WINNIPEG – Life as a teenager can be tough for a lot of kids. R.B Russell students, Janine Twoheart and Rose Tobacco-Olson, grew up in the city’s North End amid poverty, addiction and without much family around for support.
The girls became interested in volunteering at a young age and now at the age of 18 have teamed up to assist Wahbung Abinoonjiaag Inc., a domestic violence prevention centre for children and their families.
“Ever since I saw a documentary through the Ladybug Foundation in Portage Place I’ve really been passionate about homelessness, and working in that area.” said Tobacco-Olson.
Their latest endeavour started when the two went to see their career counsellor at R.B. Russell school in December. They had an idea.
“They were talking about the neighbourhood, how they were concerned about the neighbourhood, the problems they were seeing and they wanted to make a difference.” said Lorna Derkson, career counsellor at R.B. Russell.
“Growing up in the North End you see poverty everywhere and when you see the not so good parts you want to change it no matter what your age,” said Tobacco-Olson. “That’s what drove me to volunteering and just trying to help others.”
“It makes me feel really good, when you have nothing and when you receive something just because it’s a nice thing to do,” said Twoheart. “It makes your day and might change how you think.”
Through a grant from the The Winnipeg Foundation the girls decided to put together care packages to be distributed at Wahbung. Getting the grant is an accomplishment in itself, as there was plenty of work that went into the application.
“In order to get that grant, they had to come up with a proposal,” said Derkson. “They had to research needs in the neighbourhood, and they had to come to Wahbung to interview and find out what the needs were. Then they had to do a budget.”
When they found out they received the grant they had more work ahead of themselves deciding on how their plan for Wahbung would come together.
Sitting at the top of their graduating class, the girls put just as much effort into volunteering as they do their studies. And they don’t take the title of role model lightly.
“In a way I’d like to think I am (a role model),” said Tobacco-Olson. “It’s a really big role to fill because when I think of role models I think of Michael Champagne and what he did for the North end.”
Both girls also have big goals after graduation. Twoheart plans to go to post secondary school to become an accountant and eventually a respite provider for children in Child and Family Services. Tobacco-Olson wants to attend the University of Winnipeg for a bachelor’s, and after do something with human rights.
“To see Janine and Rose be these active and present Indigenous women in the North End in Winnipeg…I think that’s just such a great message.” said Derkson.
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