“If I can make a small difference in even one person’s life, that’s enough for me.”

Emily Charman, Coordinator of Group Programs at NYWC in Toronto.

Emily Charman, NYWC’s new coordinator of group programs, is here to help.

While the COVID pandemic impacted all Canadians, it hit women and non-binary folks, new Canadians and other vulnerable groups particularly hard. For Emily Charman, it was a seismic shift that motivated her to switch from studying International Political Science to pursuing an MA in Social Justice and Community Engagement.

“Amid the pandemic, I realized that I needed to help and support my neighbours and the people in my community,” says Charman, who began distributing food and hygiene kits as a Food Not Bombs volunteer in Ottawa. “I was inspired by non-binary city councillor Catherine McKenney’s pandemic outreach work. If we can help someone thrive or make ends meet, that’s an amazing legacy.”

“Empowerment is different for everyone.”

Charman is excited to help and support women as the new group programs coordinator at North York Women’s Centre. She admires how NYWC services and programs like The Women’s Empowerment Series help to empower women according to their own individual needs and context. As she explains, it’s about providing an array of tools and allowing individuals to choose the ones that help them reach the goals that matter the most to them.

“I’m here to listen,” says Charman. “If we can help with one small thing via a program, or by directing a caller to a helpful service in their community, that’s amazing.”

Activism starts early.

Charman still recalls the first time she began to understand injustice, inequality and privilege in grade three, when she heard a teacher poking fun of a student whose family didn’t have a garage. When she shared how unfair she thought the teacher was being, her mom agreed that it wasn’t right.

“My mom said, “You’re right, and if you don’t like it, then you have to start talking about it,’” says Charman. “She told me to raise my voice to speak up for others, and that began my journey of advocacy and feminism in its many forms.”

“I love intergenerational learning.”

In addition to her studies and street-level volunteer work in Ottawa, Charman has worked as a youth group facilitator with the Level Up non-profit and SPECTRUM Waterloo Region’s Rainbow Community Space, which supports 2SLGBTQIA+ people. Charman loved talking about social justice and civic action with kids and being an ally to youth exploring their queer identity.  

“I have a water bottle with a Pride sticker on it,” says Charman, who came out as queer at a time when there were fewer openly queer role models. “Often, I’d have kids come up to me and be like, ‘Oh, I have a question for you.’ Something as small as a Pride sticker was a signal that they could ask me stuff. It was very moving.”

At NYWC, Charman looks forward to working with and learning from participants of every generation and orientation. “I’m here to help and support people in the way that they need.”

If you’d like to make a difference in women’s lives too, find out more about North York Women’s Centre and visit our Volunteering and Jobs sections.

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