Archive for December, 2013

Guest post: Celebration!

December 20, 2013

12 Days for Good wraps up today! Over the last 12 days we invited various members of our community to share ideas about volunteering–the joys, the challenges, and the special meanings that emerge from sharing work. Their words describe a fractured, unjust world, full of deeply resilient people striving for something better. They also describe those moments where we realize ‘something better,’ if only temporarily. So while our good work should not end after 12 days, the 12 Days for Good campaign also gives us occasion to celebrate! Our friends at the Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation wrote the following on the theme, and great great value, of celebration:KWCFLogo

“Children take joy in their work and sometimes as adults we forget that’s something we should continue doing.”

– Ashley Ormon

Celebration – what a wonderful concept.  All too often in this busy life of ours, we focus on the future.  We focus on the next goal, the next target and what needs to be done to achieve success.  Taking a moment to reflect to the past—to what we have achieved—is sometimes considered a luxury we can ill afford to take the time to do.

I’d suggest that we are all the poorer for not taking a moment to think about where we have been and what we have accomplished.  All too often a scarcity approach influences our time and creeps into our very souls.  We can be pulled into dwelling on what we don’t have and what we need to do in order to achieve all the things we think we need to do to be happy or fulfilled.

Reflection and celebration of our accomplishments reminds us of the abundance that is ours and fills us with motivation to share with others.

Twelve days for good is drawing to an end.  Now is the time to celebrate all that has been accomplished by this wonderful approach to community building and community sharing of assets..

The families who are now included in the promise of the joy of Christmas is a tribute to all who uphold the “barnraising” values used and celebrated here in the Region of Waterloo.  It is not a boastful or arrogant celebration of what we have done.  In keeping with our values, it is a satisfaction in knowing that we have shared the wealth that is ours and included others who may have been excluded from the abundance surrounding them.

Celebration is good for the heart, it is good for the soul and there is no doubt that it is good for community.

Congratulations to each of you for your gifts and for your commitment to sharing those gifts through the 12 days for good campaign.  Please take time to allow yourselves to feel good about the joy you have brought to others and to yourselves through your dedication and hard work.

In closing, I would offer the following quote and my best wishes to all for a healthy, happy celebration of Christmas with family and friends:

“Thoughts turn to other’s just a little more this time of year. Days grow shorter and memories grow longer. Families and friends gather in celebration or hope. Giving is a reflection of our love and caring for each other and those less fortunate. May your thoughts turn to gratitude this holiday season and carry on throughout the next year…”

– James A. Murphy

Guest post: Dreaming

December 20, 2013

The following comes from House of Friendship’s Chaplaincy Director, Michael Hackbush, on dreaming (in the midst of injustice).



hold true

to a


which gives wings


hope and compassion




and yields


and prosperity




To hold true to a vision is compelling. I remember once being asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The question to my young self was paralyzing and overwhelming! But upon further reflection, the question opened the door to the grander question of what kind of world to I want to live in? And how will I belong?

House of Friendship (HOF) crafted what I consider to  be THE vision, , “A healthy community where all can belong and thrive.” It seems simple enough but looking a bit deeper, it is a vision beyond inclusion and surviving but points rather to belonging and thriving. In as much as some have said that ‘vision statements’ are things really only created for grant applications etc I  would suggest that vision puts forward an idea or direction toward which many can aspire and belong and can work toward a common purpose with diverse people.

Vision points to something beyond our present circumstances and serves as a compass to give us guidance, and, something with which to test our assumptions. Given the vision here stated, “A healthy community where all can belong and thrive”, how might my decisions be tested? How might my engagement with my community be challenged? Given the reality of today that has required over 4000 food hampers and turkeys to be distributed in KW and area at Christmas time, this vision suggests to me that not all are belonging and certainly not all are thriving. Why? And further, what can I do, or more appropriately, what must WE do to change this reality?

I know that there is much to do AND I know that current policy and decision making is obviously NOT WORKING, so I look for vision through reading about alternatives and so I invite you to join me. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives or a book entitled The Spirit Level, and a favorite of mine the The Dollars and Sense of Solving Poverty in Canada. All of these feed the vision of belong and thriving. They articulate that another way is possible. They hold true to a vision to which I can aspire and one that can offer hope and direction with compassion that all of us in our wonderful diversity would be compelled to consider or perhaps even embrace.

