Project: Intergenerational Mentorship (IM) Program
Organization: Atira Women’s Resource Society * Region: British Columbia * Project Funded in Fall 2015
Atira Women’s Resource Society knows that intergenerational relationships are a vital part of all human growth and development. In the fall of 2015, the Catherine Donnelly Foundation funded through its Housing stream the Intergenerational Mentorship (IM) Program. This initiative was designed to connect women from two of Atira’s housing sites to promote cross-generational relationships and social inclusion based on First Nations traditions. Atira first conceived the idea for the program in 2013 during the construction of Oneesan Housing, Canada’s first social housing development built with recycled shipping containers, which is located next door to Atira’s Imouto Housing for Young Women. Atira realized that the proximity of the two buildings could be used to the advantage of a multigenerational mentorship program, where older women living at Oneesan could have a safe, affordable and stable place to live while contributing their lived experiences and their stories to the young women at Imouto.
Sometimes family relationships and cultural bonds are lost in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. They are lost because many of the women house at Atira grew up in foster care, because many are First Nations, Métis or Inuit and have grown up in the shadow of the residential school system, and because of challenges with substance use, mental wellness, and even death. Atira’s Intergenerational Mentorship Program created opportunities for both older and younger women to rebuild those connections by providing safe, affordable housing to younger and older women participating in the program, as well as facilitated activities aimed at helping program participants develop meaningful relationships.
Through this program which continues today, older women at Oneesan and younger women at Imouto, have the opportunity to share their personal knowledge, life stories and teach and learn from each other. The participants are able to contribute to culturally-safe paths to treatment and prevention for struggles with substance use and maintaining mental wellness. They take part in weekly activities including communal meals, arts/crafts workshops and a 16-Step group. Atira believes that the rebuilding of intergenerational relationships can help support women who have experienced the impact of direct, systemic and multigenerational violence and trauma. Their long-term goal for the IM Program is for older and younger women to work together to bring healing to their communities. The Catherine
The Catherine Donnelly Foundation congratulates Atira in their efforts of working alongside women to create a stable and caring housing environment, where they can rebuild their confidence and trust in others.