Calandra’s story

Your gift means more job skills and money management training so people can stand on their own, above the cycle of poverty.

People like Calandra, who struggled to find work and make ends meet after high school.

“I was kind of lost. I tried to get work, but it was difficult. I didn’t have the skills.”



Calandra found an employment program supported by SEED Winnipeg, a United Way agency partner, and was able to achieve stability in her life.

“I don’t have to worry anymore, like if my son needs something…I’m so grateful for that program.”

She learned money management and job skills, and how to set goals. She achieved stability for her, and her son, and today works as a junior facilitator at SEED, inspiring other youth to learn important skills for life.

“With the skills I was taught, it gives me the opportunity to share with my family. It’s good to share what you learn.”

The generosity of Winnipeggers like you brings more families like Calandra’s to a place of stability, making our entire community stronger.

Thank you.

SEEDing success: ‘Economic and emotional trauma’ overcome with a little help.

Mary has seen how poverty’s shadow can be lifted.

In 2010, her 25-year marriage ended, leaving her a single mother of six. She had just started college when she began experiencing debilitating pain in her jaw.

Mary lifts the shadow of poverty.

Mary says SEED changed her life. “So, I began donating to United Way. This is generally what happens. We go from people in need to people
who can contribute.”

Her doctor told her she had a tooth infection—one that proved later to be life-threatening, but that she could not afford to have treated.

Mary describes it as a time of “economic and emotional trauma.”

At college Mary found a brochure for SEED Winnipeg’s asset building programs and enrolled in a Savings Circle where she learned about budgeting, money management and set a savings goal of $250.

“Many people never, ever had the slightest exposure to a positive way of looking at life…to an experience of how to find what is possible. In one class you can take people from that to lining up their possible outcomes.”

In six months, with a three-to-one match incentive from SEED, Mary was able to save $1000 and pay to fix the tooth that had tormented her for the entire first year of school.

After earning her diploma in community economic development in 2012, Mary joined the SEED team as a Program Coordinator in money management training. So inspired by the transformative power of the program, Mary took to promoting asset building by handing out brochures at North End bus stops, hoping to bring more awareness of their services to those who need them.

Mary says SEED is much more than employment, financial literacy and business development programs for newcomers and low-income earners. SEED shows people a new path.

It’s a larger poverty to see no possibility. It’s an emotional thing, right? As soon as you start acting on any potential the whole picture changes right away.”

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


Honoured for their contributions to human rights


As people and organizations around the world mark Human Rights Day 2012, we’d like to highlight several local groups and individuals who were honoured recently for their contributions to human rights.

Recipients of two awards – the Human Rights Commitment Award of Manitoba and the Sybil Shack Human Rights Youth Award – were announced last month by the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and the Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties, a United Way agency partner.

United Way was proud to host the awards ceremony in our Learning Centre last Thursday evening.

The Sybil Shack Human Rights Youth Award recognizes the work of a person or group of people, 25 years old and under who has had an impact on the advancement of human rights.

Chelsea Caldwell

Chelsea Caldwell, vice-chair of our Youth United Council, is one of the recipients of the 2012 Sybil Shack Human Rights Youth Award

Congratulations to Chelsea Caldwell, Vice-Chair of our Youth United Council, on being named a recipient of the 2012 Sybil Shack Human Rights Youth Award.

Chelsea has been an active human rights champion since high school, is a campus leader with UWinnipeg’s Global College Student Advisory Council and a volunteer with the Canadian Women for Women of Afghanistan.

Ayla and Van Hamilton, from Russell, Manitoba, and Muuxi Adam, the After School Program Coordinator at IRCOM, a United Way agency partner, also received the award.

Louise Simbandumwe

Louise Simbandumwe, director of SEED Winnipeg’s asset building programs, received a Human Rights Commitment Award.

Recipients of the Annual Human Rights Commitment Award of Manitoba include Louise Simbandumwe and the Rainbow Resource Centre.

Louise founded the Run for Rights, and runs the Asset Building Programs at SEED Winnipeg. The program, funded by United Way, offers supports and resources for individuals and families in low income situations as they work toward financial independence. In a recent Winnipeg Free Press article, Louise emphasized the value of the matched savings and money management program training that is offered by SEED and its partners: “It can make a really profound difference in people’s lives. I think the main thing is to invite some degree of stability.”

The Rainbow Resource Centre, another United Way agency partner, works for human rights by  promoting an equal and diverse society, free of homophobia and discrimination.

Jane Burpee, education coordinator at the Manitoba Schizophrenia Society, was also honoured with the Human Rights Commitment Award.

For more information about all of this year’s recipients, visit the Manitoba Human Rights Commission website.

Finding change in a couch.

The door to Yohannes Yemane’s modest apartment in downtown Winnipeg is always open.

“In our culture, we welcome anyone who knocks.” Most often, the people knocking are fellow Eritrean refugees who, like Yohannes and his family, are struggling to adapt to an entirely foreign culture in Canada, having fled violence, war and persecution in their own country.

