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Gala to raise awareness, funds for abused women

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By Shari Narine Sweetgrass Contributing Editor ENOCH CREE NATION







Crowned Mrs. North America Globe Classic last year, Lisa Ground is using her position to speak out against domestic violence and abuse. (File photo)



June 7, 2016.

When Lisa Ground was seeking refuge from an abusive relationship there were no women shelters with vacancies.

Now, the reigning Mrs. North America Globe Classic is doing all she can to ensure other women in her situation have some place safe to go to.

Ground and her daughter Ashley Callingbull-Burnham have teamed up to host what Ground is hoping to be the first annual In Her Shoes Gala.

“Ashley and I are survivors and we felt that with … our voice we can bring awareness, hope and healing and maybe inspire others to leave their situation or to find hope and heal,” said Ground.

The event, to be held Thursday, will raise awareness about domestic violence and abuse and raise money for WIN House, a women’s shelter in Edmonton.

Ground says she and Callingbull-Burnham, who is presently Mrs. Universe, are using their positions to tell their stories. It’s a story, Ground admits, she wouldn’t be telling if it weren’t for her daughter’s encouragement.

“Ashley always tells me, ‘Mom, be fearless,’” said Ground.

Ground says her situation was “horrific.” She suffered psychological, emotional, sexual and financial abuse at the hands of her partner, a relationship she was in for over five years. The partner also sexually abused Ashley. In one year, Ground lost her six-day old baby and her mother. Those losses coupled with the continued abuse, pushed Ground into depression to the point that she weighed 270 pounds. Ground says she kept her situation secret from her family and friends and instead of asking for help, collected bottles in order to buy food to feed her two young daughters. 

As winner of the Mrs. North America Globe Classic, Ground is ambassador for the W.I.N. Foundation. Founded by Dr. Tracy Kemble in 1996, it specializes in the “healing and empowerment” of women, particularly focused on helping women overcome domestic.

Ground is aware of the complexities that are part of abuse. She knows all too well the impact of residential schools. Her parents both attended residential school, both suffered abuse there, and both lacked from parental guidance when they became parents. She knows about the addictions that arise as people try to deal. She knows that such hurt and damage lead to suicide.

“We’re also trying to express that it’s time to educate our younger children, too, because that dysfunction just continues…. Home life is affecting everything around us,” said Ground. “We’re stopping that cycle. There is hope. It doesn’t matter how hard it is…. It’s never too late.”

Ground has visited WIN House. She says she is impressed with the services they offer, noting that over half the population is Indigenous women.

“I’m encouraging everyone to wear red in honour of the murdered and missing Indigenous women,” said Ground. Ground’s cousin was one of the women, whose bodies were found on the Pickton farm in 2002.

“Ashley and I have certain things that touch us, certain charities. Every charity we attend, there’s a personal attachment,” said Ground.

To date, 180 tickets have been sold of the 250 tickets available. The inaugural In Her Shoes Gala 2016 will include a plated dinner, Honouring Ceremony, silent auction, draws, networking, live entertainment and stiletto walk. St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse and entertainer Michelle Thrush will be emceeing the night. The event will be held at the Edmonton Marriot River Cree Resort on the Enoch Cree Nation.