'Small is all': A simple approach to helping people heal in the Big Land

CBC Radio's The Signal spent a few days in the Big Land speaking with the folks at Mokami Status of Woman in Happy Valley-Goose Bay about how small acts of empathy and kindness are creating big changes in the lives of people that use the organizations services.

CBC Radio's The Signal spent time in the Big Land speaking with the staff at Mokami Status of Woman

A Woman with glasses stands in front of clothing racks.
Stacey Hoffe is the executive director of the Mokami Status of Women Council. (Amanda Gear/CBC)

The Mokami Status of Women Council (MSWC) developed a creative approach to healing for those in need in the Lake Melville region of southern Labrador.

The organization focuses on a person-centred approach in the types of programs and services that they offer. 

Stacey Hoffe, the group's executive director, guides the programming with empathy. 

"We want people to feel comfortable here so that they can share their stories. I think that we are all familiar with some of the realities here in Labrador about intergenerational trauma and isolation," she said. 

"We hear stories about homelessness, mental health and addictions, but despite all of that people are finding ways to connect and cope and build community. There is such a beautiful story of resilience here." 

The MSWC started more than 40 years ago as a shelter for women who were experiencing intimate partner violence. The group has since evolved to create three holistic programs. Those programs inclue a women's centre, a supportive living program and a social enterprise, meant to empower the people that avail of them. 

The women's centre delivers community programming free of charge to all women and gender diverse people. The women helping women, cultural crafts and harm reduction programs are guided by Misty Dyson, the women's centre program coordinator who uses the motto "small is all."

A woman wearing glasses stands in front of clothing racks
The Mokami Status of Women Council developed a creative approach to healing for those in need in the Lake Melville region of southern Labrador. Avery Brown is a social worker for MSWC’s supportive living program. (Amanda Gear/CBC)

"Being told that we are a trusted place to go and a safe place for people really tears at my heartstrings and tells me that we are doing the right things here," Dyson said.

"Our mantra 'small is all' means that we can make big impacts through the little things that people need."

Dyson is an Inuk artist who brings her skills to her work. She builds connections with her clients and between her clients through craft workshops, bingo games and a program called books and babies.

Avery Brow began her work with the group as a student. She's now the full-time social worker for MSWC's supportive living program.

The values of the programs and supports that she offers are intentionally focused on land-based and culturally relevant activities. She focuses on meeting clients where they are in life to provide support beyond giving them a roof over their heads.

"In our housing program we really drill into all of the supports that are unconditional. We are always here for them," she said. "Our supportive housing works off of a housing first model where we look at housing as an inherent human right. We don't believe that there is a prerequisite to housing."

Rosie Winters is a resident of the supportive living program.

She was one of the first residents to move into the program 10 years ago and has returned to the program recently. 

a woman wearing a gray and blue shirt and glasses sits in front of a window
Rosie Winters was one of the first residents to move into the supportive living program 10 years ago and has returned to the program recently. (Amanda Gear/CBC)

"I moved here [to Goose Bay] in 1989 from my hometown of Hopedale. This is my second time living here in the MSWC apartments. I moved here in July 2021," she said. 

"I have had my ups and downs but I get lots of support from the support workers. We go on outings, which is good for us, we go berry picking, we go to the beach and dog sledding and out on walks. There is a lot of help. It's a really great feeling."

Winters lives in a two-bedroom apartment that allows her to have her grandchildren stay with her overnight to stay connected with her family.

MSWC's social enterprise is a thrift store called Thrifty Fashions that provides supportive employment opportunities for youth in the area.

The supportive employment program coordinator and long-time community worker, Patti Maloney, helped create the program.

She works diligently to create a workplace that embraces diversity and inclusion. Maloney provides the youth employee's with more than customer service skills. She teaches them life skills, self empowerment and aims to set them on a positive life path.

A woman with glasses and a white shirt stands in front of a window and a white and purple sign
Patti Maloney is the supportive employment program coordinator at the Mokami Status of Women Council's social enterprise thrift store. (Amanda Gear/CBC)

"Last year, we partnered with Choices For Youth to do a training program that teaches youth how to work in retail, like how to work with cash, sort clothes and work in a store but we go deeper than that," she said. 

"We meet them where they are to. If they are struggling, we work with them so we can make their journey to becoming a successful employee. Instead of working against them we work with them. It just makes sense."

Maloney's dedication to her work with Thrifty's Fashions recently won the organization the Diversity Atlantic Award. It also put them in a finalist position for outstanding workplace and small business of the year for the 2023 Labrador North Chamber of Commerce Business Awards.

Adam Walsh and the Signal crew are in Labrador this week, bringing you special shows from The Big Land. They start at Thrifty Fashions in Happy Valley Goose Bay with folks connected to the Mokami Status of Women Council. Today's theme -- creactive approaches to healing.

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Amanda Gear is an Inuk journalist from Labrador who has a strong focus on Indigenous culture, community and arts.

With files from The Signal