The launch of the 2021 United Way of Calgary Campaign three weeks ago was an incredible moment of Calgarian spirit for me and my co-chair, Janet Soles. Together with United Way CEO, Karen Young, and Mayor Nenshi, we kicked off an annual campaign that aims to refocus Calgarians on their history as a caring, compassionate community that comes together during hard times.
There is a tremendous determination amongst our amazing Campaign Cabinet volunteer leaders and the various companies gearing up for their own campaigns to ensure vulnerable Calgarians across our city get the help they need.
Karen, Janet, myself and everyone at United Way are deeply grateful for the commitment of our volunteers and donors as the campaign gets underway, all while everyone tries to personally navigate the impacts of public health measures on their families once more. We’re counting on that deep Calgarian caring spirit to really come through. Thanks so much!
In my role as co-chair on this campaign, I have the opportunity to visit some of the remarkable agencies supported by United Way of Calgary and Area, including Miskanawah in the city’s northeast. During our visit, we spoke with CEO, Kirby Redwood, and Manager, Jennifer Fox about the vital services Miskanawah provides to the Indigenous community.
Miskanawah, pronounced mis-con-a-wah”, is a Cree word deeply rooted in traditional values and philosophies that means, “many little roads or paths.” Based on Indigenous teachings, ceremonies and guidance from Elders, it signifies the need for people to work alongside each other on their various personal and family journeys through life.
Kirby and Jennifer explained how Miskanawah’s breadth of services—centered on a holistic approach — support Indigenous families who may be struggling with addictions, domestic violence or other challenges. Miskanawah provides initial crisis intervention then longer-term support through counselling and access to social services connected to Indigenous culture and practices. This approach is much more effective as it links people to a wider community that can promote healing, nurture children and build parenting skills for caregivers.
The team also has early childhood programs for children up to six years old, education centred around Elders, and operates several programs for Youth ranging from ages 12 to 29. This includes the Diamond Willow Youth Lodge, a hub for building friendships and fostering learning and healing through programs supported by United Way.
Thousands of Indigenous families are suffering from the trauma of residential schools and its long-lasting multi-generational impact. In discussions I have had with them over the past few years, residential school survivors and Indigenous leaders stress the vital importance that a sense of community and identity is rebuilt.
Miskanawah is doing just that by embedding traditional values and beliefs into the delivery of services and offering powerful healing and cultural support through its team of crisis workers, counsellors, youth and family programs. With the continued support of donors, United Way of Calgary will be able to continue to fund this holistic and culturally inclusive approach to helping Indigenous families, children and youth in need.
Retired, Shell Canada President and Country Chair
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