Helping people recover from alcoholism
Rick Garrick/Wawatay News
Kasabonika’s Don Mamakwa has stopped drinking since he joined the two-year Kwae Kii Win alcohol management pilot project in Thunder Bay.
“I’m not sick anymore and I’m full of smiles all the time,” Mamakwa said. “No more vodka smile.”
Mamakwa had previously been abusing alcohol and other substances while living in and out of Thunder Bay since 2000.
“I used to drink anything,” Mamakwa said. “I used to get sick all the time. I had no hope — I didn’t think I would change my life around. It’s good to be alive.”
One of only five such programs across the country, Kwae Kii Win opened its 15-bed centre for both men and women this past March at 400 George St., near Shelter House Thunder Bay.
“It addresses some real needs for people in our region who are struggling with issues that may prevent them from the basic needs of shelter and stability in their lives, in a way that promotes dignity, self-sufficiency and self-esteem,” said Thunder Bay-Superior North MPP Michael Gravelle. “The Kwae Kii Win Centre will give people the tools they need to create a brighter future, and it’s a wonderful investment by the Ontario Trillium Foundation.”
Couchiching’s Terry Adam has also quit drinking since joining the Kwae Kii Win pilot project.
“For about 10, 15 years I used to drink anything under the sun,” Adam said. “Hairspray,
Listerine, you name it, I drank it. Because of this program, it got me off of that stuff. I feel very glad for it.”
Mamakwa and Adam both encouraged others to join the Kwae Kii Win pilot project.
“You’ve got to want it first,” Adam said. “Then after that, the sky’s the limit.”
Fort William Chief Peter Collins commended Shelter House Thunder Bay and its board of directors for establishing the Kwae Kii Win pilot project.
“It’s all about trying make the lives of some of the poorest of the poor a little more comfortable and a little more meaningful,” Collins said, noting the Kwae Kii Win pilot project helps people turn their lives around and move in the right direction. “It doesn’t matter what walk of society you come from, they need positive initiatives in their lives.”
Anna Gibbon, Thunder Bay’s Aboriginal liaison, wished her mother had an option like the Kwae Kii Win pilot project when she was growing up.
“My mother was part of residential school and her experience, she could never just cope with it,” Gibbon said. “So all my life I’ve struggled watching my mother deal and grapple with her alcoholism.”
Gibbon said the Kwae Kii Win pilot project recognizes the humanness in all people and cares for its clients as human beings.
“We don’t know where people’s lives have led them, we don’t know what path or struggles they’ve led in their lives,” Gibbon said. “They are not about their addiction; they are about being human beings.”
The Kwae Kii Win Centre was established to provide clients with a safe and stable place to sleep as well as access to regular nutrition and medical care through funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the Homelessness Partnering Strategy and the City of Thunder Bay. Residents are encouraged to take ownership by doing chores, helping with meal preparation and participating in activities.
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