Alana Couvrette, president of the U of O’s United Way chapter, will be spearheading the LeadHer initiative this year. Photo: Amitesh Malhotra.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

U of O’s United Way chapter to host leadership events over the next eight months

This year, the University of Ottawa’s United Way chapter will be organizing the first “LeadHer” initiative, aimed at empowering young women and girls at the local Sandy Hill Hope Outreach Shelter by teaching them valuable life skills.

The initiative, spearheaded by club president and fourth-year public administration and political science U of O student Alana Couvrette, came into the works after an event held last year where members of the club met with groups of young women at the shelter.

“Despite all these unfortunate things, they really had a plan for their future—they were really career-oriented, they wanted to finish school to get a great job and lead a good career. They were really motivated despite all that they’ve been through,” said Couvrette in an interview with the Fulcrum.

Couvrette said that, after speaking to these young women, she felt like she could step in and help them achieve their goals.

The LeadHer initiative is an eight-month project running from September 2016 to April 2017, where each month the club will host an event centred on the theme of leadership and confidence-boosting.

Couvrette believes that the LeadHer initiative is different from anything her club has done in the past because it involves working directly with the young women in the shelter. Couvrette and other members of the club hope that this will be an incentive for other students to volunteer and be a part of the project.

Some of the workshops which will take place over the year focus on topics such as financial literacy,  self-defense, and safety awareness.

The U of O’s United Way chapter will also be partnering with Dress for Success Ottawa and the Head Start for Young Women Program, in order to provide interview coaching sessions and other forms of job training. The club is partnered with the U of O’s learning garden as well, in order to teach the girls how to cook simple meals. Other recreational activities include yoga, origami classes, and “crazy cupcake nights.”

Couvrette said that part of the reason why this initiative is so important is because most of the girls are aged 16–21.

“It’s such a tender age in your development. You discover who you are as a person, and if there are obstacles in your way it can really hinder your personal and spiritual growth.”

The project does come with some challenges, however, namely due to cuts to club funding this year by the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa.

“It was very difficult this year, a lot of funds were cut or the deadlines were pushed back which makes the funds inaccessible to us because they were only offered in January. We can’t wait that long for such a small amount.”

After a long summer of searching for funding, the club currently has three potential sponsors who will be part of the LeadHer initiative.

Couvrette hopes that students will volunteer and be a part of this project in order to give back to the community and help change some lives for the better.

“Our goal is really to liven the lives of the girls and young women who reside in the shelter or transitional housing unit. They have been through many hardships so it is great to see them with a smile on their face.”