CompassionConnects Helps Alberta Women ‘Pick Up the Pieces’ Post-Treatment

Cancer treatment ends, and… life goes back to normal?

For cancer survivors, particularly those who live outside of major treatment centres in Alberta, that is rarely the case. Post-treatment, many women find themselves adjusting to a new normal with minimal support and a lack of resources in the rural communities they call home.

To help, Compassion House Foundation and the Peter Lougheed Leadership College (PLLC) are teaming up to make “compassion boundless” with a developing program called CompassionConnects, made possible through a $25,000 grant from Edmonton Community Foundation.

“The cancer journey is so much more than medical treatment alone; we see many of the women we serve struggle with their mental health, left to navigate this journey on their own when they return home,” said Michelle Okere, CEO of Compassion House Foundation, which provides essential residential support in Edmonton at Sorrentino’s Compassion House to more than 300 women battling cancer each year. “CompassionConnects addresses this gap, empowering participants to pick up the pieces of who they are post-treatment—all from the comfort and safety of their own home.”

Using technology, CompassionConnects will connect and engage former guests and other cancer survivors post-treatment to support mental health, help reduce isolation, and increase overall wellness. Specifically, the program will include an online library of existing services across Alberta, supplemented by interactive webinars, podcasts, videos, publications, and support groups, all delivered in partnership with medical professionals. Anyone, anywhere will be able to access CompassionConnects, creating a supportive and understanding community online where women can share stories, form connections, and feel less alone as they interact with other women going through similar struggles.

“During COVID-19, CompassionConnects is a timely example of how technology can be used to foster a sense of community and connection across distance,” said Julia Craig, the PLLC scholar helping to develop and implement the program. “By using technology, the Foundation can stay in contact and help support women, no matter how far away they live.”

Over the last several months, Craig has been working alongside the Foundation to compile a comprehensive list of existing programs and services in communities throughout Alberta, as well as consult former guests to determine gaps and optimal platforms.

Expected to launch later in 2020, CompassionConnects will soon be a reality with support from Edmonton Community Foundation.

“Like so many other charities, Compassion House Foundation was faced with both addressing emerging needs—mental health in particular—and changing how they provide services. ECF is proud to be able to help the charitable sector respond to COVID-19, with the support of the federal Emergency Community Support Fund,” said Criag Stumpf-Allen, Director of Grants at ECF.

To learn more about CompassionConnects as a service provider or an interested participant, please contact Michelle Okere at michelle@compassionhouse.org to get involved.