Piwapan – a story of commitment and growth

Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan/Northern Advocate The kitchen facilities in the cabin offer opportunities to extend the services offered through Piwapan programming.
Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan/Northern Advocate
Piwapan Outreach has a new home with many amenities for a growing service including an external cabin to enhance service opportunities.

The La Ronge Native Women’s Council (LRNWC) celebrated the 30th Anniversary of the Piwapan Women’s Centre, the shelter they founded and maintain.
Those in attendance heard the story of what led to the founding of the Centre and much of the early journey for LRNWC from Anita Jackson, who was there in the early years.
Later in the evening, Jackson received the second Louisa Sanderson Award honouring a woman who gave much to the Centre, LRNWC and a friend to the women who found a place at Piwapan.
Chief Tammy Cook-Searson was the first recipient of the award, Karen Sanderson, Piwapan’s executive director, said in an interview with the Northern Advocate.
Jackson received the award in honour of her community involvement, volunteerism, leadership, community mindedness and “caring nature that Louisa had,” she said.
The past board and staff members vote on the award recipient for that year.
Piwapan Outreach has grown and changed since it was added to the LRNWC’s network. The growth involved a move in November to a larger facility on La Ronge Avenue, where they have office, boardroom and client space to better meet their needs. The facility also includes a small cabin, which will work well for their programs such as Kohkum’s Club and youth groups.
“It’s just closer to the rest of us,” Sanderson said. “I think that makes for better teamwork where everybody feels that we’re all close to each other and there to support each other.”
Piwapan moved into Second Stage housing a few years ago and have a four-plex that women, leaving the shelter can move into to continue their journey to wellness for up to 18 months.
An Assistant Director position – a Program Manager, has been added so the responsibility can be shared.
“The Program Manager now looks after the two Outreach programs, on- and off-reserve,” Sanderson said. “She also looks after the shelter … the Community Programs coordinator position and I look after Finance, Crisis Intervention, Human Resources, Relationship Wellness co-ordinator, Youth Worker and the Holistic Sexual Health worker [position]. So, we’ve grown six programs.”
Work with the shelter involves “housing for women and children fleeing violence.”
And the Piwapan has Outreach Workers on- and off- reserve. “They work with clients who are experiencing gender-based violence or interpersonal violence and work with them to offer them support systems within the community referral system, to mental health and addictions, family services and other programs that will help them continue on their wellness journey.”
The Crisis Intervention is a two-year program ending in March. Sanderson said that one looks at the gaps in services within the communities in the north and tries to work to fill those gaps with partnerships and collaborations within the communities.
While there is no opportunity for extending the program, the hope is to build on the work done over the two years within the communities and beyond into the future.
“We have a Relationship Wellness program, which works with the families, including men, women and children,” Sanderson said. “(It) works with the whole family.”
The program is geared for people involved in interpersonal violence and gender-based violence and “works with them to set up healthier wellness plans.” It involves communication plans for people separating due to the violence to make “their relationship a lot healthier for the children, so it’s healing and trauma based and we’re trying to build that relationship, so the children aren’t in a constant state of uncertainty.” It involves healing for men and boys as well as women and girls. “And hopefully heals the family within, right?”
The Youth Worker works with young girls and boys to build healthy activities with the youth and also offer some healthy relationship presentations.
Piwapan offers a Youth Empowerment program, which, Sanderson says, is similar to the Life Transitions 30 offered in schools. It involves work on budgeting, applying for jobs, understanding credit and more.
“If you drop out at Grade 10, Grade 9, you don’t actually get access to [this information], right?” The co-ordinator meets with boys and girls to “do healthy activities, and some learning at the same time, but, they have that connection with this worker if something happens or they need that guide and support; they have her.”
And the Wholistic Sexual Health worker is providing program for anyone wanting “to understand more about sexual health, healthy choices, healthy options, accepting your own sexuality, finding a balance and that acceptance of yourself.” That program is just getting underway and anyone is welcome to inquire about it through Piwapan Outreach.
And Piwapan is networked and active in the wider community. Sanderson, as the executive director, has been involved on the board of directors for Sexual Assault Services for Saskatchewan for 14 or 15 years of her 16 years as ED for Piwapan.
She is also active on the board of directors for the Provincial Association of Transition House of Saskatchewan.
These are organizations offering the opportunity for EDs to come together to discuss, share and work together on issues facing shelters across the province and beyond.
“We’re a roaming member of Women’s Shelter Canada,” which they joined recently and have, also recently, joined the National Aboriginal Council Against Family Violence (NACAFV), based in Montreal, for which Sanderson has taken a place on the executive.
This offers the opportunity for Piwapan, as an Indigenous centre, to have the opportunity to have connection with other Indigenous centres and their staff and boards. It also offers education opportunities that would be beneficial. “We work together to make sure that our clients are feeling safe, feeling cared for, and being understood for what they need. And from Indigenous women as well, cause four of us are Indigenous women, we’re from the communities that we serve, so it’s kind of cultural understanding.”
Their relationship with Sexual Assault Service of Saskatchewan (SASS) offers them the opportunity to share with Prince Albert Crisis a Sexual Assault Counsellor.
“[She] comes up here now twice a month, so we have clients now who are able to access a councillor if they’re a victim of sexual assault.”
While it keeps her busy, the network and connections made through these partnerships, provide much benefit to Piwapan and LRNWC.

Valerie G. Barnes Connell Jordan/Northern Advocate
Karen Sanderson, the Piwapan executive director, speaks during the Women’s Gala Nov. 10. She shares the Piwapan story.