Visions and Voices Journey

As part of the Visions and Voices program, Russ, Jessica, Harri, and Maraleigh travelled to the communities of Berens River and Bloodvein, a 5 hour drive North of Winnipeg, located on the East side of Lake Winnipeg. Over two days, Jessica and Russ shared their experience with FASD with audiences that included social workers, teachers, and community outreach workers.  With stunning scenery and great people, this was a fantastic trip!

The Touchstone Lens #4


The Touchstone Foodbank Crew; Dylan, Dallas, Nathan and Maraleigh.  Every other Thursday, this group of hardworking individuals is responsible for picking up the Touchstone food order from Winnipeg Harvest.  They fill up the back of 1 van and 1 car and deliver the food order to the Touchstone (IJC) offices at 1200 Portage Ave.  From there, they unpack, organize and store the food so that over the course of the next two weeks, Touchstone participants can come to pick up their individual foodbank allotment at a time that works for them.  This arrangement works well for our participants, no appointment is necessary and it is possible to pick up small amounts of food several times during the course of 2 weeks instead of needing to pick up one large order all at once.  A big shout out goes to Winnipeg Harvest and to Touchstone’s Foodbank Crew for making this possible!

The Touchstone Lens #3 (Video)


Visions and Voices is a program of Initiatives for Just Communities that offers presentations to groups within Winnipeg and throughout Manitoba who want to know more about Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). The presenters are adults with FASD who are willing to share their stories of hope, struggle, and accomplishment with the public. Following a presentation by Visions and Voices to teachers and resource teachers at Robert Smith School in Selkirk, we asked for feedback from the audience and this is what we heard…

The Touchstone Lens #2

Many times we look but do not see.  However… a camera can recapture a lost day. Thinking in visual terms can develop a better understanding of the world that surrounds us. The world becomes what we choose to focus on.  There is beauty in the world… if we choose to see it.

(Russ Hilsher at Bird’s Hill Park)   photo by Harri Vallittu

The Touchstone Lens #1

Birds On The Wire

A wrong turn turns right. Having missed the left turn, a quick right… and out came the camera for Russ to capture these silhouetted birds on the wire.  Sometimes… things are Black and White.

photo by Russ Hilsher

Touchstone Blog Post – August 31, 2016

At IJC, all of our programs emphasize the centrality of relationship building in the work that we do. It’s also a term that gets used in many different ways by various different groups; the common denominator, I think, being the intent to show concern for human welfare. In Winnipeg, police cruisers are flanked on both sides by the inscription building relationships while restorative justice programs (like Touchstone) talk about building healthy therapeutic relationships with participants. Clearly it is important for us to define how we understand the term “relationship building” given the vast difference between the work of the Winnipeg police force and that of our programs.

At Touchstone, I think the term has specific meaning for each worker and looks very different for each “participant” “worker” relationship depending on many external factors and the unique experience of each individual. My first understanding of relationship building came from Jean Paul Lederach. In his book, The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace, he writes, “when relationships collapse, the center of social change does not hold. And correspondingly, rebuilding what has fallen apart is centrally the process of rebuilding relational spaces that hold things together” (75). For me, relationship building in the context of restorative justice means that as the justice system continues to isolate people and collapse relationships, we resist those destructive forces by working for social change through repairing “what has fallen apart.”

Visions and Voices Update

Since the beginning of Visions and Voices, an important part of our presentations have been the speaker’s life story videos. There are times when we don’t play them for a variety of reasons, but in general, the videos serve as introduction for the speakers and allow time for speakers to feel comfortable in the environment before speaking. With our remaining budget from 2015, we were able to partner with JustTV to create videos for our two new speakers. This was an incredible process to be a part of, from working with JustTV to interviewing the speakers on camera.

Something that really stood out to me though was the process of interviewing the speakers. Recently I was with one of the speakers as they were interviewed by a journalist for a news story and at times felt uncomfortable with the way the journalists’ attempt to “get the story” lead the individual to say something they wouldn’t normally have said. Understanding that many individuals living with FASD can struggle with language and communication, leading questions or unclear, abstract questions by unfamiliar people can be problematic. After having prepared significantly with the new speakers and having done numerous presentations alongside them in the past year, when it came to interviewing I realized I too was asking leading questions. However, unlike the journalist who at best had a brief pre-interview, I was able to structure my questions in a way that moved speakers towards reflecting on ideas and stories they had shared before, in their own words. For me it was a powerful reminder of a lesson that I learn over and over doing this work. Supporting individuals living with FASD, specifically as they tell their story, requires that I consistently make an effort to understand their world so that I can use language and ideas that create space for them to tell their stories in a way that is genuine and empowering.

Christmas in May

Christmas in May is a project for a global issues class at Kelvin High School. This project revolves around helping the participants of Touchstone who live with FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder).

Imagine you only had 6$ to live on per day. That is the average budget of the participants of Touchstone, after they have paid for housing. FASD is a big problem in the world today, the people who live with FASD have a higher chance of living in poverty and therefore rely on food banks for essential groceries. Christmas time is one of the only times a year when they are the recipients of luxury items such as the ones listed below.

We know that this will not reduce poverty, but it does raise awareness for what living in poverty is like. This project is asking for your donations so that we can bring Christmas to them in May.

Date: May 5th 2016—June 8th 2016

Contact Times: 9:00am—5:00pm

Contact Number: 204-227-0340

Donation Address: 302-1200 Portage Ave

(Donations can be dropped off or contact us for pick up)

Wish List—Bold items are in high demand!

  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo
  • Shavers soap (body, dish, laundry, softener)
  • Tampons
  • Brushes (hair, teeth)
  • Toilet paper
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Canned food (ready to eat, easy to prepare)
  • Cheese
  • Meat (bacon, sausage, lunch meat)
  • Eggs
  • Sugar butter (normal and peanut)
  • Condiments jam
  • Powder drink mix (ex. ice tea)
  • Can openers
  • Disposable plates/cutlery
  • Garbage bags
  • Travel mugs
  • Hair dye
  • Makeup
  • Nail
  • Polish
  • Bobby pins
  • Gift cards (ex. Price Choppers, Tim Hortons, Walmart, Cineplex)
  • Socks
  • Coupons
  • Towels/ cloths
  • Pillows
  • Sheets
  • Reusable bags (even backpacks)
  • Bus tickets