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Anishnabeg Outreach launches new healing centre & programs in Guelph

Thanks to a partnership with Trinity United Church

Anishnabeg Outreach and Trinity United Church are working together to help heal the Indigenous community in Guelph with the launch of the Spirit Bundle program from their new healing centre.

AO is a non-profit that provides Indigenous people with culturally-appropriate services to overcome barriers in Guelph and Waterloo Region. Earlier this week, they celebrated the opening of their new healing centre in Trinity Unity Church. 

This new location enabled them to officially launch their Spirit Bundle program in Guelph, which helps provide the Indigenous community with access to things like food, clothing, feminine hygiene products, pet food, bicycles, and other needed items. 

They also provide back to school packages in the fall, Halloween costumes, Christmas presents, bicycles. 

AO CEO Stephen Jackson said making sure needs are met helps begin the healing process. From there, they can work through their other programs to help develop job readiness skills and enter the workforce. 

Jackson said life skills and mental health help are often deficits for people moving through the shelter system, for example. Helping people heal through services like this, he said, can keep them out of the shelter system and incarceration. 

Every single order from the Spirit Bundles program is custom-made for each family or individual. 

“You might be vegan, you might be vegetarian. You might be lactose intolerant, you might be diabetic, you might have some kind of childhood trauma related,” he said, adding that they make sure people get what they need. 

“When you go shopping at the grocery store, you buy what you want. Well, we have to do the same thing for people,” he said. “We have to make sure the whole family, including pets, is taken care of.” 

Director of program development Caitlyn McComb said a lot of times when people need help, they’re expected to compromise their needs and desires as well as their pride. 

“The program is called Spirit Bundles, because it's really about building and maintaining spirit,” she said. “And that comes from being able to make sure people feel pride in accessing service.” 

The program initially launched in Waterloo Region as a response to the pandemic, providing the community with things that were hard to access at the time, like toilet paper. 

“We started the program out of necessity,” McComb said. “Like many organizations we’re trying to kind of fill gaps. But what it really highlighted was just the existing and deepening food insecurity that was being experienced and is being experienced by the community.”

They wanted to level the playing field, which is where the passion for the program started, Jackson said. 

The need for the program continued to grow, and they went from serving just under 20 people during the pandemic to more than 400 families today in Waterloo Region and now Guelph. 

They were already serving Guelph with deliveries, but were outgrowing their space and the capacity to receive donations. 

“We really needed to find a partner that was willing to work with us to expand, just to be able to meet the growing needs,” McComb said.

Currently their most needed items include things like breakfast foods, canned meats, small bags of rice, shampoo and conditioner. You can see the full list on their website

If you’d like to donate items, they suggested calling the office at 519-763-5292 beforehand to confirm when and where items can be dropped off.


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Taylor Pace

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