Carla Conrod BA'95

Lifelong Helping and Healing Focus

When Carla Conrod started the Red Bear Healing Home Society in 2011, it was the realization of a long-nurtured dream, built on her desire to reach out and help others in need.

“I feel best when I’m helping other people, especially those who are in need,” says the Saint Mary’s grad who has spent the last 30 years working at non-profit and other community-based organizations.

It was her drive to work and help people that resulted in Carla leaving SMU in the late 1970s, before she finished her sociology degree. She worked for a variety of organizations across the country, such as the Vancouver Co-op Radio & Community Radio Education Society, and both Hope for Wildlife and the Brunswick Street Out of the Cold Shelter back in Nova Scotia.

She completed a couple of certificates along the way—one in voluntary sector and arts management from York University and another in fund raising management—before completing her studies at SMU in 1995.

Carla’s resume is jam-packed with her many accomplishments and work experiences, each one adding to her growing confidence, and leading to the Red Bear Healing Home Society.  

This unique organization is a provincial non-profit with the broad mandate of assisting people living in poverty in Nova Scotia. Having worked for several years helping to raise funds for a community-based radio station in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside, Carla had seen firsthand the difficulties people face trying to escape grinding poverty. Realizing that something as simple as providing a free voicemail service for people who don’t have a phone can make an enormous difference, one of her first projects was launching Red Bear Connects Voice Mail.

“How can someone who is homeless or struggling with housing issues get a job or find a place to live without a phone? There’s no way for potential landlords or employers to reach them. We provide that lifeline,” says Carla.

Working in partnership with other organizations, such as Job Search Services, Future Worx, and several community health boards, Carla visits food banks and soup kitchens around the province to sign people up and also provide information on how individuals can use and access the voice mail service.

In the first year, the service generated more than 1,800 voice mail messages a month, but keeping the service going is an ongoing struggle; a constant for many small, not-for-profit organizations. “We do what we can, but we need more funding to keep it going,” says Carla. Current funding comes from local community health boards and Halifax Dump and Run.

It’s a job that requires creativity, something Carla has always been good at. That and helping others realize their dreams. “A long time ago, somebody said to me: ‘You can do it.’ That was exactly what I needed to hear. Some people don’t ever hear words like that so I try to pass on some positive words. It helps a lot more than many people realize.”