This post was written by Carole Carpot-Lacassagne, Basic Needs Coordinator at the Women’s Centre
At the Women’s Centre almost 52% of the women in our community are experiencing poverty. This constant struggle to find food and shelter, to pay bills, and ultimately to maintain dignity affects women and their families all year round.
But the holiday season can be a particularly difficult time for women in our community. Faced with the holiday cheer and constant messaging of joy, some women experience the opposite. Surrounded by excitement and tremendous pressure to consume, many in our community have told us they feel incredibly excluded.
This is why having access to community at the Women’s Centre is crucial to women during the holidays. The Centre is more than a place where women come to find help or resources. It is a place where women can come sit on the couch and have coffee in peace without any pressure. It is a place where we connect with one another as women and respect each other’s choices. We listen with empathy and without judgement – something that can be particularly valuable during the holidays.
We know more than half of our Women’s Centre community is experiencing poverty, and we also know 37% of women in our community are single mothers. For parents raising children on a low income, the thought of being unable to afford that special gift a child has been requesting for months creates high levels of anxiety and powerlessness. While the holidays can be a time of giving, they also represent a time of year where resources are stretched, diminishing opportunities for help. With communities busy planning and purchasing, social networks ramp up for some, but fizzle out for others.
During the holidays, women without access to other holiday support are able to choose a gift for their children, and a gift for themselves, at our Holiday Toy Room. At the heart of our Toy Room are the principles of empathy, non-judgement, and choice. Rather than dictate to women what gift they will receive for themselves and their children, we give women the opportunity to choose gifts for their family, based on their individual interests and needs. Our Holiday Toy Room helps women navigate the holidays with dignity by creating the opportunity for women to choose a gift for their children based on multiple options, the same way many would choose a gift for a loved one at their favourite store.
The Women’s Centre is committed to being a space where women can find serenity, support and resources during this difficult time of year. A lack of means to participate in the holiday buzz can make the holidays a truly stressful and anxiety-ridden time. It is our goal to combat this in the ways we are able, ensuring every woman in Calgary has the opportunity to participate in holiday activities in the ways she would like to. Our incredible community of donors, volunteers, and women is crucial to helping us carry out this work, and we recognize that each and every act makes the holidays brighter for women!
To learn how to support our holiday programs at the Women’s Centre, click here.