Author Archive

How To Take Two Trips For The Price Of One

June 19, 2015

Museums like the ROM, different cities, camps and more are all great places to go on a school trip. Photo via Flickr user Grant MacDonald

One of the nice things about being a parent is the opportunity to accompany your child or children on a school trip: you get some insight into class room dynamics, spend some time with your child, and learn a bit about the environment in which they spend so much of their time.

At the end of the year, many classes organize school trips.  I remember these as great experiences to go outside of the community I grew up in, visit new places with my friends and have a lot of fun.

For the first part of this week, my co-worker at the Emergency Food Hamper Program, Raymond, was absent as he accompanied one of his children on an end of year trip.  As a result I stepped into his role a little more than I usually do, and coordinated the challenging and interesting job of receiving, organizing, inventorying and distributing the many food donations we receive.  This week was a little more challenging than others. (more…)

Remembering Our Dear Friend Mike

May 25, 2015

Mike C was one of the best people I have ever had the privilege to meet

It is with a very heavy heart that we learned about the passing of our long time friend and volunteer Mike C. Profiled on our blog the qualities we described then continued to apply until the last time we saw him this past January when his battle with cancer forced him to take some time off.

He was always a caring, and generous person and made many lasting friends here.  Through his struggles with cancer he never lost his incredibly positive attitude.  He was always full of encouragement and support for those around him, and the many people he helped directly by assembling their food hampers.

His absence will be felt in many profound ways, but the qualities that he demonstrated are an example to all of us, and will inspire us as we carry on the work of helping others that he took such joy in doing.

A visitation will be held tomorrow, Tuesday May 26, as detailed here.

If you knew Mike please leave a comment below and join us in celebrating his life.

What Inspires Community Builders like Linda K?

May 20, 2015

Today I’m happy to share a short profile of Linda K, the soft spoken community builder who I first met running the Live and Learn Program.  She is now an integral part of the Sunnydale Community Centre. Thanks to our BSW student Lindsay, who sat down with Linda and had the following to share with us.

Where do you work and what do you do?

“I work at the Sunnydale Community Centre in North Waterloo. It is a wonderfully warm and welcoming community which is home to many individuals and families living on a low income, including many new Canadians from varied cultural backgrounds. I work in partnership with residents and community partners to help identify and provide services and programs that meet community needs.” (more…)

Gardens Grow Volunteer Engagement

April 24, 2015

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This is the last post in a our week long series on the many gardens that have sprouted up around House of Friendship.  Aside from plants, there is a common thread that connects all of our different green endeavours together, and that is volunteers!

What better way to celebrate and recognize that amazing contribution than by sharing the words of Marlene, an all around incredible volunteer who was a dynamic presence at Supportive Housing last summer and fall.

She spent quite a bit of time working with tenants in the garden beds and kitchen, and shares some of her thoughts about what being a volunteer was like for her:

“Digging in the dirt, planting seeds, and watching things grow is every gardener’s delight. Last year, while digging in the dirt with House of Friendship residents, I had the opportunity re-visit the awe and wonder that comes along with seeing those little seeds sprout. We shared many laughs and chats while nurturing seedlings, creating new gardens and caring for mature plants.” (more…)

Gardens Grow Inclusion and Community Connections

April 23, 2015

 

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Rewarding community connections are often growing side by side with tomatoes in the gardens at our supportive housing programs. “It’s nice to be in the garden with your friends, planting in the sun and talking to your seedlings.” A resident recently shared with us. Indeed, a lot is possible with a strong community, a generous spirit and some ingenuity. (more…)

Gardens Grow Green Communities

April 22, 2015

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It has been our experience that a garden always gives back more than it receives. At House of Friendship this becomes clearer each spring as different communities and people connected to us start coming together to plan, to plant, to work and to celebrate. So many things come sprouting up from the gardens beside the vegetables: friendships, inclusion, new skills, laughter, stronger neighbourhood connections, healthier minds and bodies.

Giving Back on Earth Day

Today is Earth Day, celebrated around the world as a time to give back to the natural world around us and to promote greater environmental protection. It is one small way to give back to the world around us and to start up conversations about how we can continue to work towards greater stewardship of the environment- not just on Earth Day, but all year long. (more…)

Gardens Grow Healthy Food!

April 21, 2015

Today is the second day of our garden series on the blog. Yesterday we highlighted the different ways you get involved in the many different garden related activities at House of Friendship. Deb shared her experiences in the garden and how they helped her explore new food items and eat healthy treats like Kale chips!

House of Friendship gets creative in the garden with healthy choices and ideasWe had many opportunities to harvest the bounty of the garden and turn that bounty into delicious shared meals. We grew three types of kale last year, and it was by far the most celebrated vegetable.

The day we made Kale chips was a particularly spirited day, and everyone enjoyed trying out a number of seasoning combinations and waiting for these addictive treats to be out of the oven!

Kale Chips

Ingredients: Two bunches of Kale, olive oil, sea salt, other  seasonings as desired (garlic powder, cheese, cracked black pepper, fresh or dried herbs, curry powder) (more…)

Gardens Grow With a Little Help From Friends

April 20, 2015

House of Friendship Gardeners Get Ready for the 2015 Growing Season

In a sunny room at Charles Village, members of the Supportive Housing garden team gather amongst seed packets and pots of soil. They are getting their hands dirty starting seedlings and going over last year’s efforts in the gardens that have sprouted up around the Supportive Housing buildings: Eby Village, Charles Village and Cramer House, as well as at the Charles Street Men’s Hostel.

“I learned a lot about myself last year in the garden,” says one resident. “I’m excited to be a part of it again.”

