Tuesday (March 8) marks International Women’s Day, and women in the Elk Valley ought to know that there is a support centre available to them should they ever feel the need for it.
Lauren Fox, executive director of the Fernie Women’s Resource Centre, said they offer a variety of different programs that support women, girls, children and families.
“We have free counselling and outreach services for any self-identifying woman who has experienced violence at any point in time in her life,” she said, adding that such programs are for adults aged 19 and up.
On top of counselling, their outreach program offers ‘more practical support’ around housing, child-care legal aid, and income assistance.
“Those are very busy programs. And we generally have seen an increase in accessing services (since COVID began).”
For counselling, Fox said they used to have about five to six people on an average wait list, but that these days the number sits closer to a solid 10 ongoing. For outreach, she said that they used to help around 10, 12 to sometimes 15 women a month.
“And now our stats are more like 20, 25, sometimes if it’s been a wild month, 30.”
The program offers support to those who have experienced physical violence, but also includes emotional, sexual, and financial.
“Unfortunately, a lot of women fall into that category.”
The centre provides a whole host of other services, such as early years programming focused on supporting children and families in the early years, as well as education and support for parents.
“Really, one of our big goals is creating a place where people can feel supported and feel connected, and not feel isolated or alone, just in every day life.”
Fox said sometimes people don’t feel like that have enough problems to access services, or that the word ‘violence’ might make them think that they don’t fall into the supportable category.
“We really encourage anyone who’s looking for counselling or outreach support to connect. And we have a conversation and talk about what’s going on, and what you’re wanting support with, and see how that might all work out.”
They also have an emergency support program, funded by community donations, that women can access once every 12 months if they are experiencing a financial emergency.
“That program has definitely been very important to us. And it allows us some flexibility that we don’t have otherwise, to support people with what they need in that moment so then they don’t have a whole bigger crisis on their hand,” Fox said, adding that it has a preventative element to it.
People who want to support the centre can do so by donating through their website, she said. Donors can choose specific programs to support if they want to.
“There’s lots of inequalities that women are still facing,” Fox said, adding that “we’ve come a long way.”
“Income, employment, childcare, and housing is critical.”
She said she is “always amazed “every day by “the strength that women have.”
“Women are loving creatures who want to support one another, and we have a great strength. I’ve seen women who are so inspiring around just being out there and living their lives, and so I think, always look to the women around you to find that strength and be inspired.”
“Because women are doing amazing things every day.”