Two women standing outside on a metal staircase. Woman on the left has light hair pulled back and is wearing a red winter jacket. The woman on the right has medium length brown hair and a black winter jacket with fur lining. They are smiling and standing in front of a brick wall

Artbeat’s Lisa (left) and North End Women’s Melanie (right) at their mentorship match meeting


Every year Spark presents the Spark Outstanding Pro Bono Award at the Volunteer Manitoba Volunteer Awards Gala. We look forward to this day every year because it gives us a chance to recognize some of our volunteers and the impact their pro bono work has on the community, as well as celebrate volunteerism in Manitoba.


From now until awards night, we are celebrating the nominees for the Spark Outstanding Pro Bono Award, and their contributions to their community through a series of volunteer profiles. 


Today we are profiling Award nominee Melanie Houde for her mentorship work with Lisa Obirek from Artbeat Studios!


Lis is a peer-support facilitator for Artbeat, a nonprofit “that provides social supports, working art studio and gallery space, and mentorship for individuals living with mental illness for the purpose of recovery and empowerment”. She approached Spark about a potential mentorship. While she had plenty of experience in the arts field, Lisa was interested in someone who would offer “support and guidance navigating boundaries in facilitating peer-support spaces.”


Spark didn’t have that particular skill set in our roster so we reached out to our network to see if anyone would be interested in volunteering their expertise. Melanie Houde, from North End Women’s Centre (NEWC) replied that she was interested. Melanie supervises the drop-in centre, doing everything from “making sure that there are enough harm reduction supplies present, to greeting and sitting with community members who come by, to connecting community members with appropriate resources.” She was interested in being a mentor because “it sounded like a great chance to get to meet someone new and learn all about their organization while also providing any support that I might be able to offer them.” 


Melanie was the perfect fit.


Lisa and Melanie met monthly for 6 months to discuss all things peer-support related. 


Lisa reported that Melanie “demonstrated numerous qualities that helped [her] further shape the peer-support group at Artbeat. She shared her experiences at NEWC’s drop-in centre and the flexibility required to show-up and be present no matter who showed up and in what state. 


Lisa further credits Melanie with “helping [her] focus more on the significance of simply being present with whoever shows up rather than being so concerned about the boundaries or guidelines to navigate the situation. She showed me that it was less about making policies and rules and more about presence and flexibility in relationships.” 


At the end of the mentorship Lisa said that “Melanie’s mentorship gave me more confidence and decreased my anxiety in how I approach my role here as the facilitator of our peer-support community. [The group] will be calmer and more attentive now because of the guidance I received through Meanie.” 


Thank you Melanie for your amazing mentorship!


For more volunteer profiles check out Danielle Harvey-Wilson, Sheila Young, Kelly Thibodeau, Margo Powell!