Jackie Anderson found her calling while she was still in college.
A graduate of Red River College’s Child and Youth Care program, Anderson completed her practicum at Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in 1996. Fast forward two decades, and Anderson is still committed to the North End non-profit family resource centre.
“When I came into the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, I did my placement in the youth program. I was assigned mentorship, one-on-one with youth in the community who were struggling with different challenges and barriers in their lives,” says Anderson, who also completed RRC’s Criminology program.
“When I completed my practicum hours, I asked the organization if I could stay on as a volunteer because of the relationships I established and built with the youth. I didn’t want to just walk out of their lives.”
In 1997, Anderson was hired on at Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in the full-time position of youth mentor. In 2000, she started working in program development for Isobel’s Place, Ma Mawi’s residential learning facility for Indigenous teen mothers. In 2003, Anderson developed Honouring the Spirits of our Little Sisters, Ma Mawi’s safe transition home for sexually exploited youth. After managing the home for seven years, Anderson worked in program development for HOME (Hands of Our Mother Earth), Ma Mawi’s rural healing lodge for sexually exploited youth.
In 2012, Anderson left Ma Mawi to take a position as the provincial government’s sexual exploitation specialist. However by 2015, she was back at Ma Mawi in the position of children in care coordinator.
“That was really good learning,” says Anderson of her foray into provincial politics. “I learned from that part of the system and I’m a stronger advocate now. However, that’s not where my heart lied. My heart lies with the community, grassroots.”
It sure does. In addition to her work with Ma Mawi, Anderson sits on the Winnipeg Police Board’s Indigenous Council on Policing and Crime Prevention, is the co-chair of the Sexually Exploited Children and Youth Community Coalition, and is the volunteer sport manager for the Anishinabe Pride Basketball Program.
In 2016, Anderson received a YMCA-YWCA Women of Distinction Award in the Arts, Culture and Heritage category for her work with the Anishinabe Pride Basketball Program.
“I think [my passion for community] developed in my mid-teens when I started to identify the trauma I experienced as a child,” Anderson says. “I come from different forms of lived experience where trauma as a child is concerned. When I started my healing in my mid-teens, I knew I wanted to have an impact and work with youth, people and community.
“For me, it’s about relationships. The kids that I’ve worked with over the last 30 years, those relationships were established and still continue strong today. I truly believe that in order to have an impact on a child, you’re not just involved in their lives for a short time, you make an investment forever.
“I’m very proud to say that there are young people working in my office right now who I provided care to. They were children in care and now they are my co-workers. That is what keeps me going, to know that these meaningful relationships have an impact.”
Anderson says Red River College was instrumental in helping her make an impact. In addition to placing her at Ma Mawi, Anderson credits the College and its instructors with helping her come out of her shell, and providing the support she needed.
“I was a young mom when I started — my two oldest were just babies, but I was able to take the courses full-time through continuing education,” says Anderson, who has three daughters, aged 17, 21 and 23.
“I was going to evening classes full-time and on Saturdays, and that really helped me as a young parent. It [allowed me to] be able to succeed. If RRC didn’t offer the program that way, I don’t think I would be where I am today.”
— Profile by Jared Story (Creative Communications, 2005)