Brock, YWCA working together to improve the lives of Niagara women and families

After years of collaboration, Brock University and the YWCA Niagara Region are moving forward with a common goal: empowering local women and improving the lives of their families.

The two organizations formalized their partnership by introducing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) during a virtual event on Friday, March 4.

The YWCA, which provides emergency shelter, food and assistance to women and their families living in poverty, offers transitional housing and skills development programs to help women regain their independence and break the cycle of poverty.

In addition to its emergency housing services, the YWCA also operates a Safer House for survivors of human trafficking and a 15-unit Home for Good program, which provides long-term supportive housing to Niagara’s most vulnerable.

Brock Interim President Lynn Wells says the YWCA’s work is “critically important to our community” and will be further strengthened through the ongoing partnership with the University.

Three women stand at a distance from one another in front of a blue and beige building.

Ingrid Makus, Dean of Brock’s Faculty of Social Sciences, Elisabeth Zimmerman, Executive Director of YWCA Niagara Region, and Lynn Wells, Interim President of Brock University, stand in front of the new YWCA building on Oakdale Avenue.

“By sharing our expertise and resources, Brock and the YWCA will continue working collaboratively in support of the social and economic well-being of women and children in Niagara,” she says. “This MOU is an important example of Brock’s ongoing commitment to contributing to the well-being and vitality of our community and beyond.”

In addition to providing experiential learning opportunities for students, the MOU will facilitate collaborative research on the impacts of the affordable housing crisis on women in Niagara, improving safe and affordable housing for women during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, and equity, diversity and inclusion best practices for inclusive governance in Niagara.

The partnership will also see the organizations explore new opportunities for professional and continuing development and mentorship programs for women.

“This partnership has been years in the making and we are so pleased to have this formally recognized through this MOU,” said Elisabeth Zimmermann, YWCA Niagara Region Executive Director. “Working with Brock has supported our ability to tell our story to the broader community in a way that has had impact and influence.”

Researchers in Brock’s Departments of Sociology, Women’s and Gender Studies and Political Science are among many who have worked and will continue to work with their counterparts at the YWCA on issues around poverty, gender discrimination, and equity, diversity and inclusion.

In particular, their work has focused on the lack of affordable housing and the impact on women in Niagara, and how existing and growing challenges are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, says Ingrid Makus, Dean of Brock’s Faculty of Social Sciences.

“In formalizing our agreement with the YWCA Niagara Region, we are thrilled to further enable researchers and students across the University to connect with such an esteemed organization that is making a recognizable difference in the lives of women and families in Niagara,” she says. “We’re delighted that our students at all levels of study will have the opportunity to engage with the YWCA and learn through experiences, placements and research about what it takes to successfully support some of the most vulnerable members of our community.”

As part of the MOU, Brock will also host the annual Niagara Leadership Summit for Women, building on its ongoing relationship with the popular event.

“Brock has been home to the Niagara Leadership Summit for Women since it began in 2014 and has been a critical partner in its success, as it grew to become the YWCA’s signature event,” says Julie Rorison, President of the YWCA Board of Directors. “For thousands of the Summit’s attendees, it has been their annual trip to see what’s happening at Brock, and for many others it is the first time they have ever set foot on a university campus — opening a whole new world of learning and opportunity.”

The YWCA Niagara Region MOU is the latest in a series of commitments by Brock University to work with community partners, such as Tools of Empowerment for Success Niagara, HOPA Ports, Niagara Workforce Planning Board, Niagara Health, Pathstone Mental Health, Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold and Niagara Folk Arts Multicultural Centre.

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