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Women Helping Women – An Indigenous Connection

Ottawa Construction News
September 2017

There’s something powerful in women helping women. That’s why we’re so pleased to tell you about Annie Aningmuiq, a single mom from Pangnirtung, Nunavut.

Through our respective organizations, we’ve been honoured to work with Annie and her four-year-old son Hunter to support this young family in obtaining a key tool for success – decent, affordable, sustainable housing.

Our partnership is based on the simple notion that good things result from collaborating on projects that balance environmental, social and economic factors. In the case of this multi-family Habitat build in Orleans, our sustainable collaboration is especially gratifying.

While the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) is a leader in sustainable forest certification, ensuring forests across North America are well-managed, the organization also has a broad mandate that includes conservation, collaboration and close engagement with communities across Canada.

That’s why it makes sense for SFI to provide sustainably managed wood products toward the construction of housing for those in need. Habitat For Humanity Greater Ottawa (Habitat GO) is lending its expertise in affordable housing and its network of volunteers, sponsors and donors; and Annie, among many others, is providing a lot of sweat equity.

The result is an affordable housing solution that builds strength, stability and self-reliance for families, and enhanced environmental stewardship through building with responsible forest products from healthy forests.

As women working in the fields of responsible forest management and affordable housing respectively, we’re particularly glad to be teaming up to provide assistance to Annie and her family. Research shows when a family has a safe, decent and affordable home, there are improvements to employment stability, health and community engagement. For children, a stable home means increased confidence, improved academic performance and ultimately an end to the cycle of poverty.

Let’s be very clear. This is no handout. Eligible Habitat for Humanity future homeowners are carefully screened to ensure they meet the qualifications of our Homeownership Program. The families then work alongside volunteers to build their homes and pay a long-term, no-interest mortgage.

Some of these homes, like Annie’s in Orleans, are multi-residential projects. Because all the Habitat homeowners participate in construction, owners get to know their neighbors; this builds a strong sense of community.

The end result is families’ lives are changed for the better. Take Hunter’s mom for example. Annie learned about Habitat GO after seeing a presentation at an Inuit organization in the Ottawa area. As a single mom on one income, she didn’t think her dream of becoming a homeowner was even possible.

When Annie applied for Habitat GO’s Homeownership Program, she was renting a shared room with her son. Once she heard she’d been approved, Annie simply couldn’t believe it.

Both our organizations are truly proud to support this strong woman, and others just like her. And we’re more proud that we’re able to do so in a responsible way. This week, as part of SFI’s Indigenous Housing Program sponsorship, there are three builds – an SFI “Women in Wood” build, an SFI Indigenous build and an SFI Youth build at the site of Annie’s new home. It’s remarkable to see so many amazing women and men who have come out to support this initiative all across Ottawa.

From our earlier partnership with Ottawa 2017 and the Redbull Crashed Ice Championships in the spring, to this week’s community builds in Orleans, we’ve promoted the use of repurposed SFI construction lumber in Habitat GO projects. Recovered wood not used on the Orleans project was sold to the public through Habitat GO’s ReStore, a social enterprise that helps raise money for Habitat GO’s operations and new building projects.

The SFI – Habitat for Humanity partnership is unique and, at SFI’s annual conference set for Ottawa Sept. 27 – 29 during National Forest Week, Habitat for Humanity CEO and SFI Chairman Mark Rodgers will discuss ways the initiative is making a difference.

SFI’s conference theme is Forests – A way of Life. And while we’re gratified to be part of Canada’s 150th, we also recognize Indigenous Peoples have lived on this land much longer than 150 years.

So there’s no better time to raise awareness for Indigenous housing. By connecting communities that care about Canada’s future, we hope to be part of a lasting solution that engages and innovates around this important housing priority. Women helping women, prioritizing Indigenous housing and sustaining communities and our forests: let’s harness that power.

Kathy Abusow is President and CEO of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. Alexis Ashworth is Chief Executive Officer of Habitat for Humanity Greater Ottawa. Both have offices in Ottawa.

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