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Why I Started the Avana Empowerment Fund
Trigger Warning: Domestic violence

When I was a kid, I witnessed domestic violence.

This might not be something you’d expect to hear from the CEO of a successful company. Or someone who grew up in the whitest of white, middle-class suburbs of Saskatchewan.

But the reality is that domestic violence is present in all parts of our society, even places you wouldn’t expect it to be. I saw it in my community. And when I was a kid, I vowed to myself that I never wanted myself or anyone else to ever feel the fear, shame, or instability that often comes with witnessing domestic violence.

This vow to be able to be independent and define a better life for me and my loved ones is what drove me to bust my ass off in school and at work. I was fortunate to break the cycle of domestic violence by establishing myself with financial freedom, putting in the grind to succeed in a demanding finance career. But I know that I had a lot of opportunities to help me along the way, and this is why I’m so passionate about helping single mothers gain stability and independence.

It’s why I steered my company to not only become a purpose-led organization that builds affordable housing but one that hires talented women. It’s why I established the Avana foundation and the Avana Empowerment Fund supporting single mothers.

And it’s why I’m so passionate about helping as many women as possible gain independence.

Is Domestic Violence an Issue?

Yes.

And a significant one.

There are 100,000 victims of domestic violence in Canada each year.

When someone is trying to leave a dangerous home situation, they may turn to a crisis shelter — somewhere you can only stay short-term. In Regina, the YWCA is one of the shelters that provide this type of service.

But crisis shelters severely lack the capacity to meet demand, and 300 women and kids get turned away each night across the country.

Without a safe place to sleep, your choices are essentially…return to the unsafe home, couch surf (so to speak — a little harder to do so with kids in tow), or homelessness.

There are also second-stage shelters — heavily secured buildings with round-the-clock surveillance intended to help protect women and children facing dangerous circumstances. SOFIA House, also located n Regina, is one shelter that offers this type of housing support.

But second-stage shelters also don’t have the capacity to take everyone in, with extensive waitlists and zero provincial funding to help them do their work.

Without a safe, stable place to build a better life for yourself and your kids, how can you move forward?

So, What Exactly is the Avana Empowerment Fund?

Let’s say a single mother and her kids have been able to move through the shelter system (even though it’s not a linear path), and they’re at a point where they can start their next chapter. They need a place to live but may not have the resources to afford rent — let alone in a safe neighbourhood. Not only are they living with a single income, but it’s also likely that income is low.

If having access to good schools is beneficial to kids, and a safe neighbourhood is advantageous to the whole family…how will we break the cycle and help our children to build better lives?

Seeing this gap perpetuated makes me absolutely furious.

I overcame it because I built a successful career and became financially independent at a young age. I didn’t need to rely on a partner (or my parents). I had the privilege to build the future I dreamed of because I had access to education and resources that so many others do not.

Feeling the anger and frustration of the inequality I was seeing was not enough. I knew I needed to take action and do something to help. So, I steered Avana to build affordable housing in safe, family-friendly neighbourhoods so that more people could build better lives. Recognizing that single mother families needed extra help, the Avana Foundation launched a privately funded initiative, the Avana Empowerment Fund, to provide more financial support to this vulnerable group. The Avana Empowerment Fund, in partnership with YWCA Regina, helps single mother families escaping domestic violence with funding and resources so that they can take steps to build their next chapter as Avana residents. They get access to Avana’s safe, quality, affordable housing and can send their kids to great schools and be part of a progressive community.

What’s the Gap Being Filled by the Avana Empowerment Fund?

The Avana Empowerment Fund exists because our communities don’t have the provincial resources and funding to effectively help single mothers escaping domestic violence move through the shelter system. As a result, there are constant shelter shortages, and there isn’t a clear path to help get these families back on their feet and moving forward.

In Saskatchewan, the government funding for second-stage shelters (like SOFIA House mentioned above) is non-existent. Other provinces fund the operation of these critical, life-saving shelters.

Saskatchewan does not. And that’s unacceptable.

The Avana Empowerment Fund aims to fill this gap by helping these courageous women by setting them up with solid footing in longer-term homes that offer them and their children safety, quality, and positivity where it matters most — at home.

Want to help? Get in touch with your local shelter and volunteer or donate today.

Further Reading…

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