Cultivate Inclusivity’s February Spotlight: The WISH Society
The Cultivate Inclusivity team was extremely fortunate to have been able to chat with Mebrat the executive director from WISH Society on Tuesday, February 2nd. The WISH Society’s constant hard work and determination to provide necessary support and resources for the DTES Community is inspiring.
So, who is the WISH Society and who do they help?
The WISH Society is a DTES Organization that supports women involved in street-based sex work as well as women who face poverty, homelessness, and racial discrimination. WISH society has multiple different programs and services they provide such as their MAP Van, a 24/7 emergency centre, an employment program, an indigenous program, different forms of therapy and their drop-in program and shelter. Their work strives to increase women’s access to opportunities.
The women WISH supports are survivors. These women face extreme barriers and trauma, and an overwhelming stigma. Their opportunity to make healthy decisions is low which frequently results in dealing with violence. These women are more than resilient… the traumatic experiences, and life barriers that they have to face is unacceptable. No one should have to be resilient against this much.
How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect WISH's work?
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated absolutely everything for the DTES community and the WISH Society women. The community saw a spike in overdoses, gender based and sexualized violence and the poison supply of drugs. They also faced a loss of jobs, access to safe spaces and access to basic needs. A lot of the community members were suffering and close to desperation.
At the beginning of the pandemic, WISH Society created the Courage Campaign to call out for help. Sex workers were the first to lose their income, as well found themselves being kicked out of their living places or sex trade places leading to no place of safety and no access to sanitation. The Courage Campaign was aimed to highlight and raise the alarm so WISH could gain support, shift their program and response appropriately to help their women. The WISH Society proudly did not close their doors once during 2020 and was able to pivot their program to help the women become safer and make more decisions.
What are WISH’s current goals?
WISH and their partnering organizations’ ultimate goal is to push the need for a review of the federal legislation and progress towards decriminalizing sex work. On an organizational level, WISH strives to continue growing their programs and creating opportunities to increase women’s access to healthy and safe decisions.
They also see the community’s demand for women specific services, resources and an overall safer environment for women is huge, and there is not enough help currently. Therefore, WISH and their partnering organizations hope to increase the access to more women dominant places to create equity balance and a safer environment.
How can the community help the WISH Society and the DTES Community?
There is a lot of personal work that needs to be done. Individuals’ need to arm themselves with information to understand the deeply rooted issues around racism, poverty, sexism and misogyny. As well listen and hear the stories of DTES residents and sex workers to learn what they personally go through to understand that the does community matter.
If you want to help the WISH Society specifically, physical donations are always welcomed, as well as one-time donors or monthly donors help a ton. WISH Society also has various volunteer opportunities and staying in touch with WISH on social media to stay updated about the work they are doing and what is happening with the community is always appreciated.
Here is WISH’s website and Instagram link to get in touch with them!
Thank you again Mebrat at the WISH Society for this incredible and informative chat about the WISH Society. We are so incredibly grateful for a society like yours. Everyone should use the WISH Society as a pure example of cultivating inclusivity and follow after their footsteps.