• The Liberty Project

Windsor Star: UWindsor students make pandemic pivot to help at-risk women

Updated: Apr 7

Photo by Nick Brancaccio / Windsor Star.

Originally posted by the Windsor Star.

Mary Caton, Windsor Star

March 9, 2021

A group of University of Windsor students have garnered some real-world experience on how to successfully pivot a project during a global pandemic.

The Liberty Project is a student-driven social enterprise that provides transitional employment to women who have suffered from abuse, addiction or trauma.

The female clients learn how to sew feminine hygiene products destined for women and girls in developing countries. The university students and their clients normally meet twice a week. The participants also learn about handling finances and being accountable.

The COVID-19 pandemic put an end to all those face-to-face interactions.

Project co-managers Natalie Suzor and Megan Veldhuis along with the rest of the team devised new strategies and delivery methods that allowed them to continue for the 2020-21 school year.

“We converted to making masks for this year only because there was a need in the community and it was easier to teach through Zoom than how to make a (reusable) menstrual pad,” Veldhuis said.

The House of Sophrosyne referred the clients, who took part in the first-semester project from September to December. Instead of working with eight to 10 women, the Liberty Project focused on four women, with staff at the House of Sophrosyne serving as a bridge, delivering sewing machines and material.

“They really helped us keep things going this year,” Suzor said. “They’re a wonderful partner.”

That group sewed 250 masks that have since been donated to different organizations within the Windsor community.

Suzor reports that three of the women involved in the project have found jobs and the fourth has become a full-time student.

The project group is currently working with another four clients from now through April.

“It’s definitely been a challenge this year and so different from last year,” said Veldhuis, an Honours BComm student from Amherstburg. “Definitely this year, we’re growing as a team and there’s always something new to learn and we’re navigating this new way of life together.”

While Veldhuis has been involved with the Liberty Project for two years, Suzor started in the summer of 2017.

“I’ve seen so many variations of the project and I find that this has been my most valuable piece of volunteer experience over the last few years,” said Suzor, who just graduated with a degree in International Relations and Development Studies. “It’s all over my resume and it’s one of my favourite things to talk about.”

The Liberty Project is part of Enactus, a national experiential learning platform for post-secondary students that challenges them to create positive change in their communities.

Enactus University of Windsor will present the Liberty Project virtually at the upcoming Regional Exposition March 12-19. The group will be competing against schools from across Central Canada for a chance to represent Windsor at the Enactus National Exposition in May.

You can follow Mary on Twitter here.

Original article post can be found here.

A big thanks to the Windsor Star and author Mary Caton for profiling The Liberty Project and the pivot made this year!