Q: What does your outreach ministry look like?
A: The Stroll outreach consists of monthly Stroll Walks, quarterly Community Dinners, and an annual Valentine Outreach Banquet. All events occur in SE Calgary on a ‘stroll’ area where we know that workers in the sex trade are consistently present. We go out on the stroll walk to meet with these workers, providing ‘refresh packs’ with necessities, such as toiletries and packaged food items and small luxuries like makeup and jewelry.
We also provide cold-weather items during the cold months. We offer referrals to local services if needed and have conversations with the ‘regulars’, working to gauge their needs and how we can best help. Community Dinners occur seasonally (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Stampede) and operate in partnership with HER Victory out of Eastside Victory Outreach church. A meal is prepared and served in a celebratory and decorated venue for 50- 60 women impacted by the sex trade/domestic violence. We gift the women with a handbag filled with necessities and small luxuries. We also hold an annual upscale Valentine Banquet with a catered meal, often with makeup artists, stylists, luxury gift bags, beautiful clothing, and a photo booth in celebration of love and care for these women impacted by sexual exploitation and domestic violence. We to go ‘out there’ because these outreach events meet people where they are at. We build trusting relationships through presence, provision, and compassion. We want to empower those afflicted and impacted by the sex trade to access services that can help keep them safer and healthier.
Q: What are the needs that you are seeing presently?
A: The needs never really end! Currently, we have a good stock of toiletries and purses but are always in need of packaged food items and $5 fast-food gift cards that we like to include in the refresh bags and purse packs. We are always looking for volunteers! Some are committed to the monthly Stroll Walk on a monthly basis, but we love to spread awareness of our work through single-time volunteers visiting on the stroll walk or helping out at the community dinners with serving. We’d love to have volunteers in a behind-the-scenes support role as well, such as helping to garner donations or filling our refresh packs, amenity packs, or purse packs for outreach. We would also love the stroll outreach to grow. Perhaps that could mean monthly community dinners or stroll walks twice a month. Awareness helps us grow our volunteer base so we might be able to better meet the needs of those we serve.
Q: What inspires you most about doing this type of work?
A: The women we work with are my inspiration. Every day they rise to meet the challenge of their lives with strength and courage, despite the oppression and exploitation. They are so brave. When I look in their faces, I see myself, but for the circumstances of my birth, or a few choices on a life path, it could be me or someone I love in their shoes. I choose to use the privilege I have to serve them, to meet what needs I can, to speak on their behalf when they cannot. It is so incredibly courageous to decide to exit, to work to change their lives for the better as it is SUCH hard work. I can’t do that part for them, but I can love and encourage them, meet practical needs, walk alongside them through the muck and mire, offer a hand up, or just a hand to hold.