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Dr. Roz jumps up to help

Provided by: Sun Media
Written by: NICHOLAS DAVIS
Jul. 30, 2007

Caribana mas camp organizer rebuilt woman's shelter

Every evening after work, Dr. Roz Roach heads down to her mas camp on Coronation Dr. in Scarborough to prepare for this weekend's Caribana parade.

It's something Roach has been doing for the past few months. And tonight's no different.

"We have lots to do before Saturday's parade," Roach says as she leaves her Bazodee Connection Mas Camp to take some young people home. "We have costumes to finish making and we're rehearsing for the King and Queen competition."

It's after 10 p.m. when Roach and her husband Cecil drop off the youths. It will be after 11 p.m. by the time they reach their home in Markham. That will give Roach a few hours sleep before she has to get up and go to her full-time job.

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Roach is executive director of Dr. Roz's Healing Place. Formerly known as the Emily Stowe Shelter for Women, it was renamed in Roach's honour after she raised $4 million to rebuild the facility.

"In 1998, I went into the Emily Stowe Shelter as a consultant," says Roach. "Up to that point I had worked in almost every shelter in Ontario as a change agent. But what I saw at Emily Stowe that day -- the pain and ugliness -- gave me flashbacks to when I was younger and had visited a Native hospital on a reserve in Quebec. The conditions in that hospital were worse than some of the hospitals I'd seen in third world countries.

"That's what flashed into my mind when I saw the Emily Stowe Shelter.

People who were abused and looking for shelter couldn't come into this dilapidated building and feel safe. I also didn't believe anyone could heal in that environment. So I drove away from there that day determined to make a change."

When she got home Roach called her friend and "soul mate" Mary Lou McPhedran and told her she wanted to rebuild the Emily Stowe Centre.

"She said, 'Oh Roz, that's a huge project but if anyone could do it you can,'" remembers Roach. "And I went about trying to make it happen."

"It was a seven-year project. I sang calypso, sold cakes, did walkathons and bike-a-thons. Basically, I did whatever I could to raise money."

Roach ended up raising a million dollars and then she successfully negotiated with the different levels of governments to match the funds so the shelter could be rebuilt.

Dr. Roz's Healing Place opened its doors on Dec. 13, 2004. It provides emergency housing, support services and referrals to women who've been assaulted and their children.

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"Our goal is to empower women, not just give them a place to hide from their abuser," Roach says. "We want to help them find jobs, get them in courses and help them maintain some normalcy in their lives and the lives of their children."

The shelter has funding for 33 people, but can house 44 and it's always operating at capacity. Roach raises some of the money to house the extra 11 people through her Bazodee Connection Mas Camp.

"We sell the costumes to people who want to play mas with us at Caribana," says Roach. Caribana has been good for Dr. Roz's Healing Place. Last year its float, with the help of Coldwell Bankers, raised enough money to hire a youth co-ordinator for the centre. It's that kind of generosity that pushes Roach through the hard work and sleepless nights.

"Our efforts at Caribana are for a worthwhile cause, so I'm definitely not complaining," she says.

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GET INVOLVED

- To get involved with Dr. Roach's mas camp for this year's Caribana, call 416-895-0286 or visit Bazodeeconnection.com.

- For more on Dr. Roz's Healing Place, visit drrozshealingplace.com.

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