Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Safe house offers direction

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MONIQUE Bazin was 15 when she ran away from her home in Ile des Chenes. She came to Winnipeg and soon got hooked up with the wrong crowd. She spent all her time partying, she stopped going to school, and she ran away for the second time, this time from her foster family in Winnipeg.

Today, Bazin is a responsible 20-year-old. She credits a North End safe house with helping to turn her life around.

Ndinawemaaganag Endaawaad is a shelter for runaways or kids living on the street. Known as Ndinawe (Na-din-ah-weh), it provides a safe environment for up to 16 youths and is a place that encourages teens to make positive life choices.

Bazin made some good choices, and she has come full circle as an employee at Ndinawe.

Bazin left her home in Ile des Chenes during the spring flood of 1997. She ran away with a girlfriend, and the two were walking to Winnipeg when a motorist stopped and offered them a ride.

"A lady picked us up and took us to Child and Family Services in Winnipeg," says Bazin.

Her friend chose to return home, but Bazin decided that she wasn't going back. Just by chance, the "lady" that picked her up was a foster parent, and Bazin was placed into care at her home.

"She called me her flood baby and I called her my guardian angel," says Bazin, who still laughs about the serendipity.

But the honeymoon at her new home ended after a few months. Bazin stopped going to school and was not getting along with anyone, including her foster parents.

She ran away to her boyfriend's place and stayed for a few days until her Child and Family Services worker suggested that Ndinawe would be a better place to stay.

Bazin was reluctant at first, but warmed up to Ndinawe after a few days.

"The people there were not authority figures, they were there to take care of you," says Bazin. "They would sit down and talk with you, just like a friend."

Cheryl Kocis works in administration at Ndinawe, and was a practical skills instructor at the safe house when Bazin was staying there.

"We try to make the youth feel that this is their home," says Kocis, who has worked at Ndinawe since it opened in 1993. "I would be the mom in the kitchen. I would ask them to help make a salad, and then they would let their guard down and open up to you."

Ndinawe's approach is based on aboriginal principles. The full name in the Ojibway language -- Ndinawemaaganag Endaawaad -- means Our Relatives Home.

"We treat all kids as if they are our relatives," says Sonia Prevost-Derbecker, executive director of Ndinawe. "That's part of the native philosophy, that we're all related."

Bazin stayed at the safe house for a month, and during that time she realized that she needed to change her outlook and clean up her act.

She returned to her foster home and graduated from high school in 2001. She is now studying at the Manitoba Metis Federation, in the Metis Child and Family Community Service Program.

The program involves a practicum, and once again fate stepped into her life -- she was assigned to do her practicum at Ndinawe.

"I'm a big believer in fate," says Bazin, who is now a casual employee at Ndinawe.

In the near future, Ndinawe will expand its reach and will open up a youth resource centre in the North End.

"It will have a drop-in centre and have outreach workers who will walk the streets and help kids who are hard to reach, kids not in school and kids who are addicted or crime involved," says Prevost-Derbecker.

Prevost-Derbecker says she will be soon hiring for the Youth Centre and if fate has its way, maybe one of the new workers will follow in Bazin's footsteps, and be a former resident of Ndinawe.

For more information on Ndinawe's services, call 586-2588.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 21, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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