Guest post: We can do better than tolerance

December 18, 2013

Tolerance is more than the mere absence of oppression, discrimination, violence or exclusion. In fact, if we see tolerance as only the absence of the worst that we can do to one another, we’re setting the bar way too low. As a community, we can do so much better than that.

Tolerance is an attitude, value or belief. Each and every person carries an attitude or belief about tolerance and it is powerful enough to guide our behaviour and actions towards others, every day. These behaviours and actions have the power to include or exclude, accept or marginalize, support or degrade, welcome or dismiss.

At a recent workshop I attended, the facilitator, Nouman Ashraf used this image to illustrate a broader spectrum of attitudes ranging from intolerance to engagement. I think you can see where this is going…..


Image from 2013 Workshop with Nouman Ashraf (Research Fellow, Desautels Centre for Integrative Thinking, Rotman School of Management University of Toronto)

In it’s highest form, our attitudes toward one another looks a lot like engagement – meet one another where we’re at, listen to one another with interest and curiosity and seek first to understand rather than to be understood – then  we can’t help but move away from mere tolerance toward affirmation and engagement. It’s easy to say you accept all differences in others – that’s what we’re taught, right? However, it’s only when you engage directly with another person from outside your own personal experience that you find yourself being tripped up by your neatly packaged, ‘accepting-of-all’ attitudes.

Let me illustrate. I’m a community development worker. I’ve worked in communities and neighbourhoods for 20 years – locally, provincially and internationally. Despite my biases and judgements (we all have them!) I think I’m a pretty open and accepting person, striving toward engagement where ever my path intersects with others – although, maybe you disagree!

When a homeless man pitched a tent behind the shed at my neighbourhood community garden this summer, I, and my fellow neighbours were tripped up, falling head first over our notions of community, intolerance, tolerance, civility and engagement. We struggled to know how to respond but in the end, we chose to engage. Within a day of his tent appearing, many of us were on a first name basis. We talked. We shared stories. We learned histories. We shared food and water because it was a hot August, and, he was homeless. He began to feel responsible for watching over the garden at night. We learned how to help where we could. We found ways to contribute to each other’s well-being.

The story of our garden friend doesn’t have a perfect, happy ending, but the experience is one that kicks my psyche every day. Did I respond with whole-hearted engagement? Not always. Did I support the responses and actions of my fellow neighbours?  Not entirely.

But I did learn this: no matter how open, accepting or engaging I think I am, there is always more internal work to be done to make my actions and behaviour more consistent with my attitudes and beliefs.

In fact, I’m reminded of the Look Deeper campaign from the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council, where I currently work in – what else – community engagement. We are more than our appearances, our current circumstances, or the worst thing we’ve ever done in our lives.

And it’s up to me, and you, to change our own perceptions so that we can move beyond mere tolerance of our differences toward affirmation and engagement.


Author: Juanita Metzger, Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council

A lifelong resident of Waterloo Region, Juanita lives in a vibrant Kitchener neighbourhood where residents are actively engaged in sustainability projects and education, neighbourhood parties and social events, urban agriculture and knit nights – a connected community indeed.

Guest post: Traverse Independence

December 17, 2013

Today is day nine of 12 Days for Good. Our theme today is hospitality: to welcome warmly and with kindness and generosity all who enter our door and are new to our community; and to share the gifts of our table. Our friends at Traverse Independence wrote the following piece.


Traverse Independence is a local organization that provides support services for adults with a physical disability or brain injury, always aiming to maximize those persons’ ability to live independently. The organization’s name refers to one of their basic commitments: to help those with acquired brain injuries and physical disabilities traverse the distance between where they are today and where they dream of being – independent and self sufficient. Volunteers play a huge role in the organization and have a tremendously positive impact on clients. Consider, for example, the following comments from Susan, one of our clients. Susan recommends without reservation the two volunteers who support her—her exercise assistant and her computer skills assistant.

Susan describes her computer assistant as “a sweetheart.” Susan said that her volunteer has helped her with her computer and her phone, teaching her such things such as how to make attachments on her emails, and how to take pictures on her computer.  “She is excellent at her job” Susan says, and adds “I would recommend her to be a computer teacher for a class.”

