A bright light in the shadow pandemic

Almarie Ryan

COVID-19 has loomed over the world for two years now. We’ve all been following health procedures and doing our part to end the pandemic, but unfortunately, another issue has grown in the shadows.

As we’ve stayed home and socially distanced over the last two years, domestic abuse for women and children has intensified, forcing them to turn to shelters experiencing resource shortages and other roadblocks. This International Women’s Day, we want to shed light on an amazing woman who rallied others together to support women and children in need during this shadow pandemic.

Meet Almarie Ryan

Almarie became a Foresters member in October 2014. After speaking with other Foresters members, Almarie decided to host her first volunteer event in 2017, a holiday breakfast with the East Scarborough Boys and Girls Club. When she described the event, Almarie said, “It was an inclusive event where families could show up and enjoy a nice warm breakfast and the kids could get a toy.” It was here that Almarie saw how much she could help others by using the benefits offered by Foresters. “It was a good first event to get me comfortable and feel like I could really do this.”

Almarie’s twin daughters, Renée and Josée, who are also Foresters members, join their mother every chance they get to give back. Almarie explains that from an early age, both daughters showed her that volunteering was something they loved doing, starting when they stayed late after school to help teachers and other students. “They were volunteering. I saw it as just helping and that it was insignificant. But no, it wasn’t…they’ve always had that in them.”

Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter

In 2020 alone, the rates of major depressive and anxiety disorders rose sharply, especially among women and children, when compared to men.1 A report from the UN also showed that since the start of the pandemic, 1 in 2 women has reported that they or a woman they know experienced some form of violence.2 This increase in mental health issues, food insecurities and domestic abuse led many to seek aid from places of support, which in turn put a strain on organizations like Ernestine’s Women’s Shelter.

Sharlene Tygesen, the Executive Director at Ernestine’s, said, “We saw a 40% increase in crisis calls during this period and a 70% increase in food support.” This sudden escalation stretched their staff thin and left Ernestine’s in need of help and supplies. Luckily, volunteers and donors have been stepping up to help. As Sharlene says, “During the past two years, our donors have been an absolute lifeline for Ernestine’s and the women and children for whom we provide service.”

How a small act can make a difference

When Almarie decided to research shelters to help in 2021, she came across Ernestine’s. “It was one of the places that spoke to me.” she said, when describing the shelter. “Helping vulnerable people like children and mothers is something that is really dear to my heart.” As a Foresters member, Almarie had access to a Foresters Care™ grant that provided her $200 to help a shelter.

But Almarie wanted to do more, so she brought in her daughters, who also had their grant funds available. Next, she approached her best friend and her daughter and convinced them to help her make a difference for Ernestine’s. Together, these five women pooled together their grants and bought essential items that were put into care kits for the shelter.

Donations, like the ones Almarie and her team of women put together, go a long way to helping support women and children left with nothing after fleeing from abuse and facing food insecurity. When it comes to helping women and children in need, Sharlene said, “We could not have done it without our generous supporters.”

Our members have the power to change lives

At Foresters, we’re so proud of the ways our members give back to others, and we’re honored to be able to help support the selfless acts of generosity they carry out with our grants. For Almarie, Foresters is more than just a financial services provider, it’s a place that cares about her and the effort she puts into being there for people. “I think I was destined to be a Foresters member,” she said when asked about how helping others through Foresters made her feel.

If you want to learn more about our Foresters Care™ grants and make a difference like Almarie, head over to MyForesters now! We encourage all our members to use their grants and give back to causes in need, like women’s shelters and charities. There is so much good you can do, and always remember, a little help goes a long way.

Finally, in light of International Women’s Day and in the spirit of forging women’s empowerment across the world in the face of this shadow pandemic, there is no better message we can leave you with than these words from Almarie:

“Being a mother of two daughters, it’s important for me to show them that, as women, we need to support and lift each other up.”

1 https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(21)02143-7/fulltext

2 https://data.unwomen.org/publications/vaw-rga

420553 CAN/US (03/22)

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