Helping vulnerable dads is Christine Fortin's call to arms. And in barely five years, the Executive Director of Carrefour Familial Hochelaga has realized a crazy dream to fill a void by creating a Quebec network of resources for fathers and children who are experiencing a crisis—a bold project worthy of the greatest of builders.
Everything started in 2007, when Christine Fortin arrived at the head of Carrefour Familial Hochelaga. While working with neighbourhood families, she became aware of the lack of services for vulnerable fathers and realized how isolated they were. Due to a lack of funding, Maison Oxygène—Carrefour Familial Hochelaga's father-child crisis centre and shelter—couldn't keep up with demand. Each year, 20 to 30 vulnerable fathers come to Maison Oxygène and the Carrefour Familial Hochelaga to rebuild their lives and find a new direction.
An ambitious visionary, Christine Fortin decided to grab the bull by the horns. With her team, she created the momentum to launch five Maisons Oxygène in Quebec in five years. The name of this mission: “Opening the doors of hope.”
The challenge was huge. At the time, men's well-being was a low-profile (i.e., ignored) issue, even in community and institutional spheres. The agency began a full-on awareness effort to educate the public and donors about the needs of vulnerable fathers and children. Christine Fortin also turned to university researchers to help Maison Oxygène develop unique expertise and a unique intervention philosophy.
Five years later, this initiative can be considered a veritable success. Indeed, Quebec doesn't have just five but rather ten Maisons Oxygène that form a cross-province network. Three other resources should open their doors very soon, including one in Verdun and one in Laval, and the Montreal centre is expanding. But Christine Fortin isn't ready to declare “mission accomplished.” At least not until each Quebec region has at least one Maison Oxygène.
Centraide has supported Carrefour Familial Hochelaga since 1982.
Christine Fortin is the winner of the Solidaires Leadership 2014.