The Redwood

The Redwood’s Women on the Move Leadership program (WOTM) exists because of the resilience, strength, and determination of women, donors, and staff – The Redwood Community.

A fountain of hope and possibility, the program is a culmination of the efforts and energy of its many participants. It is inspired by the courage of women to overcome abuse; the passion of staff to support this process of healing. The program has grown out of a community resolved to see an end to gender-based violence. And the kindness of donors like the Bras Family Foundation, who provide the financial means to bring this all together.

For a period of one year, WOTM participants explore their understanding of themselves, their experiences of trauma and abuse, and their goals for their futures. Guided by the principles of education and understanding, compassion, and healing the program serves as a resource for women as they reconnect with themselves and the community after abuse. WOTM is grateful to be part of this remarkable process, bearing witness to the pains, joys, struggles, and growth of its many participants.

And the positive effects of the program have deep and far-reaching impacts. From the women who become advocates and leaders in their communities; to their children who thrive in happy homes, in which their mothers are treated with care and respect; to the community whose resolve is only strengthened by the affirmation that there is much hope for a brighter future – The Redwood is so very grateful to the Bras Family Foundation for making this invaluable program available within our community.

 Abi Ajibolade, Executive Director


*** Women on the Move Leadership Program which is run by The Redwood Shelter is proudly supported by The Bras Family Foundation.


The Redwood ‘Women on The Move Graduation’ of 2019

Abi Ajibolade and Leah Lambrakis

Each year The Bras Family Foundation board members are invited to attend The Redwood’s ‘Women on The Move’ graduation.  Women on The Move is a program within the Redwood, which our foundation supports.

Women on The Move (WOTM) provides women who have been in violent and abusive experiences, the opportunity to take part in this community-based program that guides, mentors and teaches these women how to gain self-confidence, self-esteem and learn leadership skills. This has not only been a life-changing opportunity for many women, but also one where they are then empowered to stand strong in their community and take control of their lives.

The Redwood has recently created a program for young women called the ‘Young Women on The Move’ (YWOTM), designed to address the challenges of young women’s and girls’ emotional and physical safety.  YWOTM provides young women with educational tools and resources to overcome violence and develop skills to become leaders in their communities.  At the annual graduation, it is wonderful to watch the smiling faces, the friendships created and hear their stories; stories that are told with excitement and pride.  This year, 9 adults graduated from WOTM and 8 youth graduated from YWOTM!

Because I have worth…because I have value.   These words have stayed with me since the graduation in June.  Art Facilitator, Stella Joseph, coached these young women in creating a piece of art that portrayed what the spoken word of art would look like.  Stella encouraged these women with “Why can’t youbegina sentence with Because?  Go for it”!

What an incredible group of women!  They are empowered, courageous and strong.  To the Redwood, the work you do is beyond amazing and we at The Bras Family Foundation are grateful to you for allowing us to be a part of it, year after year.

Leah Lambrakis, Board Member

Redwood NEWSLETTER - Spring 2018



Women on the Move leadership program offers a unique opportunity for women who self-identify as having experienced violence, to participate in a twelve-month leadership program. The program is designed to support the development of leadership skills, by building up the confidence and self-esteem of participants through community engagement.

February the 10th, 2018, saw the 9th group of participants graduate from the Women on the Move (WOTM) program! The graduation of these nine courageous and extraordinary women has provided them with the necessary confidence and leadership skills required to begin their healing journey.

Leah Lambrakis Bras, a director of The Bras Family Foundation, had the opportunity to attend the graduation and was left with the following sentiments:

“Thank you for inviting The Bras Family Foundation to the Women on the Move graduation. It is truly an event I try to attend each year. Witnessing the results of your program, hearing the stories and watching the smiles on these women’s faces is heart-warming and impactful. Community is the WOTH’s 2018 theme and it could not be more fitting, as you at the Redwood, and this graduating class, have created a community that is powerful. The women’s stories are what sat with me the most: The words I heard were confidence, empowerment, goals, positivity, strength, family, pride, faith and courage. Thank you for allowing us to be witness to such a powerful program.”

Leah Lambrakis Bras
Director, The Bras Family Foundation

Women on the Move Leadership Program is proudly supported by The Bras Family Foundation

“I am so grateful for the opportunity to be part of the WOTM, a program created for us – women with full potential, trying to build a future. This is an amazing opportunity for us; we have a space to heal and grow as a person, to fulfil our dream as a processional, student or business woman and to be mothers. Thanks to programs like this, we learn we have a valuable voice. We are women with very powerful abilities that are hidden deep inside us and for many reasons wee have not discovered them until now. Thanks for helping us fulfil our ambitions, hopes and dreams and discover our potential”

Alma, Group 6

The Redwood Shelter - Women on the Move Leadership Program

Women on the Move (WOTM) leadership program offers a unique opportunity for women who self-identify as having experienced violence to participate in a twelve-month leadership program. The program is designed to support the development of leadership skills by building up the confidence, self-esteem of participants, through community engagement.

The WOTM supports women to explore how the abuse and trauma they’ve experienced in the past the impacts their lives in the present. Trauma from abuse is often tightly interlaced with women’s negative self-concept and feelings of fear, isolation, and self-doubt. WOTM is a place for women to begin the healing journey. Program coordinators, facilitators, and counsellors strive to build a supportive and trusting environment where women can grow, share and thrive.

