United Way announces funding to support marginalized communities

GUELPH – United Way Guelph Wellington Dufferin has invested $275,000 to support marginalized communities through the new Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) funding stream.  

As a new stream under United Way’s revised Community Impact Strategy, the investment was prioritized to support those farthest from opportunity as an integral part of creating a strong and thriving community, noted an Aug. 3 press release. 

“We, over the past couple of years, have reviewed how we distribute funding in the community and how we’re making an impact, and part of that really identified that there were some gap areas,” Glenna Banda, executive director of United Way Guelph Wellington Dufferin, told the Advertiser. 

“And that was really emphasized through the pandemic, as well, when we saw the disproportionate impacts on certain communities of the pandemic, and impacts of poverty and other issues.”

United Way Guelph Wellington Dufferin is one of only a small group of funders across the province that has prioritized a funding stream dedicated to supporting this work, the release stated.  

The organization worked with local EDI consultant Iona Sky to create a process for the stream that was inclusive and reflective, which included conversations with partners in the community.  

“It really showed us that we needed to take a different approach to support marginalized communities,” Banda explained. 

“That traditional cookie cutter approach, sort of one approach to all hasn’t been working so needing to deliver programs in different ways and offer funding to reduce barriers was really important to us.”

Banda expects funding under the new stream will continue and hopefully expand in the future.

In total, 15 grants were distributed. Among the recipients were: 

  • Compass Community Services – funding to support the 2SLGBTQ+ Talk and Text support;
  • Alzheimer Society Waterloo Wellington – multi-language support for individuals and families suffering with Alzheimer’s disease;
  • Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre – medical translation services for residents in Guelph-Wellington;
  • Guelph Black Heritage Society – support for the #ChangeStartsNow initiative;
  • Immigrant Services Guelph Wellington – a peer-led learning and tutoring program; and
  • Guelph Wellington Women In Crisis – Sexual Assault Centre.

Funding was also prioritized to support First Nations, Metis and Inuit organizations and initiatives, including Southwest Ontario Aboriginal Health Access Centre and Anishnabeg Outreach Employment and Training Inc.

Other recipients included:

  • Community of Hearts Lifelong Learning Centre;
  • Seed, Soil and Spirit School;
  • Dufferin Child and Family Services;
  • Canadian Arab Women Association;
  • Kitchener-Waterloo Multicultural Centre;
  • Career Education Council; and
  • March of Dimes – financial assistance with mobility devices.

Another part of the process, Banda explained, was focusing on the barriers that exist in rural communities, which include making sure supports are more accessible.

“A lot of the programs that are funded through this stream support our residents, both of Guelph and Wellington County, and really looking at gaps in services,” she said. 

Banda noted the cookie cutter approach can’t be applied to Guelph and Wellington County as there’s different factors to consider when looking at the two locations. 

“There is sort of different demographics, and then obviously, other barriers too, such as transportation and other issues in the in the county that need to be addressed,” she explained. 

“So really when we say community centred … it has to be potentially delivered differently in different communities.”

As for how this funding addresses the needs of the community, Banda said one that comes to mind is the need for mental health supports, specifically with youth and looking at how to connect individuals who don’t know where to go. 

Through the  strategy review process, another need that’s been identified is language barriers and the need for medical translation services. 

“It came up through this process that with a lot of new Canadians, they are actually having issues getting the medical attention that they need due to language barriers,” Banda explained, adding it’s a new program United Way is helping fund.  

“With that program in particular, we’re really hoping that it’s a bit of a stop gap, because we really feel that that’s something that the Ministry of Health should be looking at,” she added. 

“It should be a core part of being able to access health services, but it’s just not happening right now.”

While United Way has funded the program, Banda said she’s hoping with some advocacy, it can be something that’s just offered in the health care system.

“To me, what this stream is really about is we are trying to create a community where everybody has an opportunity to thrive,” Banda said, adding United Way is currently looking at what the community needs are.  

“And what that sort of gap is, is going to be different for different people,” she added. “So this is taking more of a personalized approach of supporting people where they’re at so that everyone has the opportunity to thrive as we see inequities.”

Being able to look at what the gaps are in the community and take more of an individualized approach is an important piece to achieve United Way’s mission, Banda said. 

“We’ve been using sort of that radical recovery theme over the last year and a half, and right now, we want to put the same urgency into solving root causes and systemic issues as we did to responding to the pandemic,” she explained. 

“So it’s really trying to focus on addressing those inequities.”

Donations to United Way are accepted year-round, by visiting unitedwayguelph.com or by calling the United Way office 519-821-0571. Donations will stay 100 per cent local.