Lorelei’s Story

Lorelei8509-1It’s back to school week for students and teachers – a time for fresh starts, but also a time that can present unique challenges for some of our fellow Winnipeggers. That’s what Lorelei, a school principal, discovered when she  participated in the Living on the Edge Poverty Simulation. And with that new knowledge came a whole new perspective on her work.

Lorelei Bunkowsky, a school principal, was assigned the role of a 30 year old single mom during her Living on the Edge experience. She had two sons, a 15 and 17 year old and the oldest was getting into trouble at school and getting involved in gangs. With a high school education, her character had worked as a secretary before the responsibilities of raising two boys forced her to leave her job.

“I became so overwhelmed with my day-to-day circumstances that it felt impossible to plan ahead. It was like I could not lift my head to see what was in front of me. The attitude of the people at the agencies, institutions or businesses could make or break you. Any small act of kindness was so appreciated.

“As a teacher and principal in my real life, it became especially evident how every parent has good intentions about sending their children to school, knows it is important and wants them there. But when life presents such challenges and you are forced to prioritize, school can fall to the wayside. Getting homework done, finding that extra three dollars for the fieldtrip, attending parent-teacher conferences, these things will take a back seat to food, shelter and income.

“When I headed back to my school, it was like a flood gate opened. I cried all the way. Have I made a parent feel overwhelmed, undervalued and misunderstood? Has the school, our systems, our expectations, our reactions contributed to the stress of a family living in poverty?

“This was only an hour and a half of my life and I couldn’t believe how difficult the choices for my simulated family became. As a person who has never lived in poverty, how could I possibly relate to that single mom who has seven children, is wondering how to feed her family, and I have asked for the third time in a month to treat her whole family for lice.

“In the days that followed the simulation, a woman visited our school office. Accompanied by her two children, the mom had come to pay her fees. I overheard the secretary explaining that she couldn’t take the money today because the person who collects the fees was not there. They’d have to come back another day. I jumped up from my desk. All the emotions and feelings I’d experienced in the simulation came flooding back. I couldn’t send this mother away and make her pay for transportation and lose that time to come back another day. I reassured the mom that we would accept her fees and she wouldn’t have to return. I told my administrative staff to ensure parents never have to come twice for the same purpose.”

Attitudes changed. Policy changed. Lives changed.

Interested in finding out more about the Living on the Edge Poverty Simulation? Check out our volunteer page here. 


“It’s not every day you get thanked by someone in song!”

An Amazing Race made for an amazing day for more dozens of Winnipeg kids, thanks to a Day of Caring with the employees of PwC.

PwC Day of Caring

Youth and PwC staff after a race well run

Youth from agency partners the Boys & Girls Club and CSI – Community Schools Investigators, a program designed to help kids in inner-city schools strengthen their math, reading and other education skills over the summer, while having fun – got the chance to head to Kildonan Park for a day full of games and a BBQ. Kids divided up into teams, and raced around the park to different locations staffed by PwC employees, where they had to puzzle their way through activities before racing ahead to the next spot!

The race got employees’ as well as kids’ spirits up. Monday isn’t everyone’s favourite day of the week, but according to Heather Falk of PwC, doing this Day of Caring transformed it into the best day of her week. “It’s nice to feel like you’re doing something to give back and contribute. The company gives us opportunities to volunteer throughout the year, and it as great to be able to take time and be part of it. ”

“The best moment was when they thanked us – they did a full skit. It’s not every day you get thanked by someone in song!”

Peggers play for change at United Way Tourney

Once again, Winnipeg business and community leaders swung into action in support of our community at the 21st annual United Way of Winnipeg Golf Tournament.

The beautiful Pine Ridge Golf Club played host to the sold-out event, with 152 golfers and 38 teams driving change in a texas-scramble style competition.

As much as it’s about the fun, friendships, partnerships and prizes, the tournament plays an important part in supporting United Way’s work in our community.  This year’s event was no exception, raising a record setting $119,342.