The Redwood and the WOTM program foster the development of women as leaders and educators, supporting women to gain confidence in the expression of their voices, opinions, and perspectives. Providing opportunities for women to apply what they have learned through WOTM, The Redwood sees facilitating community workshops; speaking about their experience to audiences at community events; and developing and facilitating topic-specific workshop for participants.

Women are supported in their exploration of career options, job searches, and entrepreneurial goals, and in setting education and employment goals – using self surveys and career assessments to encourage self-reflection, awareness and understanding.

WOTM is a place of community, connection, respect and growth – all of which are aspects of a woman’s life and self which can be severely undermined by abuse.

In April 2015, the sixth group of participants graduated from the WOTM leadership program. At the graduation ceremony, Mary, of eight women who graduates that session, (whose name has been changed) delivered the following graduate speech to peers, families, funders, and other program supporters in attendance.

Good afternoon everyone,

My name is Mary*, I am a 'Women on the Move' graduate. Today I am going to share my journey throughout this program. I was in an abusive relationship of more than 8 years. Although I tried to make the relationship work in hopes of my family to staying together but living in a domestic violence was extremely challenging for me. Particularly when my ex fixed a date to take my three-year-old daughter away from me to Bangladesh and not allow her return to Canada to me until she is old enough to travel by herself. This caused great concern for me and I became very fearful for both myself and my daughter, and I felt the home was no longer safe for me and my daughter to remain. At time drew closer to that date I left such an unhealthy environment and moved at the Redwood shelter. I became a single parent. I was not sure how can I make a life of my own. I was feeling isolated. My case manager to The Redwood referred me to the Women on the Move program. I decided to join the program because I wanted to take a chance and try something new. I met other single moms who are going through challenges like me, which helped me realize I am not alone! During the Women on the Move sessions, we were able to share our dreams, goals and achievements. We inspired each other.

 My past life experience negatively affected my self-esteem. The WOTM program offered valuable knowledge on developing self-esteem, life skills lessons in various areas of life, and employability skills. We had fun doing community activities while gaining valuable knowledge to enhance our personal and professional skills.

 Now I want to share with you how I gained confidence and developed a positive self-image from this program. We have learned how important it is to stay positive. I have instilled these scripts in my mind. ‘I can succeed’, 'I am worthy of having a fantastic life', 'I can accomplish great things'. I posted those notes on my bedroom wall. I believe with hard work and effort we can achieve anything.

Another life lesson is the importance of gratitude. From the bottom of my heart, I appreciate everything. At times there are things that go wrong in my life, but I remind myself to focus on what things are going right. I do not have lots of money but I came to know that I won’t bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance. I am free to express my values and interests. No one owns me. I can dream anything and I can be anything! I have the freedom to choose my destiny. That is priceless.   I am constantly grateful and positive. 'When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.' 'The life you imagine most is the life that will be presented to you.' Success comes from thinking and believing success is possible. Once you have mentally decided to gain success your next step is to work towards your dream.

 I have learned how to set goals and make plans to achieve them. Sharing goals with trusted friends is a good way to keep motivated. I met Stephanie, who is one of the Community Outreach Counsellors of the program for a one-on-one session. The meeting with her helped me to discover my dreams and purpose in my life. I told her I wanted to go back to school. In our first meeting, I was only thinking about barriers such as my age, high tuition fees, childcare support etc. She informed me about WoodGreen’s Homeward Bound program that was just perfect for my specific needs. She helped me in the application process, resume and cover letter. Then I attended the info session. Then came a math and English test, which I did a good job. Throughout the whole time, I was constantly in touch with Stephanie. She motivated me and at the same time, I felt accountable to accomplish my goals. I got the opportunity for interviews. I passed three interviews and was accepted into the Homeward Bound program.

 Throughout this process, I realized how badly I needed a mentor. Without Stephanie’s constant support and positive feedback, I could have gone back to my old ways of thinking of myself as a loser. I will be starting college in September 2016 to achieve my goal of becoming a financial planner. I am committed to improving my life and the life of my daughter. I want to strengthen my community and create more opportunities for others to gain financial stability. I want to be a role model for future generations.

            The WOTM program gave me a new life. Every part of my life has changed, from my eating and sleeping habits, to the amount of productivity in each day. My forms of entertainment, value of time, self-respect and knowledge of my role in the community have been positively impacted. WOTM is truly a means to the goal. I would call this program a dream project, which helps vulnerable women accomplish their dreams! I am grateful to the WOTM program's fantastic donors and staff for their help and support throughout my journey.

Thank you!

Mary Group 6

“In short, this program gave me a new life. Every part of my life has changed, from my eating and sleeping habits to the amount of productive each day I am! My forms of entertainment, value of time, self-respect and knowledge of my role in the community have been irrevocably and positively impacted”.

Name withheld for safety

We would like to extend sincere appreciation to The Brass Family Foundation for the generosity and support we have received, so we can continue to impact the lives of the women.

Stories of "Women on the Move"

The Redwood– A safe haven for women and children fleeing abuse.



April 11, 2015 marked graduation day for eight Women on the Move participants.  These strong women have demonstrated their ability to be leaders in their communities, by becoming immersed in the Women on the Move Leadership Program.  Through a hands-on learning approach, women develop confidence to raise their voices in concrete ways to end violence against women and girls.  For many of the women, the completion of WOTM is only a starting point.

The generosity and interest from The Bras Family Foundation in this program, inspires our team and the women to embrace our unique journeys and to continue to spread the anti-violence message.  Thank you for your generous support!

Wendy Bray, Fundraising Manager


WOTM Report: April 1, 2015 - March 31, 2016