South Winnipeg Family Information Centre connects with all ages programming

February was an exciting month for Families Canada as we launched the Member Spotlight series with Jasper Place Family Resource Centre. We’re happy that this member-focused feature allows us to invite, get to know, and introduce a Families Canada member each month to share their experiences, best practices, challenges, and more about their work with families. We encourage our members to connect with each other and thrive together as we support and strengthen families across Canada.    

Our Member Spotlight for April 2024 is South Winnipeg Family Information Centre in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Thank you, Tricia Robinson, for sharing your organization with our members. 

About Tricia

Hi Tricia! Please tell us about yourself, your role and what motivated you to join South Winnipeg Family Information Centre.

Tricia Robinson, Executive Director
South Winnipeg Family Information Centre (SWFIC) 

I am a lifelong learner with a university education that includes undergraduate work in Psychology, Anthropology from the University of Toronto, and an MA in medieval studies and Viking archaeology from the University of York, UK. I completed the Family Literacy practitioner certificate through Vancouver Community College. I continue to add to my skills through professional development opportunities including courses offered through Families Canada. 

I am a parent of three young adult children. I love reading, gardening, and spending time with my dog Linnhe.  

As Executive Director of a small charity, you need to be flexible and creative. I enjoy that I am always learning. Every day is different, and my job covers a wide variety of tasks and responsibilities: from supporting staff members, to connecting with community stakeholders and funders, to solving IT issues, to managing finances, to space maintenance, and everything in between. You wear a lot of different hats! 

I first connected with SWFIC over 20 years ago when I first moved to Winnipeg. I had three small children and no family in the city. I attended a local family centre SWFIC hosted: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen for parents. I learned so many ideas that helped me improve communication with my children. I also made connections with other parents that have become lifelong friendships.  

From this experience I decided to learn how to lead parenting groups and SWFIC provided me with training and an opportunity volunteer in this capacity. This started me on a career in family programming which eventually led back to SWFIC when I had the honour of being hired as the Executive Director 10 years ago.

About South Winnipeg Family Information Centre (SWFIC) 

Please tell us about SWFIC and the needs or challenges in the community that SWFIC is responding to.

A resource centre is a place where all the many connections in a community can come together and be strengthened. It is a microcosm of what we hope for in our country of Canada. Newcomers become at home, seniors reduce isolation, children learn responsibility, parents find their village, volunteers gain rewarding experiences, businesses and people donate their help; people enjoy food, share ideas, and learn together.  

SWFIC was established in 1974 by a group of community members who wanted to provide programs and information to enhance the quality of family life in the community. Our Centre has always offered parenting programs, and babysitter training classes, but over the years different services have become important.  

We are led by a volunteer board of Directors who devote their time and talent to supporting the work that we do. In 2022 our board successfully completed Imagine Canada Standards accreditation indicating excellence in nonprofit accountability, transparency and governance.

Programs and Services:

For youth: Babysitter Training, Home Alone skills classes, Study Skills for grades 6 to 12, First Aid CPR certification for ages 12 and up, and other programs like Making Links connecting tween girls through art and conversation. 

Parenting groups on so many topics: Triple P, Circle of Security, Nobody’s Perfect, How to Talk so Kids will Listen, Children and Anxiety, Parenting Strategies and ADHD, Dad Matters (for male identifying caregivers), Effective Discipline, Communicating with your tween/teen, Preschool series, screen time dilemma, and more. Since covid many of these groups are offered online which makes it easy for parents to participate without barriers like childcare and transportation.  

Weekly Drop-in groups: Wiggle Giggle and Munch (parent and preschooler, physical activity and nutrition focus), Rock and read (literacy for parents with babies), Stay and Play, Family food fun (evening family drop in providing a meal twice each week), Seniors drop in and Tech for seniors.  

Dress for Success Winnipeg which evolved from our grassroots program originally called the Clothes Closet founded in 1997 to provide interview clothing for women (inclusive of nonbinary individuals and anyone who identifies as a women). This program has grown as part of a Canadian affiliate group and worldwide network and now offers workshops, programs and services to support women’s employment.   

Read Every Day Initiative: supports Primary healthcare providers (pediatricians, doctors and nurse practitioners) to promote early literacy through conversation and giving a book. From birth to age 6 each child will have 10 immunization/well child appointments and receive 10 books and conversations about how to support literacy at each age/stage. With support from the Winnipeg Foundation this initiative supports five clinics in Winnipeg in communities that will benefit most. 

