Annual General Meeting: Celebrating 10 Years!

MANSO hosted our Annual General Meeting on June 12th at the Deer Lodge Community Centre. Thank you to the more than 100 representatives of our member organizations, and other friends and partners who joined us during the day.  During the AGM, we launched our 2016-17 Annual Report, and our 2017-22 Strategic Plan.

As part of our Annual General Meeting, we celebrated 10 years of umbrella organization collaboration in Manitoba.  (The first settlement umbrella, initially called Manitoba Immigrant Settlement Sector Association, later changed to Manitoba Immigrant and Refugee Settlement Sector Association was founded in 2007.  Manitoba English as an Additional Language Organizations (MEALO) was founded in 2012 and the two joined forces in 2016.)  Our umbrella has grown a lot over this 10 year history, now bringing together more than 60 organizations with a very wide range of expertise from across the province. 

Leading up to our 2017 Annual General Meeting, we asked several people who have been leaders during our 10 year history to share their memories of the early days of the organization.  Here are six stories – among many more!  

Carlos Vialard
When I was chosen by the Provincial Government to represent Manitoba SPOs at the national Settlement meetings in the mid-2000s, I really felt like the odd one out.

I struggled to speak on behalf of regional or francophone service providers and I couldn’t provide a fully-informed voice for our sector.

Everyone else had an umbrella organization behind them to help them prepare their reports. I learnt from the big agencies like OCASI, worked hard with my colleagues back home and in 2007 MIRSSA was established, a board was elected and its meetings were hosted around the Province.
Jorge Fernandez
Ten years ago we had several settlement organizations who were doing shared work but had no voice to represent us at the provincial level. 

Eight organizations (Success Skills, NEEDS, Welcome Place, Immigrant Centre, Portage la Prairie, SERC, Salvation Army and the Entry Program) united to form (then) MISSA and we enjoyed a strong level of support and collaboration among all the programs.

It is wonderful to see that same spirit of cooperation and support in MANSO and to see the strength that our combined voice brings to provincial and national tables now.

Shannon MacFarlane
When I think about 10 years of umbrella work in Manitoba I want to say that it’s been an honour and a privilege to be a part of this.  It’s not always easy to do this work because there are many barriers that we as a sector face and that newcomers face, but I have so much respect for the people we work with, and for.  Nobody works 9-5 in this sector; we’re all in it because we want to make a difference.
Laurie Sawatzky
It has been a privilege to be part of the settlement sector in Manitoba and in the good company of experienced colleagues who provide support and resources for clients and for each other. It has been a great pleasure to be part of the MIRSSA and MANSO boards for the past 6 years. 
Grace Eidse
I was President of MIRSSA when the Feds 'repatriated' settlement funding in April 2012. I remember sitting at the table for the “crisis talks” at 213 Notre Dame, furiously scribbling notes as people expressed their concerns. I was in a strong learning mode and leader mode at the same time. I called directors afterwards to make sure I understood all the issues, and wrote a formal 2-page list of our priorities and concerns to share at the National Settlement Council meeting later that month. I felt I was standing strong for the sector, while at the same time assuaging peoples' fears and willing everything to work out well. Those were exciting times! That's when I adopted the mantra, "Never waste a good crisis!"
Monika Feist
What stood out to me from those early days is that all the leaders and their staff were very passionate about the work they were doing to support immigrants and refugees. 

We realized that we needed to get together to share best practices and stand together on specific issues; we needed a united approach. 

The creation of MIRSSA was the beginning of that united approach and that valuable work continues today.

We wish to thank our board of directors, including Val Cavers (Mosaic) and Terena Caryk (University of Winnipeg, English for Specific Purposes), who completed their terms on the board for their outstanding contributions.  We welcome new board members, Grace Eidse (Altered Minds Inc.), Susan Emerson (YMCA-YWCA of Winnipeg), and Miriam Turyamwijuka (Portage Learning and Literacy Centre), as well as Laurie Sawatzky (Regional Connections) who we re-elected to the board.  

We also thank our guests Dr. Lori Wilkinson (Immigration Research West / University of Manitoba), who gave an informative presentation about collaboration with researchers and Dr. Jan Stewart (University of Winnipeg) and John Smyth (Aurora Family Therapy Centre) who presented about their insights from the Harvard Refugee Trauma Program. 

At the AGM, we had the chance to hear from more of you about what MANSO means to you.  Here are a few of your reflections.  We look forward to a great year ahead.