YWCA NWT has released its annual report, highlighting the work that the non-profit organization has done during the COVID pandemic, and it’s seeking clarity from the GNWT.

The YWCA housed 96 families, prevented 80 families from becoming homeless and helped 39 people find employment, among other achievements, according to the report, which was released on Sept. 27.

COVID proved to be a significant obstacle, however.

“The pandemic itself has been really challenging in many ways and we had to pivot a lot to with the work that we do,” said Hawa Dumbuya-Sesay, executive director of YWCA NWT. “Trying to navigate the new health orders as they become available, trying to figure out what support our staff needs, what support our clients need in order to prevent high turn over.

“There was a lot of the issues with staff being worried about going to work and feeling safe while at work because they were not sure about the people that were coming in to access our services,” she added. “We spent a lot of time having conversations, doing a lot of education pieces around the COVID itself, and what we can do to ensure staff are safe. We put a lot of stuff in place from the start, having a conversation with Public Health (and others) to make sure that we were putting in the right COVID exposure plans for each of our program sites.”

These program sites include YWCA NWT housing, shelters located in Yellowknife and Fort Smith, second-stage housing for women that were victims of abuse and an after-school department.

“It’s been really challenging,” said Dumbuya-Sesay.

YWCA NWT stated that it worked closely with the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer and the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission to ensure plans and regulations were followed. However, there is still more to be done, with more support being sought from the GNWT.

“I think right now what we’re trying to do is to see if we can get a key contact person there (within the territorial government),” said Dumbuya-Sesay. “If there is any exposure (to COVID-19), if there is any misinformation in the information they post on the GNWT website, if we have questions on how those would relate to our specific programs, it would be ideal for us to have one key contact person that we can ask about specific things around that programming.

“We tend to get different information depending on the number of people we speak with, so now we’re really pushing for it… ” she said. “So far, we’re still waiting on them. We’ve e-mailed twice already. Now we’re just waiting on them to get back to us on that.”

Even with the various supports in place for the YWCA, Dumbuya-Sesay remains “very cautious” about YWCA staff possibly taking on too much and becoming burnt out.

“I don’t see us struggling with what we’re doing right now, but the problem is we’re not able to add any more onto our plate at this time,” she said. “We consistently try to take on new projects to make sure that we’re supporting women and children as best as we can. One of the projects that we’ve been trying to work on since 2020, we had to put it on hold because of the pandemic.

“A big thanks to our staff, especially,” said Dumbuya-Sesay. “Our staff is our key resource in being able to do what we’re doing now.”

YWCA NWT is currently raising money online for Lynn’s Place 2.0; “the construction of a new building beside Lynn’s Place in downtown Yellowknife and provide integrated, onsite support services for families under one roof.”

The campaign ends Dec. 1.

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