Archive for December, 2012

Celebrating 12 Days of good deeds

December 21, 2012

12 Days

Today is the last day of our 12 Days for Good campaign, and though I am sad to see it go, I’ve been so inspired by all the amazing stories I’ve heard from people who are paying it forward. Today as we celebrate the good deeds done in Waterloo Region, here are some of the highlights of the past week and a half.

To start off, word from the Christmas Hampers Warehouse is that over 4,240 hampers have been delivered to homes in Waterloo Region. This has been our busiest year yet, and it would not have been possible without all the help we got from amazing volunteers during the past 12 days. What a success!

We’ve been lucky to have the opportunity to speak to media outlets about 12 Days for Good. John Neufeld, Jane Barkley, and Natalie Brown were on Talk Local Waterloo Region discussing the impact of 12 Days and how they’ve been involved. Check out the video here.

(more…)

The Gift of Hope on Day 11

December 20, 2012

12 Days

If you have young children (or grandchildren) this time of year can be particularly joyful.  It’s an opportunity to start and pass along family traditions, spend time together and have some fun in the snow.  It is a time when a lot of workplaces wind down (unless you work retail of course) and, as the last ten days have shown, it is a time when a lot of people make an extra effort to help others and contribute to a better community.  What is there not to like about December?

Well, for many people on the receiving end of good will and charity, or those who are largely invisible in our community, like the homeless and those who are struggling with addiction, December is one of the worst times of year. December 25th in particular looms large as a reminder of broken families and relationships.

“We spend a lot of time getting people ready for Christmas,” Rick, a staff person in House of Friendship’s men’s addiction program told a group of us recently. “The guys get themselves mentally prepared for the loneliness and the bad memories and we make ourselves available over the holidays to support them.  But, in the new year, is when it hits the hardest.” This is a common experience for the staff in all of our addiction programs for men and women.

What can an individual do to build a sense of hope in people who are feeling like recovery might not be possible and that they may never be able to heal the damage that has shaken their families apart?

(more…)

Supporting diversity during 12 Days for Good

December 19, 2012

Today’s 12 Days theme is ‘Diversity,’ which can be approached from many directions. Diversity is something that you might think of in terms of culture, country of origin or language but it can also apply to income, experience, age, outlook, or native language, to name a few. Today we’ve decided to focus on cultural diversity, and in particular on ways the Sunnydale residents have used diversity to transform their neighbourhood.

We’ve written about the Sunnydale community centre before, and for good reason. It has a rich history, not all of it happy.  For starters it is a multicultural hub but used to be known more as a neighbourhood with a high crime rate. Part of what helped turn that around is how they often bring people of all different cultures together as equals. Recently, the Sunnydale Community Centre received a grant from the City of Waterloo to publish a cookbook, bringing together family recipes from residents along with the story behind each recipe.

A picture of participants at food distribution at Sunnydale

A picture of participants at food distribution at Sunnydale

The cookbook was inspired by a day when the neighbourhood made ‘stone soup’ together. Rebecca Seiling explained the process in the book’s foreward:

“Several years ago, the community participated in making their own ‘stone soup.’ As in the traditional tale, big pots of water were set of boil in the kitchen of the community centre which is at the heart of the complex, drawing out curious people from their homes. Stones were added to the water, with an encouragement to residents to bring whatever they could to make stone soup. Bit by bit, various ingredients were added to the pots: bamboo shoots, Chinese mushrooms, onions, carrots, cilantro, peppers, beets, potatoes, parsley, celery, garlic, turnip, and other ingredients whose English names were unknown—each one improving the flavour of the soup. In the end, the neighbours created something delicious that none of them could have made on their own.”

(more…)

Day 9: Share the gift of warmth

December 18, 2012

Snow, ice, and sub-zero temperatures are coming soon. While for some of us this weather provides a mild inconvenience when we leave the comfort of our homes, for people with no fixed address or who are living on low income, the weather can be a serious challenge. Today is day 9 of the 12 Days for Good, and the theme is giving the gift of warmth. This could mean the warmth of having somewhere indoors to spend the night, the warmth that comes with being part of a community, or the warmth that comes from wearing a pair of handmade mittens.

12 Days - PIFG

(more…)

Friendship, the gift to give on day 8 of 12 Days for Good

December 17, 2012

One of the hardest things about getting older is the lack of social opportunities as your mobility, vision and hearing decreases. It becomes harder to get around and sometimes, in poor weather you are stuck at home because you can’t manage slippery stairs or icy sidewalks.