According to Susan her exercise assistant is “absolutely amazing” and “such a hard worker.”  She tells me that she loves her exercises and that she feels healthier because of them.  Her exercise assistant does leg exercises and arm exercises and stretches with her. She wished she had him as an assistant earlier because of how she has benefitted from his help.

They are both very reliable according to Susan, and she gladly recommends them to you.  “I want them to succeed because they helped me succeed” Susan stated with a smile.

Want to get involved in the good work Traverse Independence is doing? Visit them online.

Guest post: Solidarity and St. John’s Kitchen

December 16, 2013

Today’s piece comes from two folks who volunteer at St. John’s Kitchen, on the theme of solidarity. Every Wednesday morning for the last six years, Ann and Gary help serve meals and clean at SJK. The Kitchen serves about 280 people each day, and Ann and Gary form a part of the team that makes SJK’s daily meal possible. Their thoughts on solidarity, expressed so eloquently below, motivate their work at SJK; and, as they make clear, solidarity is more than an abstract theme or principle to value, but a statement about ourselves and communities: we are all implicated in suffering and injustice.


When we think of the word Solidarity there are a number of connections, many of which have to do with some kind of collective action, like unions or political groups.  But if we go back even further, and broaden out the concept, it really means being connected to and caring about the people around us.  Everyone needs this kind of support; both to give as well as receive.  Both as individuals and as members of a sane society.

Numerous studies demonstrate the role that close relationships play in maintaining a satisfying life.  People seem to be more physically and emotionally resilient, and if they do become ill, the prospects of recovery are greatly enhanced if they are part of a cohesive network.

Throughout history, the times of the most destructive societal breakdowns occurred when some folks were segregated out, or hierarchies were established that trapped  some members into positions of subservience or lower esteem.  The effects were damaging for the ruling parties as well, leading to mistrust and paranoia, and the certain knowledge of the anger and resentment aimed at them.  In spite of indications to the contrary, nobody won.

Today, we have such a hierarchy, based on serious differences of wealth and privilege.  Some attitudes are encouraged that blame people for their difficulties, and attribute what amounts to adulation to those who manage to secure a greater share.  And as always there is fear and isolation on both sides.  The poorer ones spend all of their time and energy just surviving, and the wealthy accumulate more property and possessions to fill the void of their self imposed isolation.   Nobody is happy.

Society can be compared to a piece of cloth that has tightly woven strands of thread, some so finely integrated that it is hard to see where one thread ends and another starts.  But if one thread breaks, all of the surrounding cloth is in danger of damage and disintegration.  If one part of society is weakened, everyone is affected, whether we see it immediately or not.

We can consciously make an effort to see one another without judgement, to appreciate each of our gifts and achievements, and to challenge our own biases and negative judgements.  We can try to support efforts to create a more just society.  But most of all, we can all be strong parts of that piece of cloth and stand together in equality and harmony.  Our happiness depends on it.

Guest post: KW Habilitation

December 15, 2013

Today is the seventh day of 12 Days for Good. Our theme is inclusion—based on ideas of belonging and acceptance, participating in and being recognized in the community.  For over 40 years KW Habilitation has inspired abilities and enriched the lives of children and adults who have developmental disabilities.   In the 1950’s, there were no community services for children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families.   Dedicated parents and concerned community members partnered to create KW Habilitation (KWH).   Today our vision, “A Community where Everyone Belongs and Participates” is all about Inclusion.


KW Habilitation offers a wide range of individualized services and supports for children and adults with developmental disabilities and their families.  We focus programming on Community Participation, Employment Supports, Residential Services and Early Learning and Family Resources; and we support well-being through developing community connections, participating in recreation and leisure activities, learning, volunteering, and working in our community.

KW Habilitation is grateful for the support of amazing volunteers who help create a culture of inclusion:  families, businesses, community organizations and clubs. For example, our largest supporter is the K-W Kinsmen Club, who helps us with residential home improvements, special events and fundraising, and is represented on our Board of Directors and committees.  At this time of year, we have our annual Give-a-Gift which involves a group of friends and staff of KW Habilitation who donate money and time to purchase gifts for citizens we support in our residential homes who do not have family to celebrate Christmas with.  This is a hit each year for both volunteers and gift recipients!

We also have many dedicated and ambitious individual volunteers like Ashley Cooper, who believes that time spent with KW Habilitation is rewarding because she shares the vision of inclusion where everyone is treated equally and as a valued member of our community.

Ashey Cooper

Balancing being a new mom, volunteering and career is hugely rewarding and has sometimes been challenging for Ashley Cooper. To overcome the challenges, she brings these major life tasks altogether quite efficiently and does them simultaneously! At many events, fundraisers and interactions, you will find Ashley’s family, friends and colleagues helping out.  Ashley has volunteered for many organizations in Kitchener Waterloo and does not understand the word ‘no’ or ‘too busy’ when asked to lend a hand to those in need.  She will usually bring her energetic two year old Alina, family, friends and her co-workers along with her!

Community inclusion and participation has always been important to Ashley.  A few years ago Ashley organized a fundraiser for KW Habilitation through her work at Rae Lipskie, and immediately developed a deep connection to the organization, especially the citizens supported by the agency, being children and adults who have developmental disabilities in our community. Since that initial meeting, Ashley has organized and participated in many events and fundraisers, and is always readily available to celebrate and promote KW Habilitation’s vision of “a community where everyone belongs and participates.”  Ashley believes inclusion is the foundation of any community, where everyone is treated equally and valued, and is one of KW Habilitation’s biggest champions.

Want to stay in the loop? Follow KW Habilitation online:


Guest post: Conrad Grebel Peace Camp aims for Global Impact with Local Actions

December 14, 2013

We’re half way through 12 Days for Good! Of course this does not mean we will –or should– stop doing good when the campaign is over, a point clearly made by our friends at Conrad Grebel University College. As their post describes, thoughtful and deliberate actions today can have positive cascading effects in our communities and abroad, today and into the future.

horizontal_grebel_logo-webConrad Grebel University College’s annual Peace Camp is a memorable and meaningful summer camp option for youth aged 11-14. This week long day camp is action-packed with exciting new activities, crafts, games, and field trips that encourage youth to inspire lives, strengthen ties, and make peace happen all over the Waterloo region.peacecamp-logo

Last year, a camper came away from Peace Camp saying: “I’ve learned so much that I’d like to remember my whole life. I’ve made so many great friends and counselors I’ll never forget. I’ve learned that sometimes being sad because of a story makes you remember it even more. This camp really made me care about things and made me try harder to make the world better.”


Equipped with a 5-year grant from the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation and on-going sponsorship from the Mennonite Savings and Credit Union and Josslin Insurance, Peace Camp is a voyage of learning and discovery where youth collaborate with people in different neighbourhoods to help ordinary citizens do extraordinary deeds.

Peace Camp partners with the peacebuilding organizations of Interfaith Grand River and House of Friendship, as well as organizations committed to reversing the effects of violence – Working Against Youth Violence Everywhere committee (WAYVE) and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA). Peace Camp is fortunate to be able to draw on the experience and expertise of these organizations to include people from all walks of life in peacemaking in Peace Camp’s programming.


Last year’s Peace Camp Coordinator, Sarah Klassen, noted that “last summer’s theme ‘Local Actions With Global Impact’ allowed youth to participate in and experiment with arts, crafts, games, and sports that not only taught co-operation and respect for others in the local community, but in the global community as well.”

Peace Camp is committed to providing a low-cost program to make sure all interested youth can participate and camp director Graham Watson is making plans for Peace Camp 2014.

Guest post: Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre

December 13, 2013

Our 12 Days for Good theme today is health; and as the post below makes clear, the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre is well positioned to discuss the role of volunteers in an organization committed to improving our health!

indexKitchener Downtown Community Health Centre (KDCHC) provides primary health care services: doctors, nurse practitioners, counsellors, dietitians and a foot care specialist. We focus on people who experience barriers to health care access and health inequities, meaning they suffer from preventable and unjust differences in health status. KDCHC’s services focus on medical care, health promotion, illness prevention and include the social determinants of health (e.g. safe housing, access to nutritious food, community belonging). We also have a range of programs that support community capacity building.

At KDCHC, volunteers play a key role in supporting the work we do.  We have a very diverse group of volunteers who represent the diverse people connected to KDCHC.  These include new immigrants, people who are homeless/homeless at risk; people with low incomes; isolated seniors; and youth at-risk.  Volunteers are receptionists on our main floor, they provide administrative support and they are involved in a broad range of peer support programs that recognizes the value of lived experience.

Volunteering creates a wonderful circle of giving, and often initiates unexpected new relationships.  Our volunteers give their skills and time to our organization, which creates a chance to meet new people, learn new things, become involved in their community, and have some fun. Consider a few recent experiences at KDCHC:

  • A volunteer sat beside an elderly woman in the waiting room on a very cold day. The waiting room was chilled by the constant opening of the entrance doors.  The volunteer slipped a coat around the woman’s shoulders and gave her a cup of tea.
  • A woman who had spent the last 14 years as a stay at home mom volunteered thinking she had little to offer her community. She rediscovered work skills, took on new responsibilities, and her confidence grew. She recently started a job as a customer service manager.
  • A new Canadian was able to lend her skills and medical knowledge to a program, creating a database and entering evaluation information.  This helped shape the direction of the program, assisting new moms throughout the community.  This volunteer is now taking the necessary steps to start practicing medicine here.
  • A new retiree was struggling with this life transition.  She was fighting depression and felt useless.  She started volunteering at KDCHC, made some new friends, and used skills from her career, and now volunteers at three organizations – including a role as Chair of a Board of Directors! She says she is so happily busy she has no idea how she found time to work.

Volunteer – help others, help yourself.

Guest post: Ray of Hope

December 12, 2013

Today’s 12 Days for Good theme is fellowship. Our friends at Ray of Hope wrote on this theme, and the particular challenges of being present with folks differently situated than ourselves. Be moved by their words below:Ray of Hope logo

Fellowship – for many it refers to a group of Middle Earth misfits on a journey to Mordor.  For those of faith, like the staff and volunteers at Ray of Hope, fellowship is characterized by being a member of a body of people, sharing common interests and goals, and caring for one another.  It means that no one is left alone nad no one gets left behind.

It’s a challenging concept when working with those who are disadvantaged, marginalized and troubled.  Those who seek help from Ray of Hope have struggled with unemployment, crime, addiction, poverty – and their many associated demons.  So what does fellowship mean to someone who is living on the edge of society? What does it look like?

For the staff and volunteers at Ray of Hope, it means sitting down with someone and really getting to know them. For a person struggling with addiction and crime, their actions are just a symptom.  It takes real effort to get to the source cause and begin the real healing process.  For those who are struggling to find a job, it means exposing them to ideas and skills they may never have had the opportunity to learn.  And for someone who is street involved or having to make a choice between paying the rent and buying food, it’s the hospitality of a warm meal, and a place to sit and have a conversation with someone who really cares.

It’s people investing in people, inspiring hope and transforming lives.

Connect with Ray of Hope online or in person:facebook_32LinkedInYouTubemorning-glory

Guest post: Nutrition for Learning

December 11, 2013

Today is the third of 12 Days for Good! We are happy to share a piece from Nutrition for Learning, a local organization that supports community based nutrition programs committed to improving the learning capacity, health and well being of children and youth in Waterloo Region:


You know good things are happening when you hear the laughter and chatter, and witness the productivity that occurs when good people come together for the good of children.

Feeding 13,000 children daily throughout Waterloo Region can be a fairly daunting exercise for a very small organization like Nutrition for Learning. Especially when over 20,000 items, such as Cheerios, crackers, tomatoes, and more need to be individually bagged on a weekly basis, to meet the demands of a new pilot project where the organization purchases and distributes the food.

That’s where volunteers like Kathy Rogers and Sandra Siegel come to the rescue. They joined a growing group of volunteers who spend 4 – 6 hours a week filling small bags with food, communing with new found friends and giving Nutrition for Learning the gift of help, which is so desperately needed.


“Being retired has given me the luxury of time,” said Sandra Siegel, who with her husband volunteers for this project at least one day a week. “Nutrition for Learning fulfills a need in the community, to feed children who may go hungry. I feel privileged to spend my time here helping in some small way.”

And it’s the same for Kathy. “Before she retired Kathy asked around the community to find a worthy organization to volunteer with,” explained Kelly-Sue Labus, Executive Director, Nutrition for Learning. “And we are so very thankful that she chose Nutrition for Learning.”  Kathy’s husband volunteers as well, giving significant time to his role as Program Coordinator for a school program.

Many others have given Nutrition for Learning the gift of self and for many years. With over 1,800 adult volunteers performing multiple roles, they ensure the nourishing programs continue to thrive.

Want to learn more about Nutrition for Learning? Connect with them online: