Winnipeg Harvest training program helps women break cycle of poverty

Winnipeg Harvest celebrated International Women's Day by honouring women who completed its training and development program.

Harvest celebrates International Women’s Day by honouring graduates of job skills program

Winnipeg Harvest honoured participants of their training and employment program on International Women's Day. The event highlighted the achievements of three women who are working to break the cycle of poverty. 1:06

Winnipeg Harvest honoured participants of their training and employment program on International Women's Day. The event highlighted the achievements of three women who are working to break the cycle of poverty.

"Winnipeg Harvest has always been a food bank, and what we've done in the last three years is transition into a training centre," said Arvind Naran, who works with the training and employment program at Harvest.

Harvest offers various programs to clients and volunteers to help them acquire job skills. From forklift and food handling certification, to computer and administration training.
Arvind Naran says that since the training and development program began in 2013, Winnipeg Harvest has become much more than a food bank. (Justin Fraser/CBC)

The goal is to help participants gain skills to enter the workforce and become less dependent on food banks.

Since it began in 2013, the program has provided training to more than 4,000 people, 64 per cent of them are women.

"Getting food is one part of life, but to support and sustain and educate yourself is the most important part," said Naran.

Rebecca Trudeau was one of the training recipients honoured Tuesday. She began volunteering at Harvest four years ago when she was 17 years old. As a child of a single mother, she grew up using food banks and wanted to give back.

"Once I started educating myself about mental health issues and poverty and how that's all related, I really wanted to give back to the people that were helping me when I was growing up," said Trudeau.
Rebecca Trudeau now works at Winnipeg Harvest. She coordinates youth programs. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

Trudeau has taken part in several training sessions through Winnipeg Harvest, including financial management, health and wellness training, and customer service. But Trudeau credits her time as a volunteer as being one of the most valuable tools in learning job skills.

"Working at reception, you're learning those customer service skills, you're learning how to work with people that may have some conflict in their lives," she said.

Trudeau is now employed full-time at Harvest and works with the youth programs. She convinced her mother, Kerry Weyman, to become a volunteer.

Since 2008, Weyman struggled with mental health issues that prevented her from keeping employment. She relied on food banks in between jobs to sustain her and her three daughters.

Weyman said she often struggled as a single mother because the costs of child care were higher than what she could bring in working a job.
Kerry Weyman says volunteering at Winnipeg Harvest brought out job skills she didn't know she had. (Holly Caruk/CBC)

"If you have that job, you have to pay for daycare, you have to pay for the bus, you have to pay for lunches for [your kids]. There's more costs to working than there is to staying at home unfortunately," said Weyman.

Janelle Duerksen of Winnipeg Harvest said single mothers represent a large portion of their food bank client base, with 45 per cent of total food donations going to children.

"On average, about 26 per cent of our users are single parent households, and we know just from the community that a lot of them are run by single moms."