The Wanda Way

Ottawa Magazine - - Voice -

When it comes to renos, there are usu­ally two routes: hire a pro or do it your­self. But Wanda Seguin, a.k.a. Wanda Wom­min, works along­side clients, teach­ing them to in­stall dry­wall, build decks, fix toi­lets — al­most any­thing you would hire a pro­fes­sional to do. She wants to em­power peo­ple through fix­ing and build­ing. Seguin has used her fix-it skills as a form of ther­apy for abuse vic­tims and is now of­fer­ing work­shops for girls at the Wake­field Le­gion. She’s not afraid to talk about feel­ings and flat­heads in the same sen­tence — af­ter all, it was her time in ad­dic­tion re­cov­ery that got her into this line of work.


I grew up in Toronto, but my step­fa­ther has a farm in North­ern On­tario. Big 800-acre farm, lots of grand­chil­dren run­ning around. We went up there ev­ery week­end. And I was a kind of go-be­tween — be­tween the women, who were in­side cook­ing the food, and the men, who worked out­side. When I got tired of be­ing with the men, I’d go and help the women. The men were al­ways build­ing stuff, and I think that’s where I got in­ter­ested in this stuff.


I needed long-term treat­ment for ad­dic­tion, and that’s how I ended up in Ot­tawa, at Em­pa­thy House. Then I started fix­ing things there. Whether it was the toi­let — reach in the back and fix the chain — or what­ever. Just stupid lit­tle things, with­out telling any­one. And then even­tu­ally the di­rec­tor said, “Hey, you can get paid for this stuff.” The first job I got was at an old folks’ home in the Glebe. When I went for the in­ter­view, I was walk­ing through the base­ment and the cook says to the man­ager, “Hey, when are you go­ing to get some­one to fix this sprayer on the sink?” I looked at it and said, “The spring is on the side, just put the spring back.” I went over and put the spring back. And I got the job. I thought every­one knew how to fig­ure things out, but that’s not true.


I ran a two-spirit pro­gram at Min­waashin Lodge in Ot­tawa. Taught peo­ple how to make looms and stuff. But I don’t sit down very long, and soon peo­ple sug­gested I run work­shops — so I started teach­ing women how to patch holes in walls and change locks. And then I got a re­ally cool gig with the Corn­wall sur­vivors, run­ning their men’s and women’s groups. That’s the cool thing about be­ing twospirit — I can work with men and women. As a two-spirit per­son, I can hunt, I can pro­tect, which is mas­cu­line, but I can also take care of chil­dren and build com­mu­nity, be a nur­turer, which is tra­di­tion­ally fem­i­nine. When you’ve been sex­u­ally abused, as these peo­ple had, you go into iso­la­tion. But their space had to be ren­o­vated, and ren­o­vat­ing brought these peo­ple out. Some of the men were say­ing, “I never got a chance to do this with my dad.” It was beau­ti­ful — it started them get­ting to­gether. The women started hang­ing out and sewing. Ev­ery ther­apy ses­sion, we made or fixed some­thing — I re­ally be­lieve that in ther­apy, if you get a bunch of peo­ple to­gether do­ing some­thing, there are no in­hi­bi­tions.


It started when I went in to the [Ot­tawa] Home Show and asked to do this DIY thing. I didn’t want to pay for a booth, I just wanted to ed­u­cate peo­ple. I wanted to show peo­ple what you can do with mould­ing. They thought it was a great idea but didn’t have the space, so I got up on the stage with a makeshift wall and dif­fer­ent pieces of trim and my caulk­ing gun, and I had a blast. At first there were 10 or so in the au­di­ence, and then there was a shit­load. And this one gen­tle­man ap­proached me and said, “Do you do work?” And I said, “No, that’s not what this is about. I just want to em­power peo­ple.” But he said, “No, se­ri­ously. I’m in a fi­nan­cial bind and I want to make my base­ment into an apart­ment.” And so we did. And now I of­fer it to peo­ple. When some­one calls me, I say, “I can do it my­self or I can show you how.”

“That’s the cool thing about be­ing two-spirit — I can work with men and women.”

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