When Elizabete Halprin began her role as Executive Director at Aulneau Renewal Centre in the spring of 2022, she knew she wanted to build relationships with other social services agencies. One of those connections bore fruit quite quickly. “I reached out to ChezRachel, a shelter for women who have experienced intimate partner violence,” explains Halprin. “Their Executive Director Sonia Grmela and I talked about what they were struggling with. One area of concern was programming.”
The women who receive services at ChezRachel are often mothers trying to navigate all the complexities of raising children, earning a living and creating a healthy life for themselves and their families. Aulneau Renewal Centre had been offering parenting groups through the pandemic, and so Halprin and Grmela saw an opportunity to work together.
“We had received a grant from Réseau Compassion Network that allowed us to expand our parent group capacity, and so the staffing and resources were already there,” continues Halprin. “We were able to respond quickly and get something set up right away. We have women who are feeling somewhat isolated living in a shelter and needing a sense of community. It was an honour to be able to help.”
Ashley Reid, a Community Support Worker with Aulneau Renewal Centre, has been managing multiple parenting groups and was excited to explore the ways that ChezRachel’s participants could connect to explore healthy parenting together. “Because of their circumstances, it might not be safe for them to join an existing group,” explains Reid. “They also have a different lived experience than others and have been through some things that only they understand. So, we created a group just for them that meets in person once a month.”
Reid spoke to a counsellor at ChezRachel to get a better understanding of what could be helpful for their clients. “Once I had that information, the group met for the first time and I reminded them that this is their space and that they can decide what they want it to be,” she shares. “This group is slightly different than the others we host. There’s a level of safety in this group that’s really important, and the topics are slightly different. The trauma is very real here, and it’s an environment where we can explore that without fear. We’re focusing on their resilience, their strengths, and their shared experiences.”
The importance of community for those who have been victims of intimate partner violence is crucial, but from Reid’s perspective, these types of peer-to-peer groups can benefit anyone. “In our day and age, these groups are about a sense of community,” she shares. “In modern society, we’ve created a sense of not needing to interact with each other, but we’re missing out on those social supports and the chance to learn from each other. The power of exchanging and sharing knowledge is priceless.”
Elizabete Halprin takes the concept of connection a step further. “All of us working in the non-profit sector are in the same boat,” she reveals. “We are limited in what capacity we have but the nice thing is that there’s a real sense of community. We can work together, like we’re doing with ChezRachel. I hope we can build more partnerships in community. We’re stronger together.”
To learn more about Chez Rachel, to make a donation or to volunteer, please click here.