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Needers to leaders: CARS for women and children in rural, remote, northern and Aboriginal communities

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Communities Achieving Responsive Services (CARS), Canadian Women’s Health Network
Publication Date: 
1 Jan 2009


CARS for Women and Children in Rural, Remote, Northern and Aboriginal Communities (RRNA) was a project designed to increase the participation of mothers in the development and delivery of local services in RRNA communities across Canada. The project model involved training women, primarily young mothers, from two communities in every province and territory to use a pre-tested community development process called CARS (Communities Achieving Responsive Services). The intent was that each mom would use the CARS process to improve services and supports for children and families in their home community with the support of a local host organization focused on serving families and children.

This final report of the project will highlight project results, evaluation findings, lessons learned and challenges of the project through the documentation of project activities, outcomes, performance indicators and measures of success. Information for this report was derived from meeting minutes, interim progress reporting, individual participant journals, participant evaluations and key informant interviews completed with project participants, representatives of local host organizations and representatives of both the Canadian Women's Health Network and Rural Voices. In total 29 key informant interviews were completed by a third party consultant who was not involved in project activities.

Early childhood development was the central focus of the project. Enhancing children's development begins by supporting the family and, in particular, the active leadership of women who are primarily responsible for the health of the entire family. It is also important to consider the link between community health and social and economic issues, such as poverty.

The project cultivated local leadership in RRNA communities by providing training, support and mentoring to 25 women from communities in all three territories and in eight provinces (Ontario and Prince Edward Island did not participate). Ten of the participating women were of First Nations or Inuit descent, living in northern or remote communities. All twenty five women recorded positive personal and leadership gains from their project experience and the majority of the participants have moved forward with implementing the CARS process to support community action in their own communities. Their journey is both inspiring and educational and we are honoured to share their story with you through this report.