This letter was written by Vicky Whitehead & Dione Sunshine. In 2001, participants voted on what they would like to call the Drop In program; the participants chose the name “Sunshine House” in honor of Dione.
Family and Friends,
I just wanted to leave you with a few thoughts. First of all, thank you for seeing me off. I don’t know where my journey will take me, but I’m sure it has to be better than what I’ve been through. We have all had hard lives in one way or another and sometimes we feel cheated and we tend to blame when in fact the Creator gave us these lives. Out of all the hurt and pain I have lived through in this life, I have learned so much Love, Respect, and Compassion. I have never lost these things, that’s the strength that was given me. My whole life I’ve felt alone, this illness has given me my family back, it’s sad that it had to take something like this to bring us together.
I guess what I’m saying is family is the most important thing and should never be taken for granted. If I had one wish it would be for everyone to be good to each other, because you never know when our Creator will take us. And then you wish you could have done things differently, made amends, then it’s too late. Anyway, I’m going to leave you now, but remember I’ll always be right beside you in spirit. And don’t think of me as dying, but just going someplace special, the next step to something better.
Love and Respect,
From Kali Shiva to Sunshine House
Kali Shiva AIDS Services began working with people living with HIV/AIDS in 1987. From that time until 1991, Kali Shiva was entirely staffed by volunteers. Active pursuit of funding began in 1988 with the result of securing funding from the Federal Public Health Promotions Directorate to hire a part time project coordinator for a three-year project in 1991. Kali Shiva engaged in the work of building an integrated AIDS service with three other AIDS Service Organisations including, Village Clinic, AIDS Shelter Coalition, and the Aboriginal AIDS Task Force. These four organizations became Nine Circles Community Health Centre where the individual Boards of Directors integrated into a common Board with a jointly created mandate. At that time Kali Shiva separated from Nine Circles Community Health Centre in order to remain autonomous and retain its original purpose.
Sunshine House began in late 1999 with broad consultation between affected communities and several agencies including the Manitoba Aboriginal AIDS Task Force (MAATF) AIDS Shelter Coalition, Village Clinic, St. Matthews Maryland Anglican Church, Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, Street Outreach Collective and Kali Shiva AIDS Services. All recognized the urgent need for basic HIV and Hepatitis C prevention services in infected, affected and at-risk communities, as well as the need for a non judgmental home-like environment to offer social support and link clients to various services available in the city.
Since its creation, Sunshine House has maintained the tenets of Harm Reduction, and the principle of inclusion. In practice this means that people are welcomed to the venue as they are, with no requirement for sobriety. These principles have been retained as the organization evolved to accommodate both different clients with varying needs and changing funding requirements.