Respect and dignity are at the forefront
The Gizhe Waa Ti-Sii-Win Expo is an annual volunteer-driven event that began in 2018. The expo provides a broad range of services, from tax preparation to eye exams, for people with lower incomes.
The Winnipeg Foundation is a proud supporter of the Expo, and staff were excited to head over to Siloam Mission the day of the event to speak with some of the volunteers lending their expertise and care to those seeking services. With more than 30 service providers set up within the complex and throughout the parking lot, Siloam Mission was bustling.
Dr. Carmen Recksiedler, an optometrist, explains that although this is her first time participating in the expo, she volunteers regularly to provide eye exams through Siloam Mission. “This is an opportunity to reach individuals who have difficulty accessing care, and Manitoba’s optometrists are always working hard to reach every person in every corner. This platform allows us to provide a high-quality eye exam,” she said.
If someone does need glasses, Carmen explains that through a partnership with the EssilorLuxottica Foundation, they can obtain glasses free of charge using vouchers and bus tickets provided. Carmen says that throughout her time volunteering at Siloam she’s been moved by people’s stories; “Hearing about how meaningful that pair of glasses is – they allow people to see clearly again and to feel like they are being seen in the world.”
Jose Solitana is a licensed practical nurse, and one of a team of foot care nurses from Norwest Community Co-op who volunteer at the Si-loam Mission service expo. This is his second year volunteering for the event, which he says provides clients with education and important preventative care.
“We know that clients of Siloam Mission really need follow up for their foot care, and that’s one of the very important services that we can offer,” says Jose, “Foot care is very important in order to do daily activities.”
Jose says many of the clients his team works with during the expo are not aware of the risks of foot injuries. A simple callus or blister that goes untreated can lead to a host of more serious issues. Education is part of what the foot care team provides. “We’re not only cutting toenails, we’re foot care nurses,” says Jose. “In assessment, we do education about taking care of their feet. That’s one of the components of our services.”
Shannon Dyck works with The Winnipeg Humane Society and is spending the day set up in Siloam Mission’s parking lot providing well-ness exams and vaccines for pet dogs and cats. She explains that the Humane Society has a program called One Health, which helps underserved communities care for their pets. “We believe that everyone has the right to own animals, we know that they benefit people’s mental health and well-being. A lot of people suffer from loneliness, and animals help with that. We would like for there to be more veterinary access for people who can’t afford it but deserve to have the companionship.”
Al Wiebe, a long-time community advocate with lived experience of homelessness, says that every day on the streets can be cloudy, and “this one is a good one” for people who could use a boost. “Last year, some-one got $3,500 back when they got their taxes filed – that’s a life changing amount for someone living on the streets.”
Al explains that the expo is “a one stop shop for people to get a haircut, get cleaned up and feel good about themselves. Human dignity and being treated with respect are so important, that’s what this day is about.”