Ken Opaleke of West Broadway Youth Outreach, a United Way agency, played up the links between that support and the difference it makes in our community.

“It’s wonderful to be able to see how the support of volunteers, golfers, and our generous sponsors translates into a brighter future for kids and families in our community,” said Andrew Stibbard, who is concluding his term as Chair after two years with committee. “A huge thank you to everyone who has played a part in this event’s success.”

A day of fun and caring for kids

Arts and crafts, action-packed activities and all-round good times were back on the agenda for the 2013 North West Kids Fest.

Kids get to hit the field at Shaw Park at North West Kids Fest 2013

Back for a second year, the North West Kids Fest is a two-day event aimed at getting marginalized kids active in a fun and engaging way.

A number of activities were planned for the two-day festival including soccer baseball around the Goldeyes field, earth ball and the ever-so-popular water games. In addition to the games, kids enjoyed several craft stations will be set up including a balloon animal workshop and face painting.

Approximately 200 kids aged 5-15 from the United Way funded Youth Agencies Alliance, a
network of 19 youth-serving agencies including NEEDS, Boys and Girls Clubs of Winnipeg, West Central Community Program, Spence Neighbourhood Association, CSI, IRCOM and Teen Stop Jeunesse, took part in North West Kids Fest.

Thanks to the dedicated volunteers from The North West Company who made this Day of Caring happen!

A long term strategy to end homelessness in Winnipeg

A report issued in June by the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness estimates over 200,000 people in Canada experience homelessness each year. In response, cities from Vancouver, to Edmonton, to St. John’s have developed 10-year plans to end homelessness.


Now Winnipeggers have taken up the challenge through a new initiative spearheaded by United Way. Winnipeg’s new Community Task Force to End Homelessness is a unique coalition of voices from non-profit, government and private sectors led by Rob Johnston, Regional President RBC Royal Bank, and Cindy Coker, Executive Director of SEED Winnipeg.

“We see the potential to create an environment in this city where no one has to sleep on the streets and where everyone has a place to call home,” said Johnston.

Since January the task force has been reaching out to Winnipeggers, gathering stories from people who have and are experiencing homelessness, and working with guidance from Indigenous Elders to develop our own long term plan, expected to be finalized by the end of the year. “Our vision is to hear from those most affected by homelessness and to build a plan that reflects their realities and needs from start to finish,” said Coker.

The initiative rises out of the work of the Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council, a multi-sector partnership of community leaders committed to reducing poverty through collaboration, innovation and integrated services. It is intended to build on important work already completed by the Social Planning Council, the Institute of Urban Studies, Main Street Project, and the Rental Housing Supply Roundtable.

Task force members are Lucille Bruce, Steve Chipman, Real Cloutier, Joy Cramer, Jino Distasio, Margo Goodhand, Sandy Hopkins, Joe Kronstal, Floyd Perras, Ian Rabb, Michael Robertson, Diane Roussin and Clive Wightman.

Get involved and stay informed by visiting our blog at www.wprc.ca.


Dream seats for the Bombers!

Some deserving youth in Winnipeg are going to be sharing in the excitement of the new stadium this season!

This year, MTS is generously donating 50 tickets for every regular season Bomber home game to a local youth serving agency through the United Way. To make sure they get the full stadium experience, they will be providing participating kids with cheer sticks, a hot dog and pop to snack on.  “As strong supporters of both the Bombers and United Way, MTS is pleased to be able to share the excitement around the upcoming season with some deserving young people in our community,” says Kelvin Shepherd, President of MTS.

The donation is a part of United Way’s Dream Seats program, which takes donated game tickets and puts them in the hands of kids in our community who might not otherwise have the chance to experience a professional hockey, football or baseball game.

Donations like these can open doors to new experiences, create lasting memories and, who knows, maybe even inspire the next Olympian or NHL player to come out of Winnipeg.

Go Bombers – and go MTS!

For more information on the Dream Seats program, click here.