Our partnership with United Way of Winnipeg strengthens connections between other resource providers in our city. One such partnership enables us to offer tax clinics twice each year. 

Recently we have started to offer a “Menopause Café”: built on the model developed in Scotland, it is an open opportunity for anyone with an interest in Menopause to participate. The café last 2 hours and snacks are provided. Conversation is open ended with no intention of leading people to any conclusion, product or course of action. It is about raising awareness in an unbiased setting.  

Community Support: SWFIC also provides administrative support for other community groups such as two local Parent Child Coalitions and the neighborhood community network.  

Relationship with Families Canada

Can you tell us about your organization’s relationship with Families Canada? 

Tricia: Families Canada has been an important resource for many years for family support work. We look to Families Canada for best practices, current research, new trends, resources to share with families, and training and learning opportunities for staff.  

The availability of multilingual resources is important as a high proportion of our participants are newcomers to Canada and speak many languages. 

In the past I made use of the work on evaluation as we were developing surveys and tools for the local parent child coalitions.  

I appreciated the work that Families Canada did during the pandemic regarding communicating about immunization to families and learning about immunization resistance. I have also found workshops supporting staff mental health important and useful.  

Most recently SWFIC participated in the Seniors and Technology project where we benefited from having two staff members trained through Connected Canadians. We now offer a weekly Tech for Seniors Drop in where anyone can stop by with their device (laptop, phone, tablet) and can get help to learn what they need to know. Over time individuals find they build the skills they need to be comfortable using technology and becoming more connected. I appreciated that the training addressed both how to teach seniors about the tech in a respectful but accessible way, while also addressing the need for online safety. 

After a few sessions, I am now more literate with my iPad. It (participating) did open up different ways for me to communicate. Being a senior, I now have a feeling of belonging more to the ways of a modern world. The instructor was so helpful + pleasant to work with. Thank you so much! – Pierre C., Tech for Seniors Participant 

Collaboration and Partnerships

How does your organization collaborate with other organizations or agencies to enhance your services and ability to support families? 

Tricia: Partnerships are of critical importance. We connect through formal arrangements like the Ft. Garry Community Network where local stakeholders meet to share information and coordinate efforts. As well as informally by getting to know key people. These connections are critical to outreach, referrals, shared services, and sources of supplies.  

Here is just one example of how our community came together this past December. We provided fresh food hampers during the holidays to local families. This came about through many partnerships and connections. Beginning with our local school division which helped us to identify families.   We focused on providing fresh food with recipe ideas. Many of the families have 5 or more children at home, so we were grateful to add items collected by a food drive at our neighbourhood library, farm fresh eggs, and bread donated by a local bakery.  A school collected family games to give to each recipient. Boxes were packed with care by our seniors’ drop-in group, who also created handmade cards to go in each one. Thanks to a generous donation from a volunteer, we were able to add grocery gift cards to each hamper as a bonus. School social workers picked up and delivered the completed packages to over 20 families! 

The holiday season brings together so many partners in support of our community. It is joyful to see it unfold. 

Challenges and Solutions

Every organization faces challenges. Can you discuss some challenges your organization has encountered and the strategies implemented to overcome them? How has the organization adapted and evolved to meet the changing needs of the community? 

Tricia: The challenges SWFIC faces are common in our sector. Currently we are seeing an increased demand for services but are facing a flat funding model where the dollars we receive do not increase. There is no built-in mechanism to allow for inflation in the cost of food, or wage increases for staff. There is no good solution to this issue other than to continue to try to do more with less. Family Resource Centres are experts at this. But over the long term, if there is not more investment in our work, vital services for families may need to be reduced or cut completely.

Photo taken by Anna Kozhukalo

We are also finding that outreach requires more time as social media needs constant effort to create a consistent presence. We have been fortunate to find project funding to help us but need a more secure source to support long term staffing for this important need.  

Some of the ways we have adapted for our community: 

Since the pandemic we have been engaged in food security work. We are a pickup location for Manitoba Harvest every 4 weeks and provide food at all of our Drop-in programs. We have been fortunate to find some new partnerships. For example, we work with Direct Farm in summer to provide food vouchers to families so they can access farm fresh food at the local farmers market. 

Drop in for seniors started in 2017 as a result of support from the United Way of Winnipeg. Through community consultation it became clear that drop in absolutely had to include a seniors group in addition to parent child and family focused activities. 

