For many organizations, 2022 came with challenges due to changes such as pandemic restrictions and increasing prices. Despite those barriers, Agape House found the positives and made the most of the past year.
Looking back, Executive Director Tracy Whitby says that 2022 was “fantastic” for the organization. The lifting of restrictions allowed them to hold in-person events such as Teddy Bear Fun Day and participate in the Taste of Summer Charity Barbecue.
“We were actually able to be in the public again and see people and make connections. Being able to host these events that were so important to our organization after they had been on hold for so many years just felt amazing,”
The government also announced an increase in core funding for gender-based violence sectors, which is guaranteed funding that will continue in the coming years.
“All of the shelters, whole gender-based violence sector has been without increase for 13, 14 years, a really long time and we've been super fortunate to have such a wonderful community who has supported us throughout that time. It allows us to do so many things. We're super excited,” Whitby said.
She adds that the increase allows them to add safety features and build capacity to serve their clients.
The rising costs of essentials have impacted the organization. However, throughout the year, Whitby witnessed the beauty in the struggles, which she says is one of her “big takeaways.”
“Inflation is already hitting our bottom line in our budgets, and we are incredibly grateful for organizations that will give us food, give us essentials. There's definitely a need in our organization and there's a need in many other organizations,” Whitby said. “One theme I'm seeing as we come out of the pandemic and that I am so happy about is the collaboration between agencies. It's just beautiful to see. I think if we come together and pool our resources, then we're able to support community members even better,”
They have collaborated with Steinbach Community Outreach, Steinbach Family Resource Centre, Southeast Helping Hands and Southern Health.
In addition to working with other organizations, Whitby also shows her gratitude for those in the community who “step up and offer support.”
“Whether it's volunteering or financial donations or just spreading that conversation and that that awareness really shows that people are listening and people recognize that there's a need,”
The pandemic shined a spotlight on mental health and gender-based violence. Whitby notes that the past few years have shown an upward trend when it comes to breaking the stigma on conversations about these topics.
“Mental health is definitely an area that needs support. Domestic violence and addictions are all very closely linked as well,” Whitby said. “I think we will continue to open up this conversation and we will continue to see movement forward in a positive direction,”
Whitby expects 2023 to be a year of growth and new opportunities for the organization.
"We have lots of hopes and plans and dreams for Agape House. We are looking to expand our team. We are in the midst of a big recruitment strategy and we want to bring on lots and lots of new team members,” Whitby said and adds that addressing gaps in the structure of their organization is a step that they are also hoping to take.
They are also introducing new programs in the new year including Caring Dads, which is a 17-week program that will be offered in mid-February.
“It is for men who have been abusive to their partners in the past and who have children who have witnessed abuse. They do need to have access to their children to be eligible for this program, and it is a referral-based program. It's long, but it teaches new behaviours. It addresses what has happened in the past, and it helps you to implement healthier behaviours going forward to bring your family together in a healthier, meaningful way so that we can essentially break that cycle,” Whitby said.
In addition to Caring Dads, they are gearing up for Phoenix Project, which runs in January, and are planning for their International Women’s Day event in March.
“We have been incredibly grateful to have such a supportive community. We're super looking forward to 2023 and all of the new things that are going to happen,” Whitby said.
She encourages those interested in connecting with and learning more about Agape House to visit them on Instagram, Facebook and their website at agapehouse.ca.
With files from Dave Anthony.