have had little control in their lives.

Fourth stop: The Girls’ Centre, the Family Support Centre, the Skills Development Centre are all here at address. I can barely read my notes, I was writing so fast! Four floors of programs to help girls and women through so many different stages of life. There’s a walk-in for parents looking for help, employment training programs, job search programs, skills development programs, life skills training, coaching and publications AND girls’ leadership training here. (Phew!) Perhaps I`m having a hard time following because my blood sugar is low? All the staff know Heather (as you might expect when someone has lead an organization for 15 years,) and all want to update her face to face and take the opportunity to tell me what they`re doing! So many stories to tell and I have so many questions…not the least of which is will we ever stop for lunch?

I`m a believer in shorter blog posts so if you want to find out what happens next on the Tour, you`ll have to come back!

Melanie Persaud is the new Part-Time Senior Communications and Advocacy Officer at YWCA Toronto. You can see more of her posts on Twitter and Facebook.