Every few months, I hear about a new project or fundraiser that 1JustCity is planning to raise funds or resources for their four outreach sites. A few of the events they’ve held in the past include:
- Crochet of Caring –> where they made sleeping mats out of plastic shopping bags!
- Jenga 4 Justice
- We Will Wear What We Want –> a day to encourage women to choose what to wear based on their personal style, culture or religious beliefs
- Chorus for a Cause
- JustGifts –> a Christmas fundraising campaign!
- Wear it Again Brunch for Bras –> which they wittingly described as “Helping women who’ve left domestic violence or are experiencing poverty get the support they need!”
I had to learn more about this creative organization and the great work they’re doing in Winnipeg, so we decided to feature them for our next organization feature! Below are answers from their Executive Director, Tessa Blaikie Whitecloud, and Tyler Andrade, their Comms lead!
1. Tell us a bit about 1JustCity! How did it get started?
1JustCity is a Winnipeg non-profit organization founded on four pillars: love, reconciliation, growth, and community.
These four pillars result in four direct actions:
- loving the underloved
- working towards reconciliation
- growing individuals capacity
- building inclusive communities.
In 2015, 4 member charities came together as one to visualize a city that was more just. They recognized that by working together, they could do more for the people they serve. Our services include meal programs, emergency food, haircuts, showers, laundry, toiletries, and clean undergarments. Fundamentally though we love people, tell them they’re valued and invite them to learn to love themselves.
2. Are there any specific campaigns, projects, or initiatives you are working on right now that Winnipeggers should know about?
Across our four sites we have over 40 programs – whether it’s literacy, art, or music – they’re all oriented towards people creating an identity for themselves that is not rooted in poverty. For too many, poverty is all they see in themselves and, for too many others, their traumas and barriers get in the way of seeing themselves as having worth. As part of our Indigenous Cultural Programming aiming to support the reclamation of lost and stolen identities, we offer weekly creative art projects, such as; painting, building dream catchers, and reintroducing traditional practices and ways of being. This happens weekly at each of our sites and is going to be highlighted in the Winnipeg Foundation’s June Magazine.
3. Can you tell us a story from someone who has benefited from the work you’re doing?
At 1JustCity, we strive to help love as many of the underloved as we possibly can through our diverse programming and services. It is especially difficult to qualify any single experience, as our guests come to us from many different walks of life.
There are two ways people benefit – either by receiving support and friendship or offering support and friendship.
Here are two stories that highlight two young men:
Tyler is a regular volunteer with 1JustCity, a U of W grad and an avid soccer player: Here’s his favourite moment: “After 2 years of volunteering, one of my fondest memories comes from my time checking in sleepers at 1 Just City’s Just a Warm Sleep initiative. When I first met (Janet), she was shy, reclusive, and hardly spoke. It wasn’t strange if she kept to herself and didn’t say much. One night, I saw Janet seated on a bench with a friend. The two of them were seated visiting one another. Janet recognized me and invited me to join them. Because of my time with Just A Warm Sleep, I was able to share a memorable and meaningful moment that reaches beyond the walls of 1JustCity with a new found friend. Without 1JustCity, a moment like this, simply would never have happened.”
Then there’s Phillip who started court-mandated volunteering at one of our sites in 2015, as told by our Executive Director Tessa:
“The first time I met Phillip I asked for our site director Caryn and he shrugged and pointed never making eye contact.
Two weeks later, I came in asked for Caryn and he pointed and said over there.
Two weeks later, I came and he was unloading the food delivery from Winnipeg Harvest and he smiled at me with his hands full of boxes.
Two weeks later, I came in and he said “Hello, Caryn is just in her office but what do you always come here to see her for?” I explained my position was to raise money for the ministry to be able to keep doing the good stuff it was doing in the community.
Two weeks later, I came by and Phillip stopped me and said “I know you need to see Caryn but its that guy’s birthday and we’re trying to make it special, can you say Happy Birthday first?”
Another two weeks past and I was pretty sure Phillip was done his ‘time’ with us. I asked Caryn why he was volunteering still – he was too busy in the drop-in to make conversation with me this time.
Caryn told me the following conversation has occurred between them days before:
Caryn said to Phillip, “We’re all going to be sad here when your time is done, you’re doing so much good here.”
Phillip said, “I did good?”
Caryn replied, “You are doing good, you help with everything, you make everyone feel special, we’d be happy to have you stick around!”
Phillip responded, “I’ve never done good”
Caryn compassionately offered that was perhaps because he’d never been given the chance.
Philip continued to volunteer for weeks after his sentence was done.
4. What’s one of your favourite things about Winnipeg?
At 1JustCity we love working together to make our city better, and we love how Winnipeggers rally to do the same. The idea for Just a Warm Sleep came from Aboriginal Youth Opportunities, the space was donated by Augustine United Church, and volunteers who we’d never worked with before showed up and made it real!
Winnipeg pulls off major feats.
5. What do you think is a big human rights issue that Winnipeg, as a city, needs to address?
At 1JustCity we believe it’s a human right to be treated with respect. Being forced to jump through tons of hoops to get support when you have a disability, building houses only for the wealthy that leave others struggling to find housing, not being able to access culturally competent care because you don’t have a permanent address, all of these things are telling people in our society that they don’t matter. We believe they do.
6. If 1JustCity was given a $1 million dollar donation right now, what is one way you would consider using it?
We would get more laundry and shower services, as the line up for this can be over two months long. Imagine trying to schedule a job interview for a day when you have clean clothes with that kind of wait. One of our sites offers this but it needs an upgrade and another site is just developing the project to put it in now. This is important environmentally as well as for people’s health, job prospects and dignity. If there was more access to laundry, we’d give away less clean socks, because people could wash their own, meaning there are less socks in the garbage.
7. Are there any present or upcoming opportunities for Winnipeggers to get involved with your organization?
We are always welcoming and encouraging new volunteers to become members of the 1JustCity family. A great opportunity for Winnipeggers to get involved would be during our regular drop-in programming. Our drop-in provides a safe, comfortable, and accepting space for community members who would otherwise be lonely and hungry.
Volunteer opportunities can include:
- compassionate listening
- food preparation and serving
- office work and administration
- program facilitation
- food supplement program
- computer support
- art mentoring etc.
Volunteerism is not only essential to our day-to-day operations—but fostering leaders through volunteering is a core part of our programming. We empower members of the local community by creating volunteer opportunities that suit their interests and abilities and this ultimately helps create a more just community for all Winnipeggers.
8. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?
We don’t do this alone, everyday our big-hearted donors make possible the love we share at 1JustCity with the underloved. Our guests tell us all the time they come for family, for human connection, for friendship, for hugs… That’s love and you can be the heart behind it!