In 2010, the Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal (NWSM) was hit with a devastating blow – a $35,000 cut to its annual funding when the federal government terminated the Aboriginal Healing Foundation’s funding.

Those precious dollars, about one third of the NWSM funding, went to pay for a wide variety of therapies for the shelter’s clientele. While the NWSM houses fewer than 30 people under one roof, back when the cuts were made they were offering outreach services to about 200 women who had come to the Montreal area for services.

One year later, at the NWSM Annual General Meeting (AGM) held June 22 at the Maritime Plaza Hotel in Montreal, Nakuset was able to talk about the significant strides the shelter had made in terms of fundraising.

In March 2011, the Mamu Chu Chi Nan fundraiser dinner organized by Joey Flowers, a law student from the McGill First Nations House, at Restaurant Nouveau Palais was able to surpass its original goal of $5000. This special dinner event, which featured Aboriginal foods from all over Quebec, accompanied by a silent auction, was able to bring in about $13,000 for the shelter’s annual budget.

Also at this year’s AGM, Nakuset said they had the pleasure of hosting Jeffrey Drouge from Health Canada. The idea behind inviting Health Canada to the meeting she explained was because the NWSM has requested new funding from the government to pay for healing services that the shelter had to cut back on when it lost the funding in 2010.

“I have requested that we get a lump sum of $35,000 from which we can pay the psychotherapists on a client-per-client basis. This is what we used to get from the Aboriginal Healing Foundation and this would help our budget big-time,” she said.

Funding hasn’t only come in from the one-off dinner benefit as Nakuset said the Trafalgar School for Girls also named the NWSM as the beneficiary to its annual golf tournament in June and was able to issue the shelter a $3000 cheque.

Always on the go and never willing to turn down an opportunity to speak on behalf of the shelter or educate the public about the plight of Aboriginal women, Nakuset said she has been working intensively on publicizing the NWSM so that the shelter’s message meets more individuals. CBC television recently filmed an upcoming documentary on urban Aboriginals using the shelter and the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy NETWORK as a focus.

“The idea was to look at how we were moving forward in the cities as opposed to being on reserves. They chose Montreal because of what has been happening with the Network and they interviewed us at the shelter, a client and looked at our board meeting. They also sat in on a meeting for the Network. This is going to air early next year and will bring us so much publicity,” said Nakuset.

At the same time, she said she was looking forward to another special being done on the shelter in Chatelaine magazine. Never wasting a moment, Nakuset has been doing public speaking events throughout Montreal to educate people on Native cultures as well as the NWSM’s needs. This has seen new funding commitments from private individuals, sometimes committing themselves for a few years of support at a time.

Because of all this publicity, the NWSM went ahead and changed the format for its website so that individuals can now donate funding via credit card online.

Having championed the rights and needs of Aboriginal women within the shelter for many years, Nakuset has never lost sight of the most vulnerable among urban Aboriginals – the hundreds of First Nations children without natural parents to care for them.

This was why she has continued over the years to work with Batshaw Youth and Family Services to solicit urban Aboriginals to become foster parents.

And, for the many non-Aboriginals who are rapidly becoming adoptive or foster parents to First Nations youth, Nakuset has been working integrally with Batshaw to create the Cultural Manual for Foster or Adoptive Parents of Aboriginal Children. Now almost ready for print, this special manual contains all sorts of important information that Batshaw didn’t even have on file, such as how to apply for a child’s beneficiary number or status as well as cultural and language information, and Aboriginal role models from different communities.

“There is a definite need for this manual because there are so many First Nations children in care and we want to make sure that these children who are adopted or fostered by non-Aboriginals can be brought up to be proud of their heritage and also have access to all of the services that they are entitled to,” said Nakuset.

Last but not least, Nakuset said she was able to welcome two new members to the NWSM Board of Directors, Séri Jacobs and Jonas Gilbert, both of whom are Beesum Communications employees.

In all, Nakuset said that so far 2011 has been a fabulous year in terms of what the NWSM has been able to do for Aboriginal women and children.

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