For Yohannes, the journey began when he crossed the border from war-ravaged Eritrea into neighbouring Sudan. But it would be another 20 years before he arrived in Winnipeg, after decades as a refugee and time in prison for his religious beliefs. “I was a minister.”

IRCOM, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba.“I think when Yohannes says he’s experienced a lot of hardships, it’s an understatement,” says Dorota Blumczynska, executive director at the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba (IRCOM)—the United Way agency partner that provided Yohannes and his family with transitional, subsidized housing for their first three years in Winnipeg.

At IRCOM House, Yohannes lived among 300 tenants—90% of whom were also refugees—many he knew from Sudan. Though no longer a minister, Yohannes still felt compelled to reach out.

“He came to every community meeting and translated and helped people understand information, and he was a community leader who got the whole community involved,” says Dorota.

At the same time he was helping, Yohannes was learning. Along with fellow refugees, he learned to navigate an economic system very different from any he’d known with the help of money management training from an asset building partnership between SEED Winnipeg, United Way of Winnipeg, Assiniboine Credit Union and 10 agency partners including IRCOM.

Over the next two years, he studied Community Economic Development and Applied Counselling, but not before learning how to bank, budget and build his credit history. Along the way, he also learned the AssetBuilders partnership would match his savings three-to-one and help him buy an important asset of his choosing. Considering it had to be an asset to others as well, Yohannes chose a couch. And within six months of saving, he made his purchase.

It's about more than a couch. It's about the learning that took place along the way.But this story is not really about the couch, says Dorota. It’s about the learning that took place along the way. “It’s the ability to ask questions; the opportunity to say, ‘I don’t understand; why does this work like this? Why do they do things like this here?”

And in the home of a man like Yohannes, it’s also about the community that takes place as a result, says Dorota.

“I have a passion to help newcomers,” says Yohannes. “Because it is really, really hard to integrate and adapt. They struggle. They don’t know where to go and everybody is busy, so they need help.”

“I have a computer and a small printer with a scanner on it, so sometimes I help people send a photocopy or email. Sometimes I go with them to the bank or help fill in government and school forms, or call the cable companies on their behalf. I assist with many spiritual and social aspects of their lives like raising children and parenting in a new culture, or understanding the legal system.”

And most of it starts with a conversation on Yohannes’ couch. “I think when people come from difficult places they have a desire to leave that behind, but that’s not always easy,” says Dorota. “And I think sometimes it’s easier to do it when you find community in other people who are on that journey as well.”

“Yohannes is a messenger of hope... because it’s a fight to get here and it takes the strongest of strong to get here. And then it takes courage to go to school here. And everything is new. And it takes willpower to keep going.”

“Yohannes’ story is testimony to the fact that people can leave hardship behind in many ways and have a new life and that’s what it’s really about.”

Weaving her way in Winnipeg.

A refugee earns financial freedom in Canada.

Growing up in Burma, Kay Seng, 60, dreamed of independence.

“We had to flee into the jungle always because of the fighting between the civilian and the government troops. I think maybe I was four or five the first time I can remember dimly. We came back from the hiding place and there was no more house – only the ashes, she says.”

Kay Seng, a Burmese refugee, earns financial freedom in Canada.

Kay Seng, a Burmese refugee, earns financial freedom in Canada.

A family member was shot simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, harvesting crops when military members happened by.

For more than half a century, Burma has suffered the consequences of constant political turmoil. According to organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the current military regime is one of the most repressive and abusive in the world.

In 1995, Kay, her husband and four children were driven from their home into the second largest of eight refugee camps along the border of Thailand. Here, they spent the next 11 years living among 15,000 fellow refugees, sleeping on the ground in a tiny hut.

“I felt so upset, so downhearted in the refugee camp,” she says.

Kay cannot forget the sounds of people outside the camp screaming in the night. Each morning, they would wake to see the dead bodies of men and women floating in the river.

Inside the camp, Kay supported her family selling clothing and blankets woven on her handmade back strap loom to foreign visitors. Familiar with both English and Thai, she was also able to act as a translator between the refugee community and foreign officials and often served as mediator.

Faced with never being able to return to her home, Kay’s oldest daughter applied for and received permission to attend school at the University of Winnipeg. Her second daughter followed and a year later, the entire family (except for Kay’s son who remained in Thailand) moved to Winnipeg.

“We were the first family to come to Canada for our resettlement,” says Kay. “I wondered how can I earn? So I decided to bring my loom with me. Because some foreigners like my weaving, maybe in Canada they will like also.”

To obtain the skills and resources necessary to build and manage a small business, Kay enrolled in an asset-building program run by SEED Winnipeg with support from United Way.

“Because I am getting older and maybe I cannot work hard labour for a long time,” Kay says. “So I would like to have my own business.” The program taught her money-management and bookkeeping skills and helped her with a business start-up loan to purchase yarn and other materials.

Grateful for the help she received, Kay is making an effort to help others in the community. She continues to earn money weaving and is also studying to be an interpreter for other newcomers.

In Canada, with the help of United Way and SEED Winnipeg, she has found the independence she has strived for her entire life.