Organization Spotlight: Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre

HandsAt DP World Vancouver, we believe businesses can help the community in many ways: by making donations, by encouraging employees and customers to volunteer, and even by operating their own charities through a corporate responsibility programme.

Our Community Kinship programme points the way toward charitable organizations that are helping to build a stronger community. In this article, you’ll learn about Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.

What Does Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre Do?

The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre was established in 1978 to provide a place of safety and a means of support for women and children in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside who are victims of violence or poverty. The goal of the Centre is to help women change some of the unfortunate circumstances of their lives. The drop-in Centre stays open seven days a week and provides basic but essential needs to its visitors.

The Centre serves about 500 women every single day. Among the services provided:

  • Necessities such as food and clothing
  • A safe place to shower or clean up (and toiletries needed for doing so)
  • A message board that promotes communication and positive networking
  • Access to telephones and computers so members can contact family or friends as needed
  • Access to emergency housing, victims’ advocates or victims’ services, and/or medical treatment
  • Various fun activities throughout the day
  • An emergency drop-in shelter during nighttime hours
  • The Cultural Programming and Elders Council which incorporates the creative and transformative power of culture into Centre activities

What sets the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre apart?

A charity that’s publicized mainly by word of mouth, the Centre and its activities are well known in the Downtown Eastside community. Women often drop in for a meal or clothing assistance first, then learn about the other useful services available. The result is a supportive community that works towards a holistically inclusive, safe, and welcoming environment for all women.

People naturally want to be busy, to feel like they’re using their time productively, so in addition to assisting with material well-being, the Centre provides engagement opportunities and structure for women who seek them. Members often end up participating in the work of the Centre—managing the front desk or helping in the kitchen or clothing room.

The primary motivation behind the charitable activities of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre is the simple desire to make a difference—to provide women the chance to change their circumstances and start a better life. In fact, some long-term volunteers are past members who used the Centre’s services and now choose to give back to the organization that once helped them.

How Can You Help Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre?

Keep an eye on the Facebook or Twitter accounts for opportunities to participate in a number of fundraising events throughout the year that help support the meal programme.

  • The Scotiabank Half-Marathon includes both a half-marathon and a 5K, for which participants collect pledges of financial support from family and friends, and then deliver the proceeds to the Centre.
  • There’s also an annual fundraising event at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Last year’s event, Herstory in Focus, featured a fashion show, in which women of the community modeled different eras in clothing from the Centre’s clothing room. It was a meaningful event for the Centre’s members, which provided important financial support as well.

Businesses can help support the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre in a number of ways. Cash donations are extremely helpful, of course, as is encouragement of employee giving or volunteering.

Some companies have partnered with the Centre to staff events or facilitate certain programmmes in other ways. Some choose to make in-kind contributions to provide much-needed supplies, and others offer their professional expertise.

To learn more about the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, visit their website. And be sure to contact them to find out how your corporate responsibility programme can come to fruition with their amazing organization.