“I broke my leg, and then my toe” an elderly food hamper patron told me on the phone the other day, “all from when I slipped in the snow. Last week, I had to cancel all of my appointments because it snowed and I was too afraid – I don’t want to go through all of that again.”

In my own life, my grandpa is in his late seventies and struggles with the changes to his life that come with age. Because of his health he found himself unable to go out in public, things that he had previously enjoyed doing, like camping and canoeing, had to end. He can turn to family like myself and my father, through ill health and stress, both of which play havoc with his memory and make it harder for him to manage things like his finances and get to vital appointments.  Not everyone is like my grandpa though.  They may not have any family left, and struggle with social isolation.

Want to know how you can help? (more…)

Give yourself the gift of knowledge, and help others year round

December 16, 2012

The other day I was walking in Uptown Waterloo and I was waved down by someone working for Public Outreach, and organization that does fundraising for charities like Greenpeace and Sick Kids in Toronto. The person was very friendly and explained the charity they were raising money for. As I listened, I realized that this was for a cause I’d never heard of. How was I to know that if I donated, my money would be having a real impact? How did I know the charity’s values lined up with mine? This is something many of us encounter with so many non-profits and charities asking for donations, especially during the Christmas season. With this in mind, I politely declined to donate at that moment, but promised to do some research on my own to make an informed decision.

Moving right along with our 12 Days of doing good, the theme of today, day 7, is Knowledge. This is clearly a broad theme, so we thought we’d focus on something that is relevant to the season, when many people are generously donating to their favourite charity or non-profit organization: how do you choose a charity that is in line with your values and is having a positive impact? I know that with more than 85 000 charitable organizations in Canada alone, it can be hard to choose. In fact, Canada has the second largest non-profit and voluntary sector worldwide (the Netherlands has the first). Today, we’re going to give you a few tips about how you can make an informed decision when donating to your cause of choice.

12 Days (more…)

Give the Gift of Joy in the middle of 12 Days for Good

December 15, 2012

Giving and receiving gifts is a very important part of many cultures.  They can re-affirm bonds of love and affection, connect communities and demonstrate respect and gratitude.  For many cultures, birthdays are very important.  In other cultures birthdays pass without any importance.  In December, many people celebrate Christmas.  For some, the spiritual implications are the most important. These people lament the commercialization of Christmas and believe that all of the spirit has gone out of it. They believe that Christmas should be about family and giving back to those less fortunate.

For others, spending time and money at the malls is the most important part.  For many of us, what’s important falls somewhere between those two extremes and can change over time.  As you get older, for example, you may come to appreciate the time spent with children and grandchildren.  You may ask yourself, “what more do I need?” (more…)

Day 5: The Gift of Health

December 14, 2012

12 Days

Today’s theme in our 12 Days series is ‘Health’. As we’ve talked about many times before (here, here, and here), we see the effects of poverty on people’s health every day here at food hampers. To give one example, a woman came in for a hamper a few weeks ago, and disclosed she had been diagnosed with cancer. She explained that her doctor recommended she stay away from canned items, as some contain chemicals in the lining of the container, and had also recommended she increase her intake of fruit, vegetables, and whole grain products. This was difficult for her to take in; since she relies on food hamper programs like ours, she often has to subsist on non-perishable items and less produce. Like many people we interact with here, she is caught between wanting to follow her doctor’s orders to get healthy again, and needing to accept what food assistance agencies offered her so she can eat at all. Luckily, we were able to give her some extra produce, but she should not have to take a gamble every time she needs food.

needed_items

Many of our program participants have diabetes or other chronic diseases, which are far more common among people living on low income than people in other income brackets, yet it is difficult to afford the foods that may help them deal with their disease.

(more…)

The 12 Days Do-Gooders: Update on how people are helping out

December 13, 2012

At House of Friendship for our 12 Days of doing good campaign, we’ve got 12 do-gooders highlighting their good deeds. Here are some of the pictures, words, and videos they’ve been sharing about their journey.

Natalie picNatalie Brown-Kivell is the founder of Common Thread Consulting, a local research and facilitation business that works for social justice and organizational change within not-for-profits and government agencies. She is an active community volunteer and agent of social change, with a passion for decreasing poverty and increasing access to all levels of education. She lives every day trying to live true to her values of equality, building community and collaboration, whether it be with her neighbours, friends and family, community organization or advocating at a broader level. Nothing makes Natalie happier then digging in and making some positive change.  Reflecting on her blog here about her influence as a child she observed

“So now, here I am 20 years later thankful for the opportunity that House of Friendship has provided me and the community, to reflect on the good that we have done, highlight the good we are currently doing, and look closely for the good we can do today.”

