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, MLA St. James
May 23, 2013

New Directions

Mr. Speaker, today I want to commend the organization New Directions. It is an organization that works with children, adolescents and adults in a variety of settings, in St. James and across Winnipeg.

New Directions provides many different services to our communities. They offer counselling, support and prevention programs to families affected by sexual assault and by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. They work with young single parents to help them develop vocational plans and life skills. They facilitate recreation, education and work experience opportunities for youth and adults with intellectual disabilities. They assist newcomer youth from war-affected countries in attaining essential skills for the Canadian workplace. They run several supported living and community treatment centres for those who need them, and much, much more.

Last week, I attended a community barbecue held at New Directions’ Erin Street location for the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. I had a chance to speak with Dr. Jennifer Frain, the Executive Director of New Directions, and was overwhelmed by the multitude of ways that this unique organization touches the lives of people in our communities. Dr. Frain emphasized that their approach is not “one-size-fits-all”. They find ways to support an individual’s growth toward well-being on a case-by-case basis. New Directions has been providing these kinds of social supports in this way since 1885, so I think they’re on to something!

This is an organization that believes in emotional, physical, intellectual and cultural well-being. Their holistic approach can include everything from drug treatment to music lessons, and many participants are involved in several of their programs. They honour people’s strengths and develop partnerships with the children, youth, adults and families that take part in their programs to help them reach their goals.

Success can be measured in many ways. Many of New Directions’ clients have found balance within family, become addiction-free, or found employment. However, I noted something else. The clients that were in attendance at the barbecue were enthusiastic, comfortable, engaged and seemed clearly to have a sense of belonging in the community, which, as far as I’m concerned, is one of the first steps to well-being. I would like to thank New Directions and Dr. Frain for their amazing work in empowering people to improve their own lives and, as a result, improve our communities.