Community is Always Changing. What the Community Asks of Us, We Bring Forward
SEED Winnipeg partners with many local, community-driven organizations. One of the original matched savings partner organizations is Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre (often shortened to Ma Mawi). Ma Mawi joined the Partnership in 2006 to deliver the Saving Circle program. This partnership continues to expand: SEED staff now assist with tax filing onsite at Ma Mawi in addition to providing direct funding assistance for their ID Fund.
Ma Mawi was incorporated in 1984 and is the largest non-profit, non-mandated, Indigenous led organization in Manitoba. SEED is fortunate to be counted among its 85 organizational partnerships. The meaning of the Ojibway expression, from which its name is derived, translates to “we all work together to help one another” which describes this partnership well.
The partnership is especially important in light of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action to corporate entities: 92.ii. Ensure that Aboriginal peoples have equitable access to jobs, training, and education opportunities in the corporate sector, and that Aboriginal communities gain long-term sustainable benefits from economic development projects.
Garry Richard, a Ma Mawi team leader, explains “Things happened in the past but we are living [them] today. That is why it’s so important for us to do what we are doing now.” Ma Mawi provides many community-directed services, such as “emergency supports, like our lunch program where we feed anywhere from 400 to 600 people a week.”
My hope is that places like this are no longer needed down the road.
Garry participates in the Manitoba Financial Empowerment Network (MFEN) Steering Committee, which SEED helped launch in coordination with Community Financial Counciling Services, the Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council, and the United Way Winnipeg. This initiative seeks to increase the scale of financial empowerment program delivery while addressing the larger systemic barriers to financial well being. The MFEN Steering Committee draws on a wide scope of participants ranging from academics, to large scale systems like Employment and Income Assistance, the Canada Revenue Agency, and Assiniboine Credit Union, while connecting to community-based organizations such as the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba, and Ma Mawi.
“As you grow up in the Indigenous community, money management is not something you are assisted with. In some instances, we have third generation EIA recipients, and a lot of the time they are not [or cannot be] teaching their children how to manage their finances. So that’s an issue, that’s where programs like Saving Circle come in and help.”
Indeed, 75-80% of participants who access SEED’s ID Fund are of Indigenous descent. By targeting programming and resources to directly address the ongoing impact of colonization, SEED seeks to be more equitable and responsive to community needs. Ma Mawi continues to be a key partner in this arena: their direct connection to Winnipeg’s Indigenous community drives focused and impactful programming. In Garry’s words, “Ma Mawi is a community driven organization.”
Speaking to the effectiveness of the partnership, he follows up: “It’s been great.” Since SEED and Ma Mawi have begun working together, “I see an increase in community wanting to take that step forward out of poverty, to benefit themselves.”
“We are fighting a war against poverty and everything that comes with it. The addictions, the struggles, the broken homes where kids are in care, parents are alone, and kids are away from their parents. We are here to fight that. We are a spoke in the wheel, just like SEED is. We are both working towards the same thing. We need programs like SEED – and I am hoping that SEED would also say the same thing about us. That we can count on each other – we can send people to them and they can send people to us”
“My hope is that places like this are no longer needed down the road.”