Donation to Astum Api Niikinaahk Tiny Homes Village helps a little home go a long way

The houses are tiny, but their impact is huge.

The Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Astum Api Niikinaahk Tiny Homes Village is the first of its kind in Manitoba—a community of minimal-barrier, independent homes designed to house community members in need in some of Winnipeg’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

The tiny homes village is called Astum Api Niikinaahk, or “Come and sit at our home” in Cree and Michif. The village offers 22 bachelor-style units, a shared commercial kitchen, an entertainment area, a medical clinic and a traditional medicine room. In the future, the village will also be home to a sweat lodge for traditional ceremonies.

Assiniboine Credit Union is supporting the project with a $10,000 donation. According to Brendan Reimer, ACU’s Strategic Partner of Values-Based Banking, providing resources to Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata is an essential step in recognizing that ACU is part of something bigger than itself: a community.

“Banking is our industry, but we’re guided by our vision and values,” Brendan says. “So when we talk about using our capabilities to build a better future for all, we’re talking about doing what we can to build sustainability and resilience in our employees, members and environment. That’s what we call values-based banking: we provide financial services, but at the same time do it in a way that makes the world a better place.”

Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata: a pillar of the community in Winnipeg’s North End

Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata translates from Ojibway to the phrase “we all work together to help one another.” Brendan explains the name is fitting, given that the organization, a longtime member of ACU, has significantly impacted Winnipeg’s inner city and North End, where rates of people experiencing poverty rates are higher.

“Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata is focused on building capacity in Indigenous communities with youth, Elders, parents and families. They do it through programs, always with a core lens and philosophy of empowerment. It’s a transformational model, and they’ve been very successful.”

Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata works toward truth and reconciliation in four service areas:

  • Community Care: creating natural gathering places for Winnipeg’s urban Indigenous community that are community-driven and providing culturally relevant prevention- and support-based programs
  • Caring for Our Relatives: Protecting children and honouring the sacred bond of families with their children by ensuring Indigenous children remain connected to their family and community
  • Youth Development: Honouring youth as the current and future generation of leaders through culture, education, recreation, empowerment, training, employment and leadership development opportunities
  • Indigenous Knowledge: Returning to Indigenous values and practices of caring for one another and providing specialized programs to lead truth and reconciliation initiatives while also assuming a leadership role to support a strong sister organization network.

“With this project, Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata is concentrating on addressing the systemic barriers to housing that Indigenous seniors experience,” Brendan notes. “They’re providing a safe, warm place to sleep at night and a community to build belonging. I really can’t stress how important that is.”

He emphasizes that the sense of belonging the village creates through shared culture dovetails with ACU’s core value of inclusivity.

“The ACU vision of a sustainable future for all is only possible through the success of organizations like Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata. Their work is so important for truth and reconciliation, for reducing poverty and homelessness, and for building strength in our community. It’s a shared vision and we fully support it.”

ACU members, partners make homelessness and housing affordability a priority

From ACU’s perspective, tackling these issues means building partnerships with sector leaders in housing and non-profit housing to create innovative approaches to building new units and improving the quality of those already in place. Another aspect is building more awareness of the needs and solutions around homelessness.

“At a leadership level, we have a responsibility to ask ourselves: what are our capabilities as an organization, as a member of this community? What else can we do?” Brendan emphasizes.

As a top mortgage provider in Manitoba, ACU has extensive housing expertise that is a natural fit for Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata.

“It’s what we do every day,” Brendan elaborates. “Providing mortgages to help Manitobans acquire and move into their homes. With this project, we are reaching a population that may not otherwise find homes. In both cases, we’re working to house our members in alignment with our values and our vision.”

Brendan says support for organizations like Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata is part of what makes ACU one of the top financial institutions in Manitoba.

“If our communities are healthier, inclusive and working to end discrimination and poverty, that’s good for every one of our members. That’s what ACU is, and when you choose ACU, this is what you’re part of—helping build a sense of pride and inspiration for all Manitobans.”

Want to support Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata?

Brendan explains that organizations like Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata take on some of our communities’ most complex and deeply rooted challenges, and their needs are varied.

“They work with people who have experienced significant oppression and in their lives—this is very complicated work. Organizations like Ma Mawi have passion, smarts and competence. They work at this year after year, and they know what works but don’t have the resources to do it all.

An important way we can support their work is to understand the challenges they are addressing, including the legacy of colonization and the lack of mental health supports in our communities, and to advocate for more resources to support the solutions.”

You can also support the solutions and help ensure the survival of the Tiny Homes Village by donating to Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata.

About Jacob Marks

Jacob Marks is a writer and communications professional based in Winnipeg, MB. Experienced with diverse clients and across sectors, he specializes in issues management, brand management and telling compelling stories no matter the medium.

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