A Legacy of Support and Charity

29 February, 2024 | Initiatives and Projects

The congregation of the Soeurs du Sauveur were a small group of women religious dedicated to supporting specifically the village of Notre-Dames-de-Lourdes, in Manitoba, and surrounding areas, beginning in 1895. In 2006, Réseau Compassion Network took on the management of an endowment fund created by the sisters to continue supporting Manitobans. Since that time, the fund has grown and its disbursements have evolved to meet some important needs of our communities.

“When we first received the fund, there were many small donations going to projects and organisations,” recalls Bob Lafrenière, Chief Financial Officer at Réseau Compassion Network. “We decided that the best way to make an impact is to give larger donations, up to $10,000 a year, to organisations committed to responding to unmet needs.”

Siloam Mission, an organisation located in Winnipeg’s Exchange District, has a vision of Winnipeg without chronic homelessness, and they work towards that goal on many fronts. “Many in the community think of us as a soup kitchen or a shelter, but our services are very broad,” shares Darren Nodrick, Director of Development at Siloam Mission. “We offer meals, shelter, clothing and a health centre, even for those without a health card. For many, this is the only way they can access medical care. There’s a sense of community and belonging here. For the folks we serve, they don’t have that feeling all the time.”

The Soeurs du Sauveur Fund has disbursed over $60,000 to Siloam Mission in the last several years, and Nodrick says every penny counts. “We’ve never seen anything like we’re seeing right now,” he admits. “We saw a 100% increase in meals served over the past year. The need is greater than ever, especially with a drastic increase of refugees coming through our doors.”

Sonia Grmela, Executive Director of ChezRachel, a non-profit organisation that offers shelter for women and children affected by domestic violence, is grateful for the support of the fund, as well. “We welcome and support up to five families at a time, who stay with us for a year or a year and a half, depending on their situation,” she explains. “We have base funding that helps support housing and basic needs, but donations like these make all the difference in the lives of these families.”

As mothers and children find safety and comfort away from difficult domestic situations, there are still many obstacles to content with. “For example, we just celebrated Valentine’s Day,” continues Grmela. “The women tell us that it’s a bit emotional for them, since they have been affected by partner violence. This year, we ordered in sushi and offered them self-care packages. The children got a little chocolate and a toy. It’s a nice gesture, but more than that, it’s a confirmation to these families that someone cares for them and wants to support them.”

The funding given to ChezRachel will help plant a community garden, support summer camps for children and other important life moments that many take for granted. “This is about more than a financial gift from the community, this is a reminder that these women and their children belong and haven’t been forgotten. That support matters as much as the money itself.”