From its inception, Women on the Rise has offered holistic support by hosting complimentary services for mothers and their children.  Our Smart Start/Children’s Corner program is one of the most cherished streams of our work, and is exceptional in the landscape of social services in NDG for some time.  In these sessions, children learn confidence and pride in their culture, practice routines and social interactions, and familiarize themselves with skills needed for school readiness.  Kids share meals, make crafts, play together and learn life skills while their mothers are in a different room- socializing, learning, and investing in themselves.  Our early childhood educators collaborate with mothers to share updates and tips on their child’s development, and have played a vital role in supporting mothers with multiple challenges.  This relationship has always been built on trust and respect, and has been an empowering experience for all as we witness children growing up before our very eyes!

Below is a story from a major player in the success of our children’s programs, Sylvie Laferrière.  Sylvie retired from the CIUSSS-CO on October 8th, and we had the chance to sit down with her to talk about her time with Women on the Rise, and the work that goes on behind the scenes. Sylvie started working with Women on the Rise as a SIPPE liaison agent between the organization and the CLSC NDG Montreal-West in 2004, supporting our children’s programming. She put in place a table of organizations that worked with families that had kids between the ages of 0 and 5, it was called SIPPE [service intégré en périnatalité et pour la petite enfance]. The goal of this table of organizations was to develop projects and services to respond to the needs of vulnerable families with kids between the ages 0 to 5. Sylvie describes the impact of SIPPE, saying it changed the landscape of how organizations functioned.

 

“It developed into a network of organizations that helped each other out and supported each other... I think the SIPPE program really allowed for more collective work, collective effort, and collective knowledge.” - Sylvie

Prior to SIPPE, the community organizations’ environment was competitive and inequitable. “everybody was in survival mode” says Sylvie. SIPPE encouraged organizations to help each other grow instead, while facilitating communication with the government and funders.

 

A big challenge Women on the Rise faced when asking for funding was unrealistic expectations from funders. SIPPE was able to remedy that since its community organizers knew how to communicate the needs of organizations to the governments and funders. SIPPE allowed Sylvie to advocate on behalf of Women on the Rise, and other 0 to 5 organizations, as well as the people it supports. Despite the funders’ expectations of constant innovation from community organizations, SIPPE offered a platform for community organizers explain that there would be repeated requests to fund to same programs, because those programs were working.

“This place is all about heart, and they've gone through so many obstacles and challenges with funding. I don't know how, but they still maintained services with shoestring budgets.” - Sylvie

A snapShot INTO OUR CHILDREN'S PROGRAM 

Sylvie maintains that Women on the a Rise’s participants wouldn’t go anywhere else even if the organization closed down. “Because I think the people that come here trust you” Sylvie says. It is like a second home. “The reason it was called Black Women on the Rise for a long time was because the cultural differences were important” Sylvie explains. Grace and other staff members have unique experiences as a Black women that a lot of people in the public system, where diversity and equality are still lacking, don’t have.

“It takes a while for the impact to show. The impact is only proven over time, and that's where the difficult part comes in” - Grace Campbell

Sylvie explains that one of the things she noticed as a community organizer was that the organizations never asked for enough funding. Women on the Rise struggled with this and Sylvie had to encourage them to ask for more.  “I’m such a big believer in qualitative data rather than quantitative data” Grace says. They have been fighting to show that there is value in helping 10 mothers and 15 kids and impacting them positively for life, rather than temporarily helping 100 parents and 200 kids. Sylvie was able to help them ‘sell’ those nuances and differences to funders.

“The staff at WOR have an ability to make people feel comfortable. Which is a skill that you don't see everywhere, but they have an ability to make anybody who walks through the door feel safe.”
- Sylvie

WOR has been so fortunate to have collaborated with Sylvie and the team at SIPPE, and we are so proud to have been able to support so many children in the past 30 years!  Stay tuned in the new year as we share more stories from our children’s program, outings, and parties!

The interview this newsletter is based on was conducted by Francesca Mourad and Gabrielle Vendette.

The newsletter was written by Francesca Mourad.