JuanitaJuanita Metzger has also been blogging here about her experience, highlighting a different person or organization for each of the 12 days.  The people she highlights are doing many creative things to create some good in their own backyard.  They’re truly an inspiration!  Who is Juanita? She describes herself as a “local community connector. Addicted knitter. Creative, non-linear thinker. Passionate reader. Arts and culture supporter. Compulsive guerilla gardener. Intrepid explorer. Creator of cool goodness. Caped crime preventer with great boots.”  She invites everyone to take part in the 12 Days for Good campaign, stating “simply find something good to do each day until December 21st. Really, not so hard! Feel free to share your good deeds on social media with the hashtag #12daysforgood.”

Jane Barkley has been youtube-ing! Here’s a video she made about visiting the Food Bank of Waterloo Region for Tuesday’s theme of ‘food’.

Could you say no to this face?

Could you say no to this face?

 

“We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” -Immanuel Kant

Karen Scian had a different interpretation of Wednesday’s theme of home or ‘shelter,’ championing the cause of the KW Humane Society and reminding us not to forgot our furry best friends.

As a warning, proceed with caution when looking at the online adoption centre…you may just end up with a new pet.

Carlos SmilingCarlos Benevides hosts the Beat Breakfast with Carlos, Sophie and Dave on 91.5 The Beat weekday mornings from 5:30 to 9:30.  His dream as a child was to talk on the radio. 15 years ago he began living that dream and can’t believe he gets paid to do it. He loves what he does and feels it’s his responsibility to use that platform to make a difference, something we can all do by simply volunteering one day a week for one hour.

This morning, he shared with us the following reflections on his experiences so far:

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others”.  That’s a quote from Gandhi I came across that was part of the inspiration for me start my volunteer initiative 30 Deeds in 30 Days last December.  The goal was simple 1) that there are many organizations in need of volunteers here in Waterloo Region, and 2) to let you know it’s easy to donate your time – even just one day a week for an hour.  Imagine if everyone did one day a week for one hour, what could we do?  How many lives could each of us touch? Just imagine.

That’s why I was flattered and excited to be asked to lend my support and get involved with the House Of Friendship’s 12 Days Of Good. To keep on spreading the message of getting involved and as the title suggest do some good no matter how small the gesture.

Christmas is an incredibly stressful and unhappy time of the year for many people. It doesn’t have to be and it shouldn’t be. It should be a time full of happiness as we celebrate all the goodness in our lives, family and friends. I am incredibly lucky. I have a roof over my head, I have food on my table, loved ones that I can rely on, and I have hope that tomorrow will be a better day.  Sadly there are those here in Waterloo Region that aren’t so fortunate.  I met some of those people who are in need yesterday as I delivered Christmas hampers.

My hope is I helped those people I dropped off hampers to have better days today. It’s difficult for me to write what I felt as I made the deliveries, but I’ll try.  I felt a purpose in my life – I was creating a community where no one gets left behind.  Where we all feel like we’re pulling in the same direction and I was building a world that I will leave better off after I’m gone.  I felt a glow in my chest that warmed my entire body. As I gazed into the faces of those men and women, I felt goodness pouring from me as they said thank you. I felt my heart grow.  It was amazing. I gave them food and hope yesterday, but they gave me so much more.

Do some good over the next 12 days and then keep going after that.  Don’t stop.  Lose yourself in the service of others.  Doing so has changed my life, and it can change yours too.

Inspired by this small sampling of how 12 people are taking on the 12 Days for Good challenge? Christmas Hampers are all ready to be delivered, and just waiting for cars that can take them to their homes. Read our page here to get involved.

And, remember to keep tweeting the good deeds you’ve done to us @HOFKW while we continue through day 4 of the #12daysforgood!

Day 4: The Gift of Community!

December 12, 2012

12 Days - PIFG

Today’s 12 Days theme or gift is ‘community,’ something everyone knows a little something about. But did you know that belonging to a supportive community leads to a host of benefits, including safer communities, people becoming more politically engaged and experiencing a deeper sense of health and well-being? The Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council certainly thinks so, and believes that ‘connected communities are safer communities.’ In other words, the key to creating safer communities is to target one of the root causes of crime, social alienation. One way to solve the root causes of many crimes is to increase human interaction in your neighbourhood, or, to get to know your neighbours.

In the spirit of this advice, we’ve compiled a list of ten ways you can be a good neighbour. During the 12 days, I challenge you to try 3 of these ten items. It’s not hard and you might be surprised at how positive the results are. (more…)