The YWCA NWT is launching its annual Holiday Family Sponsorship Program this week.

The non-profit organization is asking companies, groups, families and individuals in the North to help support local families in need leading up to the Christmas holidays.

Hawa Dumbuya-Sesay, executive director of YWCA NWT, says that when businesses, organizations and other groups participate in the YWCA’s Holiday Family Sponsorship Program, local needy families are provided with gifts and food for a special holiday meal.
NNSL file photo

Those interested have until Dec. 4 to register by email: giving@ywcanwt.ca.

Hawa Dumbuya-Sesay, who was named the YWCA’s executive director in September, said community participation in the program makes a big difference for those who are less fortunate.

“Every year, we’re so grateful and overwhelmed with the support of our local community who reach out to show families in our housing programs that they care and that they are supported,” Dumbuya-Sesay stated. “Buying presents or food for a holiday dinner is just not an option for many of our clients, who must often choose basic necessities over buying gifts for their children or having a special meal over the holidays.”

The YWCA NWT has a gift guideline to help donors budget and find the right family size for their circumstance, as well as other general information about the program.

Family sizes range from one to six children, with both single and couple parents/caregivers, states a YWCA news release.

Rising need 

Although the program has existed at the YWCA for about 10 years, it had only involved families in the organization’s 33-unit transitional housing facility, said Alayna Ward, media spokesperson for the organization.

“But the program has grown in need vastly over the past few years as our housing program has expanded to include families in transitional as well as emergency housing,” Ward stated. “Staff keep in touch with families who have officially ‘left’ the housing program but still may need some support.”

Ward said that existing demand entails close to 100 families on the YWCA’s waitlist needing sponsorship, including 180 children.

“We expect more families to be added to this number as we’re currently working with families to find them housing, and then they will go on the list,” she added. “All families are clients of the YWCA housing program and have lived or are living in transitional or emergency housing.

“We have several larger families this year, with five and six children – we try to match the larger families with a workplace or company that is interested in sponsoring a larger number of children.”

Covid-19 impacts 

There are some clients who have lost their jobs this year due to Covid-19, which will result in even more people needing help this Christmas season, according to Ward.

“When faced with a choice of whether to pay rent, power bills, or basic necessities such as food, unfortunately buying presents for children (is) just not an option for some of our clients on low incomes,” she said.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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