Scenes like this are common for the garden team, as they work together to plan, plant, nurture and harvest garden beds and perennial flowers throughout the season.

Would you like to help out this season?

Today marks the beginning of the garden season at the House of Friendship and on our blog and social media! Our Supportive Housing programs, Community Centres and the Emergency Food Hamper Program need your help and your green thumbs now that we have cast off the cold and the ice of winter and are looking ahead to the growing season. Each day this week we will share a little bit about our past efforts and hopes for the coming season.

Why is it important to support these creative gardening efforts? (more…)

Hunger Count 2015: A Local Preview

April 14, 2015

There, but for the grace of God, go I

Much to my mother’s chagrin, I can never remember how to ‘properly’ set a table and where to place forks and knives and all the assorted meal consumption equipment.

from elegantwoman.org

This, from elegantwoman.org is still no help

Now that I am older, I have a number of toddling children to coordinate and shepherd to the table, and as a result everything gets placed on the table in a largely haphazard manner.  Being young children, much of everything on their plates, including the plates themselves, ends up on the floor. I clean up the mess while my partner gives them a bath and attempts to persuade them not to give a repeat performance with the bath water.

That’s one cheery picture of family meal time, but many different scenarios play out every day around tables in every community great and small in Canada.  Often, not so cheery.

How do you set a table for 5500?

For a long time now, March is the month when Food Banks carry out the Hunger Count and share their service numbers with their respective provincial bodies, who in turn share them with the national network, headed up by Food Banks Canada.  This March was no different, and later in the year, both bodies will publish a formal report highlighting the state of food insecurity in this country based on this reporting.

What does this have to do with table etiquette?

Well, this March we gave out 2561 food hampers to around 2294 households, or 5515 people, including 757 children five years or younger.

So while many of us were passing the butter or the milk or whatever else was needed at the other side of the dinner table, every day in our community about 250 people were fretting about how to split a box of free food.  Some did not have enough to go around and skipped meals, some restricted access to different foods or compromised with cheaper items, others limited portion sizes, or used a variety of other coping strategies.  (See the dietitians of Canada for a more comprehensive discussion on pages six and seven.)

Yes, we were able to share food with a lot of people, but March is a good example of the strengths and weaknesses of programs like ours.

Not enough free food, is still not enough food

So, take two people that we served last month, I’ll call them Raul and Cody for the simple reason that those are not their names and they want to remain anonymous.

Raul and his wife came in and filled out the food list we have. They also spent a couple minutes whispering between themselves, trying to figure out how to spell ‘thank you,’ in their second language, along with some of the other needs they had that day.

Next is Cody, who has some serious food restrictions because of medical conditions, which is another way of saying, because of how his body works.  Human biology is pretty complex, and while it usually gets along fine, lots of people get pretty uncomfortable when they eat the wrong things. Cody has a combination of food sensitivities and health issues.  His choices are therefore massively constrained.

So how well were we able to meet the needs of these two different families?

Our program allocates food that people require for their survival.  It would be nice if it was otherwise, but today it is not, and this introduces many difficult negotiations into our daily work.

Annotated food slips

Annotated food slips

To figure out who gets what, we use a quota system. This is our attempt at fairness, and it’s not perfect. Essentially, it helps us manage what we have so we don’t totally run out half way through a day, or week and shut our doors to the public.

We start each day with a more or less known quantity of food, but we do not know the number of people we will serve.  We have a rough idea, but cannot tailor our supply to everyone, or even those who need it the most because we don’t know they’re coming, or in what number.  We may run out of different things, we may need to restrict access based on family size, and we may not have the items you really need if you have a restrictive diet.

March was difficult because, while we did have some nice things (whole coconuts, plantains, pluots, apples, mangos and papaya) we didn’t have them the entire month. Some days we had no fresh vegetables and/or fruit and had to restrict quantities vigorously most of the time because demand outstripped supply.

Did I say something wrong?

So, you may have come in March and wondered if some sort of mistake happened once you got your box home and started trying to figure out what to do with the items.  Most of the weeks, we did not have a lot to fill the boxes.  Looking back on previous experiences here, you may have wondered why today you only received a quarter of what had been there in a previous visit.

So, we were able to share something with Cody and Raul, with help from volunteers, a generous community and a lot of planning and effort, but ultimately, they left our warehouse with many of their requests unmet, for the simple reason that we just didn’t have the items they were looking for.

Real solutions

There will be a good deal of virtual and real ink spilled once the final “Hunger Count Report” is issued later this year, but the solutions can be summarized simply in this way:

Make housing affordable for people on a fixed income, rebuild our social safety net so that no one must choose between staying warm and eating real food, support children and their families (because children aren’t poor, families are) and support job retraining and skills development for those who have the biggest barriers to entering the workforce.

The next time you set a place at your dinner table, consider this last March and families like Raul’s and Cody’s.  It’ll give you something to talk about while you pass the mashed potatoes.

Working Together For Community

April 8, 2015

Reading our volunteer profiles, you may get a sense of the diversity of experience that makes House of Friendship an interesting organization to be a part of.  Today I would like to share the first part of an ongoing series where we share about what inspires and drives the people who work at House of Friendship. Here is Michael Hackbusch.

 

Michael

 

Where do you work and what do you do?
As Chaplaincy Director my office is currently at the Charles Street Men’s Hostel but I work in the community: advocacy group, teaching students, preaching at local churches, interfaith partnerships, HOF event promoter, pastoral care, Leadership Team, Spirituality group leader with addictions programs. The work is certainly diverse but always returns to the basic task of promoting HOF’s vision of a healthy community where all can belong and thrive. (more…)


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