I like to come to seniors: 1. love the social time with the lovely ladies and gentlemen 2. love the information with many speakers. 3. enjoy the yoga 4. love the group discussions 5. makes me feel less alone. 6. enjoy the two outings each year, which I would never do otherwise.

Measuring Success

How does your organization measure its success and impact on families and the community? 

Tricia: We measure our impact and success through the people we reach, the comments they share, and the changes we see. This is backed up by the data regarding the number of people we serve (unique individuals and visits to our services), demographic information, languages spoken, the number of services we provide, etc. 

In the past year we have been capturing more of our work through photos and video. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and we are finding that to be very true. Photos help others see and understand what we do, and learn why it is important. It is a great tool for outreach to help others understand why they might want to participate. But also for funders to see the impact of the support they have provided. 

Photo taken by Anna Kozhukalo

From Breanna (Emmet and Charles’ nanny) Since the first time I attended with the kids, I immediately loved it! Kayla and Karla are so inviting and absolutely amazing with the kids. It is such a safe and warm environment they have created. As a caregiver, it has been so helpful for me to have this place to bring the kids to where they feel safe and able to have fun and get out of the house for a bit. And I’ve been able to connect with other caregivers and parents and have formed friendships which have become a source of support for me and the family. As well, friends for the kids!

Also as a caregiver for multiple families, I have learned so much from Kayla and Karla. From ideas for healthy snacks to ways to teach kids how to stretch and take deep breaths to fun questions to get them engaged. It has been a great a resource for me in helping me do my work better!

The family I support and I are very, very grateful for Karla, Kayla and the South Winnipeg Family Information Centre!

Photo taken by Anna Kozhukalo

Quotes from women who visited our Dress for Success Winnipeg services:

The warm reception, helping hands and advice was really heartwarming. The women made me feel like they were rooting for me to get the job. I have an interview on Monday. Wish me luck!

I was overwhelmed by the kind gesture of everyone, from the very moment I stepped in till I left. The experience was amazing.

Before this appointment, I was feeling like I did not have any clothes that looked professional and was very nervous with attending an interview. I had mostly summer clothes and not much work clothes but after grabbing a few flare pants and blouses I was more comfortable attending the interview.

Success Stories

Are there any particular cases or situations that stand out to you as examples of the organization’s success? 

Tricia: Our evening Dropin Family Food Fun had just gotten going when the pandemic hit in March 2020. It provides a light vegetarian meal and a relaxed place for families to focus on fun with their kids and meeting others in the community. We offer the program twice a week – once at our location and then on Thursday we offer it through our partnership with the local Access Centre (Shared Health and Primary care) so we can reach a different community of families.

Photo taken by Anna Kozhukalo

Community Impact

How has your organization contributed to the overall well-being of the community it serves? 

Tricia: We provide different services to meet needs at different ages and stages of life. Some of our programs offer short term learning in a single session, like Babysitter Training, or over a few weeks, like a parenting class. We can provide one time help with basic needs like an appointment to receive interview clothing for women through Dress for Success Winnipeg. We also have opportunities to create more lasting connections with families and people like our Drop-in parent child programs, seniors’ group or Manitoba Harvest food program. Everyone can find what fits best for them.

Photo taken by Anna Kozhukalo

Future Goals 

What are your organization’s future goals and how does your organization envision continuing to make a positive difference in the lives of families in the coming years? 

Tricia: IN 2024 SWFIC will be celebrating our 50th anniversary. The Centre continues to stay true to the goal of enhancing family life in the community. Some programs have been part of our work since the beginning, but we are proud of our ability to continuously learn from the community we serve and adapt to changing needs. We anticipate that parenting and early child development, life skills for youth, women’s employment, and food security will continue to be important themes in our work. However, we are always ready to learn new ways to reach people and learn together with those that may benefit from what we have to offer. 

Photo taken by Anna Kozhukalo

Connect with South Winnipeg Family Information Centre

Website: South Winnipeg Family Information Centre 

 Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/swfic

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/swfic

LinkedIn: https://ca.linkedin.com/company/dfswinnipeg 

Connect with the Community

We at Families Canada enjoy and are inspired by the good work that our members do. We are grateful to Tricia and other members who have accepted our invitation to help us launch this initiative and foster connection among members.  

We would love to learn more about the work Families Canada members do with families across Canada. Our whole community benefits from our shared experiences. We invite you to share your story by getting in touch with our Membership Team at info@familiescanada.ca today. 

Images courtesy of South Winnipeg Family Information Centre.