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It’s almost noon on Monday and Dr. Laura Whyte is about to start her first shift at the Glace Bay General Hospital when her phone rings.
As the emergency room doctor prepares for her day at an unfamiliar facility, she has a million things on her mind. But Whyte is time-efficient and knowing that the call is about something dear to her heart she decides to answer.
The caller is looking for an update on how things have gone at Hope House, a live-in recovery home for women suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. The inquiry is timely as the rural Cape Breton house is about to celebrate two years of operation.
Coincidentally, Whyte is being feted for her role in establishing the Hope Project that oversees the recovery house and all of its funding and services. She is one of 10 honourees recognized through L’Oréal Paris’ 2020 Women of Worth Award Program (Canadian edition).
Whyte said Hope House has met a need within the community, citing a stay-sober rate of 75 per cent for women who have stayed there for three or more months.
"(Hope House) gives women a place to go where they can still stay in their community."
“We come from a women’s perspective, a trauma-informed perspective and we try to integrate a holistic program — we focus on a strong clinical program with educational components, with individual counselling and with group programming after-care,” said Whyte, who with pharmacist husband Andrew is raising three young children.
“We also try to use things that are a lot of fun because that helps develop a person’s skills and interests — we use horticultural therapy, horses, small animals, gardens, and fitness which, of course, is such an important part of mental health.”
Although her shift is about to start, she takes the time to stress the importance of giving clients an opportunity to recover in their own community.
“It (Hope House) gives women a place to go where they can still stay in their community. A lot of the women who come through our doors are moms, so they can be there and still be near their children. We believe that the community can meet its own needs,” said Whyte, who added that all of the project’s $10,000 monthly budget is funded by donations.
As for the Women of Worth Awards, title-sponsor L’Oréal Paris states the philanthropic program embodies the belief that “every woman is worth it” by celebrating women volunteers who find beauty in giving back to their communities.
Each of this year’s 10 honourees will receive $10,000 for their non-profit organization.
The awards will be handed out at a Toronto gala on March 8 (International Women’s Day), when the program’s national honouree will be named. The winner will receive an additional $10,000 for their charitable initiative.
Whyte isn’t the only Nova Scotian up for the top award. One of her fellow honourees is Gina Jones-Wilson of the Upper Hammonds Plains Community Development Association, who is being recognized for more than 40 years of volunteering with youth and seniors on issues relating to housing, health care, educational programming and access to public transit.
Cape Bretoners interested in finding out more about the honourees are asked to visit womenofworth.ca where votes can be cast.
How to get help
New Brunswick (Addiction Centres, Department of Health)
Newfoundland and Labrador (Addictions Services, Department of Health and Community Services)
Nova Scotia (Mental Health and Addictions Services, Nova Scotia Health Authority)
Prince Edward Island (Addiction Services, Health PEI)