Archive for January, 2015

Charity, Solidarity, and the Holiday Season, part one

January 30, 2015

Today’s post is the first of three reflections on giving, the holidays, and the work that we do at House of Friendship. In this post I discuss how generous folks can support us doing our work today while also supporting our longer term vision of a community where all can belong and thrive: a community where nobody needs to use food banks. Part two in this series is a guest post, a meditation on being caught in the middle of donors and patrons. 

House of Friendship’s 12 Days for Good campaign is over and our annual Potato Blitz is well under way. Our 12 local “Do-Gooders” have shared their stories, and we hope you have been inspired by their hard work to ‘do good’ in 2015—so far 457 folks have signed on to do good this year. In a way, then, 12 Days for Good is still going.

I know that many people, especially during the holiday season, want to “do good.” But how? If they’re anything like me, this is when things get complicated, when wondering about the ‘how’ turns into basic existential worrying that becomes, sometimes, paralyzing.

Walking in solidarity

At House of Friendship we talk regularly about “walking with” members of our community so that all can “belong and thrive.” This idea excites me because it implies solidarity. “Solidarity is not the same as support,” says feminist writer bell hooks. “To experience solidarity, we must have a community of interests, shared beliefs and goals around which to unite, to build Sisterhood.” On the other hand, “Support can be occasional. It can be given and just as easily withdrawn. Solidarity requires sustained, ongoing commitment.” (more…)

Putting our values to work, pt. 2: Greg deGroot-Maggetti on living wages

January 21, 2015

“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

This Monday I shared the first half of my conversation about living wages with Greg deGroot-Maggetti. (Read it! First!) In that conversation Greg discussed the difference between a minimum and a living wage–the latter starts by asking what it actually costs to live in a community–and the ethical and financial reasons we should commit to a living wage. Today I’m sharing the second half of our conversation. In what follows Greg discusses living wages as a way to restore good jobs, support healthy local economies, and even save us all money in the long term. But first, he faces my HARD QUESTIONS.

[JB] Doesn’t living wage place an unfair burden on employers? Why should employers bear the duty of providing her workers with enough to lead a dignified life? Shouldn’t we all, as a community or province or country share this duty?

[GdM] Well, my most basic response might be that that’s the ethical foundation of a working relationship: a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. (more…)

Jim Erb’s Remarks at HOF Barnraiser Award Luncheon

January 16, 2015

The Waterloo Region Barnraiser award is presented annually to an individual or community group that contributes to the region’s tradition of inspirational, collaborative achievement. House of Friendship is the 2014 recipient of the Barnraiser award! We are happy to share here remarks from Jim Erb, who nominated House of Friendship for the award. 

When I was a young lad of 12, I would visit House of Friendship on most Sundays.  My uncle was the director of House of Friendship, and he and his family lived on the third floor of the hostel on Charles Street in Kitchener.

The Sunday routine seldom changed – church, lunch with my grandparents at their home in Waterloo and then off to House of Friendship. Our family would help my aunt and uncle peel potatoes and carrots, cut corn off the husk, help fold bed sheets, all in anticipation of the coming week.   Mabel Steinman was the cook – calm, unassuming and fully dedicated to what she considered her call to serve. I remember the large metal cooking containers on her stove, bubbling and steaming as she prepared and preserved food for the week ahead.  I had the pleasure of reconnecting with Mabel many years later through work.  After she retired, Mabel was a regular volunteer in the kitchen, where else, at her church helping to prepare funeral lunches, and I can confirm that as a charter member of the funeral director’s tasting circuit in church basements, she made delicious egg salad sandwiches served with the same hospitality I witnessed at House of Friendship. (more…)

Putting our values to work: discussing living wages with Greg deGroot-Maggetti

January 14, 2015

LWThis fall, House of Friendship joined a growing number of “living wage” employers in Ontario—and Canada, and the world. This announcement followed HOF’s earlier commitment to be a 4:1 Wagemark employer, meaning that nobody working at HOF makes more than four times more than anyone else.

These are important symbolic and material commitments, in that they hold up another way of thinking about and ‘doing business,’ and because they mean all HOF employees should have enough. HOF executive director John Neufeld put it this way:

“Signing on to Living Wage Waterloo Region is part of ‘walking the talk’. We’re committed to a vision where ‘all can belong and thrive’. This means having a living wage. We can think of no better way of honouring this vision and staff in our 75th year of service than by supporting a living wage.”

In different ways, a living wage embodies HOF’s five core values of compassion, inclusion, justice, dignity and hope.

I sat down recently with Greg deGroot-Maggetti, who is Mennonite Central Committee’s People in Poverty Program Coordinator. Greg is also Chair of Living Wage Waterloo Region, co-chair of the 25-in-5 Network for Poverty Reduction, a regular contributor to the excellently rigorous Strategy at Work blog and a very skilled busker—look for him Saturday mornings at the Kitchener Market with his kids!

I wanted to talk with Greg about the growing living wage movement. We did; and, on the strength of his experiences and knowledge, we also talked about the nature of democracy and the importance of local civic engagement, putting our values to work despite an increasingly degraded labour market, and acting for good despite the world being the way the world often is.

Today is part one of our conversation–stay tuned for part two, next Wednesday. (more…)

In The Middle of Things: Reflections on Becoming a Social Worker

January 5, 2015

Today, I am pleased to share a guest blog from Michael Hackbusch, and two of the BSW students we have on placement at the Food Hamper Program, the Sunnydale Community Centre and the Courtland Shelley community Centre.

House of Friendship believes strongly in housing as a right

My name is Michael Hackbusch, and at House of Friendship (HOF) I have the task (privilege, really), of providing practicum supervision to burgeoning social work students. These students are in the Bachelor and Master of Social Work programs and come mostly from Renison University College at the University of Waterloo but also Wilfrid Laurier University, the University of Windsor and, this year, Carleton University.

We appreciate the partnership with the students on placement at HOF for causing us to reflect on our own practices, and to make explicit those things we assume are known. Further, by this act of mindfulness, we individually pay attention to our own reasons for serving through House of Friendship, how our service is needed, and why. They also give us cause to reflect on conversations we might have with our neighbours about systemic problems, which are often the reason for House of Friendship programs.

To that end, I posed a number of questions to two of our current practicum students, Lindsay and Dannika. Their answers reflect the students’ understanding of social work before and during their placement; how they have been challenged by both the program but also the people served; how they find a balance between classroom and practicum; and what advice they would offer to anyone considering a career in social work. Finally, I asked them what they know now, that they wish they had known months ago? (more…)