The card simply said “Tea for Solidarity”. It was an invitation to something about solidarity and there was going to be tea. That is all the information I had walking into the gymnasium where the event was being held. There were women everywhere. Just women, dressed to the nines.
Long rectangular tables were arranged into three rows. The tables were dressed in white table clothes and cutlery. On the back wall was a long dinning table covered in all manner of pastries; desserts and fruits (I suppose fruit is dessert too). The end of the table was lined with several jugs of colourful punch. On the wall adjacent to the entrance was a smaller table with many flasks of fancy tea. I didn’t really know what the event was but I had come to the right place with my sweet tooth and my undying love for tea. I was glad to be there.
A few minutes after finding a seat I was engaged by a lady who wanted to know how I had heard about the event. I was amused because she wasn’t the first person to ask me that question. I had called one of the phone numbers on their card/ flyer and the first question the lady I spoke to asked was “Oh, how did you hear about us?” We accidentally got disconnected and later I couldn’t get through.
I called the second number listed. When Felicita learnt the reason for my call, she too asked me that question. I didn’t answer her. I was in a rush when we talked so I brushed her question aside and just asked where and when I could get the tickets. Looking back now I don’t understand why I was so eager to attend an event whose purpose I didn’t even know. But that is the story of my life.
When Andi, the lady at my table, asked me the same question, I had to laugh.
Turns out the event was organized by the Immigrant Women Association of Manitoba (IWAM). They are an association that has been in existence for over thirty years helping immigrant women in their settlement in Manitoba. They are a close knit community and they seemed to really care about helping one another, and developing and growing in a new country with a team of supportive women backing each other up. How powerful is that?
After the event I took the liberty to chat with Felicita Ovadje the vice president (who sold me the tickets) and with Andi Sharma who turned out to be IWAM’s president and now also my friend (predictable?). Andi is actually pretty cool.
Felicia eagerly explained that IWAM has a personal touch. Their interaction with each other and other new immigrants is very personalized. “Those (personalized aid/ advice) are things you can’t really buy. Those are things you can’t really get from any other organization.” She goes on to say, “You can go to Manitoba Start, you can go to SEED Winnipeg, the personalized thing that’s there, is not really there.”
Felicita wants people to know that “there is a bigger purpose. There is a reason why you were born. I would just like people to come out more and be engaged.”
Andi Sharma said that, “We all need help at some point in our lives, and we all can give help other times – this is what IWAM is about: the ebb and flow of sisterhood strength”
“I am very aware that IWAM has some growth and development to do but given the incredible team of women we have at the helm, I have no doubt that we can get there!” Andi continues.
“When you have 30-plus years of community development experience, it is something to be proud of.” she stated conclusively.
You can simply join IWAM online. Or reach out to any of the board members through the website.