By Cristina Paolozzi, March 8 2021—
March 8 marks International Women’s Day, and the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters (ACWS) is celebrating through a campaign designed to highlight the essential work done by shelter staff from across the province. The campaign, known as The Shelter Superstars campaign, brings a focus to the largely female workforce who have been providing services to victims of domestic abuse throughout the pandemic.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, women’s shelters have remained open, having to adapt quickly to the changing health restrictions over the course of the past year. The Calgary Women’s Emergency Centre noted that the total number of clients served was over 15,000 in their last fiscal year, and that 74 per cent of Albertans reported that they know someone personally who has been a victim of domestic abuse. Supporting the essential work done in these shelters is just one of the ways the Shelter Superstars campaign aids in the fight against domestic abuse.
This campaign is being conducted on the ACWS’ social media platforms and is meant to bring awareness to the work that shelter workers are doing everyday, thanking these individuals for their contributions on the frontline. The Shelter Superstars campaign also shares what a typical day in the life looks like for a domestic violence shelter worker.
One of these Shelter Superstars is Carlee Marchbank — a Shelter Team Lead at Rowan House Emergency Shelter in High River. Marchbank spoke with the Gauntlet about this campaign, and how the work that she does everyday helps to support women in her community.
Previously, Marchbank worked as a shelter councillor which saw her working one-on-one with clients in shelter. In the last six months, she has transitioned as a Team Lead.
Marchbank says that the work that she and her colleagues have been conducting didn’t slow down with the pandemic.
“It’s been a long road since the pandemic has started, just being an essential worker and being on the frontlines, we didn’t really have the opportunity to close our doors. We had to really kind of just collaborate with the other shelters and come up with kind of a plan and some procedure to navigate COVID while still being open and providing that safe spot for women and kiddos to come.”
Marchbank says there were definitely challenges that her team faced, but were able to collaborate with other shelters in the community to successfully follow the COVID guidelines as laid out by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and Alberta Health Services (AHS), continuing to provide support to community members and their families.
“We were able to remain open, and still provide services for other community members,” Marchbank remarks.
Marchbank also says that the Shelter Superstars campaign is important because it allows individuals to recognize the work that goes on in women’s shelters, and that it is crucial to highlight this to gain more support from the community.
“I think its just really great to highlight the work that everyone in shelter is doing,” she says. “It’s just bringing awareness to the community that we are here and we’re open but we need support from […] everyone.”
Marchbank also mentions that one of the most rewarding parts of her job is seeing the work that she does being reflected back into her community.
“Being local we see a lot of the same faces,” she begins. She values “just seeing them in your communities, thriving,” as well as seeing the people she helps move forward in their journeys and having a fresh start.
“You actually get the opportunity to see a lot of people kind of go from just surviving to thriving,” says Marchbank.
Marchbank also commented on how the work that she does at the shelter also reflects the general message of International Women’s Day. Marchbank says that its about encouragement and inspiring bravery in women.
“In the shelter we are so focussed on just empowering women. So, rather than do for, we empower them to work on their goals and will stand next to them and support them,” says Marchbank. “Lots of times women fleeing domestic violence have been so controlled in their lives, that they haven’t necessarily had the opportunity to do things for themselves.”
Catch these and other stories of shelter workers in Alberta through the Shelter Superstars campaign under the hashtag #ShelterSuperstars on social media, or on the ACWS’ website. If you would like to support the work of shelter workers, donate to local domestic violence shelters, contact your MLA or MP to speak out on the importance of shelters in your community — the ACWS even has a letter template you can download — or follow the ACWS @AlbertaCouncilofWomensShelters on Facebook and Instagram, and @womensshelter on Twitter.