Starting the conversation about women's work.
BETTER TIMES AHEAD. Spearheaded by the YWCA of Muskoka, a workshop and brainstorming session for ways to improve the lives of local women is being held at the opera house July 9. Roxane McDonald, who currently finds herself homeless, will co-host the event.
GRAVENHURST - Roxane McDonald has her humour and hope to drive her.
She also has her car; the late-model Ford Focus wagon she calls home, and her wardrobe.
“I’d like to have a shower though,” McDonald says with a sly grin and chuckle. After all, she says, it’s difficult to go to a job interview without a shower or clean clothes.
The 44-year-old, Gravenhurst born-and-raised mother of three who once owned a welding fabricating shop, a restaurant, was treasurer for North Bay’s psychiatric hospital, 30-year volunteer, fundraiser and author of 15 published poems has been homeless since last September. During the chills of January to March, she was secure in district-operated emergency housing, but there’s a time limit, and it lapsed.
“I had no where else to go; now I live wherever I can find a safe place to park,” McDonald said.
But with every word there’s a laugh, a toss of the hands and “it’s OK.”
“There really are some fundamental problems here in Muskoka,” she said, saying it’s time to begin working on solutions to move forward. She refuses to dwell on past circumstance for herself and all Gravenhurst women in need. “If I didn’t have my stubbornness….
“But thing that women have to know is that the help is there; don’t give up,” McDonald said. “If one door closes, you go to the next. I had to knock on 67 doors before I got an answer.’
That answer comes in the form of Laura Redman, project coordinator of women’s community economic development for the YWCA of Muskoka. The two will now be co-hosting “What’s Women’s Work? Join the Conversation” at the Gravenhurst Opera House July 9, hoping to bring together as many voices as possible and share stories and work toward locally driven solutions, “for women, by women, that work for women,” Redman said.
“Bad things happen to good people. We don’t have a lot of support systems and often when people do get into the system, it can become a bit of a trap,” Redman said. “We know there’s problems, what we need to do is begin to work on the solutions, focus on the positive.”
“It’s a huge opportunity for the women of Gravenhurst to share their ideas and their stories and the more voices we have, the better,” Redman said of the upcoming workshop, where, she said, the hope is to create a working group or “circle” to create a plan and ways to help local women get services they need to achieve life goals. “The process is going to ask a lot of questions; what do we do now to move forward.”
Nine local women will sit on a panel for the workshop, including Amy Koskinen, a young single mother of two who once owned a home, but now finds herself as a lucky one to be in social housing. She has been accepted to Georgian College in Orillia for this coming fall, but is dealing with the funding applications and the sheer need to feed a family.
“It takes a lot of work to simply get by,” she said, adding local assisted living quarters are very limited and the current waiting list is well beyond the number of spots available. “But I want to show my children hard work pays off; it’s hard to do that when it’s a struggle just to get by.”
“What I always thought I would be isn’t what happened,” she added. She hopes the meeting will inspire great changes for local women in finding or changing careers, finding information, places to turn for help or how to navigate systems for assistance.
“I want to see this community go back to what it was when I was kid; people trusted each other and helped each other,” McDonald said, adding if her story inspires, then she’s pleased to share it.
She said she is currently looking at applying for school, “although the first thing they tell you is before you apply, get an address.” Part of her difficulty is that she’s recently had knee surgery and although she tried to hold down service and retail jobs, the pain and loss of 50 per cent of her cartilage makes standing difficult and walking painful. McDonald said she’s got her eyes set on an education in professional fundraising, possibly social work, although something else is emerging in her mind as well.
“I’d like to be a comedian; but I’m just a bit of a chicken,” she said. “But if I can help (during the workshop), that would mean maybe no one else would have to live through what I have.”
What’s Women’s Work? Join the Conversation at the opera house July 9 runs from 5 until 9 p.m. Redman explained while it is for women within the Gravenhurst municipal boundaries only, the goal is to create a plan, implement it in 2013, then bring it to Bracebridge and Huntsville the following year. She said there will also be child care available during the event and a light meal will be served as well.
If anyone would like more information about the free event, contact Redman at 705-205-0706.