After years of working together on projects that empower immigrant and racially marginalized women and their families, Brock University and Tools of Empowerment for Success (TOES) Niagara are formalizing their long-standing partnership.
The organizations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen their ongoing collaborative relationship.
Based in Welland, TOES Niagara offers workshops, programs and other support services to remove barriers for women and their families and help enable improved economic and educational outcomes. The organization connects youth with community mentors, provides entrepreneurship and leadership skills training, helps newcomers to Canada navigate the various systems they encounter, offers support with healing from the trauma of anti-Black racism, and encourages civic engagement, volunteerism and personal growth through its programming.
Supporting immigrant and racially marginalized women is a critical part of building strong and inclusive communities that benefit all Canadians, said Lynn Wells, Brock Provost and Vice-President, Academic.
“Helping women and their families to achieve their dreams of becoming engaged citizens will only enhance the life and vitality of the Niagara region,” she said. “Through research, mentorship and other support opportunities, Brock University is pleased to play a role in assisting TOES Niagara with its pivotal work locally.”
Born through years of research collaboration, the partnership between the two organizations has included a number of projects over time. The latest is an ongoing three-phase research initiative taking place through the University’s Social Justice Research Institute.
The project, which began in 2019, is led by Associate Professor of Nursing Joanne Crawford and looks at strategies to promote inclusion of immigrant women in Niagara. The research team is examining services and activities that support social inclusion for immigrant women, while also looking at developing and enhancing services to promote social inclusion.
The University’s research activities are strengthened by working with community partners like TOES Niagara to understand local problems and develop real-world solutions, said Tim Kenyon, Brock’s Vice-President, Research.
“The work currently underway by Dr. Crawford is a prime example of how researchers and community organizations can come together to create positive change,” Kenyon said. “Each brings valuable knowledge to the table. When combined, these insights can have a tremendous impact locally and beyond.”
Collaborating with Brock has enhanced TOES Niagara’s ability to assist the people it serves.
“There are simply some things we, as an organization, cannot do on our own,” said Nyarayi Kapisavanhu, Executive Director of TOES Niagara. “This partnership has allowed us to increase our research capability, our capacity to directly engage with the community and our ability to promote and fund our programming.”
The MOU “opens a world of possibilities” when it comes to future collaborations with Brock’s faculty, staff and students, Kapisavanhu said.
Initiatives Brock and TOES Niagara have previously collaborated on include:
- Brock’s Office of Human Rights and Equity (HRE) helped to facilitate an ongoing mentorship program for Black youth through the Department of Canadian Heritage. HRE provided help with curriculum development, financial support, facilities and facilitation. Several Brock faculty members are mentors with the program.
- TOES Niagara worked with the Faculty of Education to develop anti-racism and anti-oppression training materials for current educators.
- Brock Faculties and departments have assisted with various strategic projects, including providing support for TOES Niagara’s strategic plan.
- TOES Niagara has partnered with Brock on grant applications for special projects, including grants for Black entrepreneurship initiatives with the Social Justice Research Institute, Centre for Business Analytics and the Office of Government and Community Relations.
The TOES Niagara MOU is the latest in a series of commitments by Brock to work with community partners, such as HOPA Ports, Niagara Workforce Planning Board, Niagara Health, Pathstone Mental Health, Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold and Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre.