Archive for December, 2014

Volunteer profile: Norm

December 30, 2014

Norm has volunteered at the food hamper program for over four years. He is kind and soft spoken, and his faith and his determination to better our community is truly inspirational. Your contributions have been noticed and are appreciated by many. Thank you Norm for all that you do, you are amazing!

Norm and Marg!

Norm and Marg!

 Why do you volunteer here? Is it important to you?

Some of the best things in our lives over the years have been volunteering. When talking about poverty one day while volunteering I was asked specifically by a 14 year old girl: What are you doing about it? My faith commitment is a major reason why I volunteer and help out in the community. This is very important to me. I feel that we should go beyond our work and go the extra mile for people. (more…)

You Are Only One Google Search Away…

December 25, 2014
There is a global need for help - The House of Friendship of Kitchener sees many international connections

via Flickr

“I was claiming income support as I live in a hostel and am only 17, but they stopped it 3 weeks ago and I have no food left and as it’s so close to Christmas I’m starting to panic, is there any way you can help me please?”

The world is a big place but connected in surprising ways.

We receive many calls (or e-mails) for help, especially during the holiday season. Because of the global reach of the internet, some of those inquiries come from people who do not realize that we are -literally- on the other side of the planet.

The young person I’m quoting above emailed us from Europe.  This year I also received emails from as far away as Australia, and, within Canada, from British Columbia.

Thanks to the power of the internet, I am often able to quickly find a place to refer someone back to in their own community.  A place they no doubt overlooked in their frantic struggle to find food and other help, because, as we know from our work in this community each day, food is often the last of many needs that people struggle to meet.

So as we reflect back on the experience of Christmas Hampers and our year of work, meeting people from our community who had no food, it is sobering to remember that this small part of the world is not alone in its struggle to build a community where all can belong and thrive.

There is still much to do in 2015.

 

Share JOY, and Keep Doing Good in Waterloo Region #12daysforgood

December 19, 2014

12 days for good joy

by Sherri Grosz ‎Generosity Coach and Stewardship Educator at Mennonite Foundation of Canada

I meet a lot of joyful people through my work.  I spend much of my time showing generous people how much fun charitable giving can be.  At Mennonite Foundation of Canada (MFC), we make giving joyful and easy.  Spending so much time with generous people has affected my view of charitable giving and generosity.  I have yet to meet a generous grumpy person.  There is something about being generous, especially with your money, that affects you deeply and fills you with great joy.  Givers aren’t just standing by, they are actively changing the world through their financial gifts.  As an employee at the MFC, I sometimes have the opportunity to hand-deliver an unexpected gift to a charity and to hear first-hand how appreciative they are and what a difference the gift will make to their programs and the people they serve.

I was delighted to be a do-gooder in the 12 Days For Good campaign.  It’s such a wonderful opportunity to remind everyone in Waterloo Region that each of us can make a difference, that each of us has the power to affect another positively, that each of us can change the world with just one small act of kindness at a time.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed when we consider the issues facing our Region – homelessness, addiction, abuse, neglect, underemployment, unemployment, violence, and poverty to name a few.  These are complicated issued that don’t have simple answers.  It would be easy to toss our hands up in the air or shrug our shoulders.  But that’s not Waterloo Region.  We make sure people have gifts and food for Christmas, that they have safe, supported housing, that addictions counselling is available, that families are supported to make healthy decisions, that there are safe and warm places to sleep, that new Canadians can access resources, that people are given the opportunity to have a different future.  Waterloo Region is a place where everyone can belong and thrive; where everyone can have a seat at the table.

joy

Thinking of the many ways that the people of Waterloo Region work to support each other fills me with joy.  I have a deep sense of happiness that I live in a place where people care, are innovative and involved and continue to work on finding solutions for tough problems.  I look around at the many agencies that are involved to support those in need and know that I won’t be alone when I need a hand.

I’m going to carry on the do-gooder campaign – it’s simply too much fun to stop after 12 days – so I’ll be looking for ways to share my joy and keep doing good for others here in Waterloo Region in the coming year.  Care to join me?

Join Sherri in sharing joy and doing good in Waterloo Region on Twitter

Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are << TWEET THIS

 

#firstworldproblems? Try a Dose of Goodwill #12daysforgood

December 18, 2014

12 days for good goodwill

by Steph Tanner, Owner of Little Mushroom Catering and Nom Nom Treats

You may have heard of the hashtag #firstworldproblems if you are a regular on social media. For example, “It took me 20 minutes to download the new Hobbit movie and now my popcorn is cold!” or “They misspelled my name on my Starbucks cup and it’s not even funny :(”

first world problems

We are so blessed to live in a country and in a region that is so rich. We have great markets and farmers who work hard to produce fresh, delicious foods for us. We have the tech sector working to build up our reputation in the world as a leader in innovation and help us with devices and applications to make our lives easier and more enjoyable. We have the Universities and Colleges leading the way in academia and cooperative education. We have all of the caring people who work in the non-profit sector, for places like Extend-A-Family and House of Friendship. All of the volunteers who put in hours helping out family, friends, and charities help make this community the friendly environment it is. For some of us, our biggest problem is deciding which charity to donate to before year end tax time!

There are others who live among us who are the recipients of those volunteer hours, charitable donations, friendly smiles and goodwill. They have dignity because of programs set up to help them get back on their feet after a rough patch. They have hope because of those who lift them up instead of putting them down. They have a chance to find comfort and peace, warm meals, and opportunities to grow and learn thanks to the services offered by non-profits, by our region and our municipalities.

We all have moments of humanity and humility. Be aware of all of our neighbours and reach out in goodwill. Cooperate with those around us to make sure that our #firstworldproblems are those we can roll our eyes at, not cry our eyes out about.

You can follow Steph and share goodwill with her on Twitter

I believe in the goodwill of people, the power of people to do something positive << TWEET THIS

 

Dedication to Dignity #12daysforgood

December 17, 2014

12 days for good dignity

Extend-A-Family Waterloo Region (EAF) was extremely honoured to be asked to participate in the 12 Days for Good campaign. When given our theme, Dignity, we realized that this event was going to be a natural fit as to how we choose to walk along side those we support. To EAF staff, dignity is something we live and breathe. We choose to appreciate and honor the dignity of our neighbours, near and far. We do this via our I Choose Dignity movement, which personifies our wish to share with the community the wonderful skills and talents that the citizens we serve have and want to share. We want to come out of our homes, offices and other segregated spaces to walk with together with pride with all our fellow community members and say, “Here we are!  We want to contribute!  We are part of this community and we have a lot to offer!”

Here at EAF we hold three major events every year.  These events proclaim our dedication to dignity.

  • Our Count Me In rally is held every June and together we join in solidarity as we walk down King Street to City Hall to share our message of respect and appreciation of one another.
  • During our second event, the Inclusion Celebration, we acknowledge and honour local citizens who encourage, embrace and enact opportunities to include persons with disabilities.
  • Our third event is our Community Ball Hockey tournament. The neighbours in our area as well as others in our community are invited to come out for a day filled with friendly ball hockey, children’s activities, good food and live music. Everyone is welcome and it is a day during which people gather and get to know one another.

12 days for good EAFWR

In choosing dignity, we also make sure that all those who work/volunteer for EAF hold similar values and thus can be strong advocates for those we serve as well as being solid representatives for this organisation. To this end, all are required to complete the Inclusion Workshop. Exploration about personal values as well as organizational values is encouraged – what it means to be a person-centred advocate and how one appreciates the intrinsic value each of us holds, regardless of ability.

Find out more about the I Choose Dign!ty movement at www.ichoosedignity.com. You can also follow I Choose Dign!ty on Twitter, and Extend-A-Family on Twitter

When it comes to human dignity, we cannot make compromises << TWEET THIS

Finding Hope in Pyjamas #12daysforgood

December 16, 2014

12 days for good hope

February 20th 1999. I still remember the day. I had spent hours being verbally assaulted by my intoxicated mother. As she often did, she became extremely physically abusive; but unlike any of the times before, on that day I gathered strength and courage…. and I ran. I went out the door of the rundown place we were living for the week with just the clothes on my back. I still remember the dark skies, snow lightly falling, and the cold wind biting at me through my sweater as I ran. I knew in that moment I was going to be free of that life, that I would never turn back.

A few days later, on my 15th birthday, I was brought to my first foster home still wearing the same clothes that I left with. I remember being taken shopping for necessities, but what stands out most were three things: warm socks, a new sweater to replace the one I was wearing, and new pyjama’s. The feeling I had putting on those fresh pyjamas was something I hadn’t experienced in so long: safety, comfort and even HOPE.

15 years later, I’ve committed a lot of my life to working with youth in care, AND I’m surrounded by pyjamas!

12 days for good hope

After seeing a screening of Red Light Green Light– a documentary on human and sex trafficking- I was able to learn more about an organization called Walk With Me and their emergency safe house for victims. From that, and my own experience of having to start fresh with just the clothes on my back, I came up with the idea of collecting pyjamas for women escaping trafficking. My hope was that when women enter a safe house or shelter they would not only be welcomed by a safe bed to sleep in, but a warm set of pyjamas to help them to start their first night of freedom feeling safety, comfort, and most importantly, a sense of hope.

4 weeks into the campaign I’ve collected over 200 pyjamas! With the help of some amazing community members, I held a pyjama party for the community to come and learn more about human trafficking and drop off donated pyjamas. It has left me in awe, how this wonderful community has come together and supported my small idea to make it larger than life! If anything, I’m beyond excited to know that so many others are aware and spreading the word about human trafficking and that together we can work together to bring change & hope for these victims.

If you would still like to donate a pair of pyjamas, I’m collecting until Dec. 20th. They can be dropped off any Waterloo Regional Police Station or The Family Centre at 65 Hansen Ave. Kitchener.

If you would like to know more about human trafficking & ways to help spread the word, tweet me at @MConeybeare!

15 years ago, as I was running down that snowy street away from an abusive and unstable home with just the clothes on my back, I had no idea I would be helping youth in care or victims of trafficking. But I do know I had sense of hope, and with that anything is possible.

It is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars. << TWEET THIS

You can also read: Collecting pyjamas for victims of human trafficking via Waterloo Region Record

 

The Holidays are Richer Through Giving #12daysforgood

December 15, 2014

12 days for good connection

by Karen Scian, originally published in her column Bein’ Scian in the Waterloo Chronicle

‘Tis the season, they say. The season of eggnog, frantic shopping excursions, tasty cookie exchanges, and an extra touch of sparkle on everything.

I have learned — from my own personal journeys in this crazy life — that the holiday season is enriched when you make a point of giving. It becomes about community, rather than your own little world. It becomes about needs, rather than wants. It helps you focus on what matters, rather than on the crazy commercial distractions that are everywhere.

Giving reminds you of the reason for the season.

That’s why I immediately accepted the invitation from the House of Friendship to be a “Do-Gooder” for their annual 12 Days of Good Campaign, a fabulous local initiative that supports many worthwhile causes over the holidays.

What’s a “Do-Gooder” you ask? Well, quite simply, I will join 11 others on a 12-day mission to do good things in our community. Between Dec. 8-19, I will volunteer, donate, help or get involved in a variety of causes or charities in Waterloo Region. Our do-gooder journeys will be shared via social media, with the goal of inspiring others to give. I encourage you to catch the spirit and share the good, by joining us at www.12daysforgood.com.

On that note, I’d like to highlight a few giving initiatives that you may want to support over the next few weeks.

If you are out shopping for toys, please consider grabbing a few extras to drop off at your local fire hall by Dec. 20. Every year, our Waterloo firefighters collect donations for the annual Knights of Columbus New Toys for Needy Kids toy drive. Their goal is simple — toys under every tree on Christmas morning.

Unwrapped toys, gift cards and donations can also be dropped off under the Tree of Angels at Conestoga Mall, outside the entrance to Target, until Dec. 20. Please think about older children and teenagers as you are making your choices.

Meaghan Coneybeare — a caring young community leader — is collecting pajamas for victims of human trafficking, with the goal of collecting 100 pajama sets by Dec. 20. If you would like to help provide the gift of comfort, donations are being accepted at our local police station.

Finally, please don’t forget the annual Kitchener-Conestoga Rotary Club’s Turkey Drive, as they work with the House of Friendship to provide 3,700 turkeys, 300 Halal turkeys and food for 4,250 Christmas food hampers. They are about $35,000 short of their goal this year. Find out more at http://www.turkeydrive.ca.

Toys, warmth and food on the table. Happy do-gooding, everyone!

You can follow Karen Scian and the good she does for our community year round on Twitter

The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy, we can all sense a mysterious connection to each other << TWEET THIS

Building a Healthy Community Where All Thrive #12daysforgood

December 14, 2014

12 days for good healing

by Sandra O’Hagan Personal Training Specialist at SO Full of Life

Imagine for a moment what it might be like not being able to lift your arm or not being able to walk because your leg won’t move the way it should or hearing your own voice and the words are slurred. This was my reality five years ago after a spontaneous bleed in my brain caused me to lose functionality and left me dependent on others for care and support.

Being blessed with wonderful family, friends and neighbours I was able to fully recover and heal and ultimately return to a rewarding career. That would have been the end of my story except I felt this was a message that I needed to listen to.

There are so many in our community who are not so fortunate and suffer with health issues, lack of food, warm clothing, supportive family or even a roof over their heads. How would they recover from something so debilitating as a brain bleed or other health crisis?

We often take our health for granted until we don’t have it. What a gift it is to have options and choices in caring for ourselves and staying well. Thousands in our community are not so blessed.

12 days for good sandra o'hagan

I ultimately quit my job 3 years ago and started my health and wellness business and knew that I wanted to do more in the community. With that in mind, I became passionate about the work of House of Friendship and specifically their food hamper program. Upon learning that thousands of people, often gainfully employed, required this assistance, helping with deliveries and fundraising has been a gift for me.

I am honoured to be part of the 12 Days for Good Campaign and to contribute in my small way with HEALING and helping “BUILD A HEALTHY COMMUNITY WHERE ALL CAN BELONG AND THRIVE”.

Follow Sandra on Twitter as she shares health, wellness and her journey of good.

What lies behind us and what lies ahead of us are tiny matters compared to what lives within us. << TWEET THIS

A Healthy Environment for a Safe Community #12daysforgood

December 13, 2014

12 days for good safety

by Tova Davidson, Executive Director of Sustainable Waterloo Region

I am lucky enough to be able to work for a cause that I love. A safe and clean environment means a healthy community for all. As a Do GOODER, my focus over these 12 days has been to build community. A mentor of mine recently said that he sees his job as being a Community Builder and I have been inspired by this idea and strive to follow his lead.

Today, the focus of 12 Days For Good is safety. Safety is one of the essential needs of a good life. As outlined in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, we know that above simple biological needs, safety is the next level of need. These include safety from the elements, security, order, law, stability and freedom from fear. It is often through the creation of a strong community that these elements are enabled. And therefore support for the community means that we are building a safe community.

The work I do with my team and our community network at Sustainable Waterloo Region also plays a role in the safety of our community. A healthy environment means that we have a safe environment. Climate Change has created risk for all members of our community, including through severe weather events. The young, the elderly, those with special needs and many others can be significantly affected during these events. And every year severe weather puts the whole community at risk due to falling trees, power outages, water supply issues among other things. Mitigating climate change, by reducing the carbon that is emitted into our environment, means we are 12 days for goodprotecting ourselves and future generations.

Up until now, the acts of good that I have chosen to highlight in this first week, are items that support individuals such as contributing to the food bank, giving blood, support a school, doing my holiday shopping in locally-owned establishments and buying items that support those in need.

In the coming week, I will shift focus to good acts that support other community not-for-profits. Each of these organizations contribute to a stronger community, working as a wider network, each with a unique focus, to ensure that all members of our community are cared for.

I believe that all of these areas of focus are inter-connected. House of Friendship knows this and lives this every day. Together we can build a community that not only gives us a safe place to live, but provides every citizen with what is needed to have a happy and fulfilled life.

Connect with Tova and her good deeds on Twitter

The best environment in which to awaken, to heal, and to grow is one of complete freedom and total safety << TWEET THIS

 

Nourishing Community #12daysforgood

December 12, 2014

12 days for good nutrition

by Brian Banks Community Development at Nutrition for Learning

Today as in the other days of doing good, I will focus on what I can do better as a DO GOODER and will focus on nourishment for the community.

Nourishment comes in many forms and is often a complicated notion of food or fuel for your body, which magically changes almost everything that is associated with you.  Nourishment affects your health, energy, focus, attention, ability to learn, mood and at the basic level, the ability to continue to function.   How this all works for your body we leave to the nutritionists to explain however nourishment for our community means more.

Nourishment is food and OTHER substances necessary for growth, health and keeping an individual and community in GOOD condition.

On a daily basis, I see the success of nourishing young minds at school with my work as Community Development Officer at Nutrition for Learning.  I know each day, one in ten children arrive at school without breakfast or lunch to sustain them an entire school day.  For whatever the reason for the need for nourishment we ensure food is within reach for the students.

With my involvement with our full time team and the involvement of over 1,800 volunteers collectively we provide 145 breakfasts, morning meals and snack programs impacting over 14,000 children daily in our region. I continually hear from teachers, principals, parents and the students what the nourishment they receive leads to better marks, better attention and focus in the class, an increased sense of community and so much more.

Nourishment for the community is perceived and found in different forms and services so this week, I will use the power of R.O.A.R.  (return on all requests) to share the need in our community and multiply my Do Gooder work by sharing the projects I will supporting this week.

In regards to food I will plan and work to share what I personally can in regards to food donations and to help raise funds and collect food donations for the Waterloo Region Food Bank and Nutrition for Learning.

The House of Friendship Men’s Hostel could use bedding, towels, blankets, and clothes and by just sharing that need with my family and friends have already received a trunk nourish communityload of donations from people who are happy to be able tohelp others in the community.

Nourishment also is required in relationships, families, marriages, and neighborhoods and of course nourishment for our emotions and for our souls.  With this in mind I will work to share more smiles, seize more opportunities to be of service and engage those important in my life and with the community at large.

During these 12 days I will spend a little more time and attention at the After School Programs in my neighborhood where I volunteer because it is important to extend not just the snacks but also the power of friendships, smiles, and real participation in their lives.

Nourishment is more than food and comes in many forms but surprisingly comes in the form of YOU AND ME.  So let’s collectively create one magnificent buffet for our community and ensure there are chairs for everyone.

I look forward to doing a little better job of being the proper NOURISHMENT for our community.

You can follow Brian’s journey in nourishing community on Twitter

If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed just one << TWEET THIS