Author Archive

Helping Families Move Forward – How Food Banks Help

December 4, 2015

This fall Lina Shamoun, a local entrepreneur, went on a tour of The Food Bank of Waterloo Region with other young business owners. The questions being asked made her realize that some people do not understand who needs help and why.  She realized she had an opportunity to help educate the community through her family’s experience and it would be important for her to share her story.

Lina’s story is one of many of those who have relied on food assistance in tough times. She was 14 when her family came to Canada.

“We struggled to learn English, learn about our new home’s culture, and how to belong.  It is hard for me now to look back and fully comprehend what my parents did for us.  Somehow they found ways to adapt, adjust and to earn a living to support my 4 younger siblings and I so we could become part of the Canadian fabric,” she shares.

Those first few years were particularly difficult and Lina’s parents impressed upon her the importance of the food support they received through the local church programs by showing her the schedule of when they were eligible for food assistance. To this day they keep a record to remind them of the generosity of their neighbours.   (more…)

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Planting A Seed: Starting A Conversation About Food Security And A Basic Income

September 16, 2015

Today we are happy to share some insight from Jen H, a local Food System’s Roundtable member and Public Health dietician.  This post is the start of a three part series on the significance of a Guaranteed Basic Income and connects it to discussions of hunger in Canada, and locally, here in Waterloo Region.

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A while back I attended a webinar about food security – or the lack thereof – in Canada. It was hosted by a well-known researcher on the subject, Valerie Tarasuk. I serve on the Food System’s Roundtable Food Access working group and thought the information presented in the webinar made some interesting points about accessing food in Canada, which may help form conversations around how to address the issue of food insecurity in Waterloo Region.

Food security is a complicated concept that touches on, and is affected by every aspect of the food system, human health and beyond. Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Many factors can affect one’s food security negatively or positively. (more…)

Can 30 Minutes be Life Changing?

February 20, 2015

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“This challenge has motivated me to get outside and do something every day. It was especially awesome convincing family members to go with me so it doubled as bonding moments.” Bethany M.

 

“It helped me discover the many ways I can dedicate at least 30 minutes in a day to my health even if it was only 10 or 15 minutes at a time. Thanks for helping me get back in motion!” Carol G.

 

“I lost 8 pounds this month and the 30 for 30 kept me SO motivated.” Dagmar K.

 

“I feel so much better every morning after I do my 30 minute Power Walk and I get way more done in a day. It was great fun and I’m SO full of Life!!” Rita R

So many stories and inspiration have come from the 30 for 30 Fitness Challenge.

Three years ago I quit a long term corporate career to follow my passion and launch my business, SO Full of LIFE Fitness and Wellness. I knew I wanted to connect with the community in a meaningful way but did not know where or how I was going to do that. I was honoured to be introduced to House of Friendship, a charity that aligned with my values and their mission statement “Building a healthy community where all can belong and thrive” resonated with me in a very strong way.

As my business was growing, time was not at a premium, but I wanted to lend my support to House of Friendship. So the idea of the 30 for 30 Fitness Challenge was hatched bringing my vision of changing lives out to the community. The challenge, introduced twice a year, has people register for $10 and commit to doing 30 minutes of heart raising activity for 30 days allowing 4 days of rest (on your honour and no homework is checked…wink wink). At the end of 30 days registrants have many opportunities to win great prizes including free personal training from yours truly!

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What started as a way to get people active and raise money has turned into so much more. Many fantastic businesses in the community started donating amazing prizes and people began registering in order to make donations to support a great cause. Stories of better health, connection to the community and to family and friends have emerged. At the end of each challenge, participants can join together for a fun wrap up event and draw names for prizes. To date the Challenge has awarded over 50 prizes and raised over $2500 with a goal of $10,000!

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Want to get in on the fun? Please email to get on the list for the next 30 for 30 Fundraiser starting June 1st, 2015. Who knows, you might get healthier, connect with friends and family, win great prizes and feel the joy in helping others in our community BELONG AND THRIVE.

Contact Sandra at sohagan@sofulloflife.com for more information. www.sofulloflife.com

Reflections on Becoming (slightly) More Aware of Aboriginal Culture and Traditions

October 21, 2014

Today, I am pleased to share with you a blog post from Ron, our Residential Services Program Director.

 

House of Friendship believes strongly in housing as a right

Recently through two opportunities I have become more deeply aware of aboriginal people and culture that we rub shoulders with in our region.

On August 28, 2014 I attended an  Aboriginal Homelessness Prevention Day event sponsored by KW Urban Native Wigwam Project at Kitchener City Hall.

There are several local aboriginal organizations in town that provide a variety of services and supports.  KW Urban Native Wigwam Project, Healing of the Seven Generations, Weejeendimin Native Resource Centre and White Owl Native Ancestry are located at 300 Frederick Street.  Anishnabeg Outreach is located at 151 Frederick Street.  People at any of these organizations are very open to visitors dropping by to become familiar with the services they offer. (more…)

House of Friendship Votes: What Does Your Community Think?

June 9, 2014

Today I am pleased to share a guest post by Fariba talking about her experience in the community and her hopes for the involvement of the community with the democratic process.

House of Friendship encourages you to vote for a poverty free Ontario

1. Tell me a bit about your work at House of Friendship.  What is your role?

I am a community outreach worker at Sunnydale Community Centre and my main role is to support low-income families with children, who live in my catchment area.

2.Who are some of the people that you might work with in a typical day?

Single moms with children, youth in the community, immigrant families old and new (refugees, new-comers), students, and visitors.

3. Do you vote?  Why?

Yes, I see voting as a fundamental democratic right which keeps me connected to the political process and  allows me to  express my opinion and address my concerns with politicians and the elected representatives in my community.

 4. What does the word democracy mean to you?  How would you define democracy in our day to day life as a community?

As its roots in Greek language the word democracy for me stands for “the government by people”.  That means all the people should be able to have their say in one way or another in everything that affects their lives and it’s not only limited to participating in voting but also expressing ideas and concerns on decisions and policies in all levels of government (federal, provincial and municipal).

5. In the communities you live and work in, do people engage with the democratic process?  Do they feel they have a voice?  Do they feel like they have power?  Why?

In my communication with members of communities that I am in contact with, the subject of politics is not a favorite topic. The most common concern raised is that people don’t feel they have a voice or that their input will be valued, and there are several reasons behind this kind of thinking.  To name some:

  1. Negative and painful past experiences with politicians and government in their original country
  2. Lack of knowledge of the Canadian political system and their individual social and political rights
  3. They feel their issues are ignored/not addressed during political campaigns

6. What barriers (if any) exist that get in the way of people participating in the democratic process at any level?  Why would someone in the community that you work with decide to vote, or decide not to?

Language barriers plays an important role in preventing the immigrant voters obtaining knowledge and information, which affects the development in interest and sense of purpose to vote.

Sometimes the location of the polling stations and the limited time/resources to get there is voiced as a barrier as well.

Those who decide to vote are mainly motivated by hope for positive change and want to support the candidate/party that address their concerns.  Also, the same reason of negative past experiences and the inability to exercise their rights in their country of origin, motivates many more to value and practice their rights in Canada and vote.

7. What would you like to see happen on Election Day in your community?

What I like and hope to see in all communities is more and more participation in voting and political decision-making in Canada

 

Vote For The Community You Want to See

June 5, 2014

Today I am pleased to share a post written by House of Friendship Chaplaincy Director, Michael Hackbush.

House of Friendship encourages you to vote for a poverty free Ontario

The Golden Rule is something aspired toward by most world religions. Put simply this is “do to others as you would have them do to you.”

This can be an approach to dealing with conflict in your own life and family, it can help you understand and approach problems in your work or business and it can help us ALL think about how to deal with problems we all face as a society.

Voting is one of many ways of expressing your values as an individual and when I consider who will get my vote on June 12th I will be measuring each party’s position based not on what I’ll get out of it but on what impact said platforms will have on my neighbours.

That’s because, a simple way that The Golden Rule is monetized (that is, how it is given a dollar value) is through taxes and how we collectively decide to spend money through our government. Funding for schools, hospitals, roads, community centers and unemployment benefits are something we all pay for as individuals but which benefit all of us everyday either by using them directly, or indirectly when you consider the broader benefits to health and social stability.

Do employers want to interview candidates for jobs who are sick, stressed out and starving? Or do they benefit from hiring job seekers who have not had to make hard compromises between food or shelter during a period of unemployment. What about choosing dental care for their children, or medical services for themselves or their spouse?

When I hear tax cut I interpret that as taking away from my neighbours with the least means and giving to those with the most. That sounds subjective I know. I happen to work in the not for profit social services sector and so have a deference for my neighbours who are struggling to make ends meet. But the facts are that taxes are an investment in you, my neighbour, either directly, or indirectly.

The Dollars and Sense of Solving Poverty speaks of taxes as INVESTMENT. Every dollar spent gets back more both immediately in programs supporting people but also in the future return on that investment: healthier lives, cleaner air and water, safer communities for all of us.

In Tax is Not a Four Letter Word edited by Alex Himelfarb (find it online here) Alex mentions the fact that for all the talk about cutting the 2% of the GST, not once did people ask “At what cost?”. That cost is $14 Billion each year (to date exceeding $84 BILLION) of lost social investment.

I want to collectively work with you to build better hospitals, roads devoid of pot-holes, good schools and institutions, to create a community where all can belong and thrive. My taxes afford me the privilege to partner with my neighbour and create such a place. The facts demonstrate that taxes can do that.

So when the politicians speak of tax cuts, I will ask the question, “What will this cost us?” How will this benefit my neighbour?

I try to live by the Golden Rule. I invite you to do the same.

A Call to Action from Kindred Spirits

May 7, 2014

Today I am pleased to share a post by Doug Rankin of the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre (KDCHC).  He has an important message about a great community event coming up this Thursday!  Tomorrow I will share an interview that he did with Clarence, a Shelter to Housing Worker at the Hostel and former Peer Health Worker with KDCHC who will receive an award at this event.

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“We stand here tonight in solidarity with those who are experiencing homelessness and poverty. We all know that without our health we have nothing. Living without a home makes it impossible to maintain health. Every day is a challenge to find food, to stay warm and dry, to search out services, to find shelter, to seek health care, to be safe. Every day, witnessing friends struggling with illness and disease, often dying prematurely. We are a wealthy Region and it is not just that there are those without adequate shelter and living in poverty. No one should have to wait years on a list for affordable housing, sleep in unsafe and unsanitary rooming houses or spend the end of their life dying without a home. We ask you to now observe a moment of silence to show your support and to reflect on the work yet to be done.”

This is what volunteer Kim Wilson said to those attending the 9th Kindred Spirit BBQ last year, calling us to action as a community and highlighting the difficult reality that many live each day. (more…)

Quiet Moments of Community – Downtown and at Your Kitchen Table

May 6, 2014

One of the ways we are marking House of Friendship’s 75th year of service is with a special tea blend produced by local business, XTEA Co. House of Friendship is a leading provider of addiction treatment services. As such, we do not serve alcohol at any of our events. We do however, serve tea! What better way to toast our 75th year of service than with a special cup of ‘tea with Joe Cramer’? Read on, while you enjoy a nice warm cup of tea.

Zenia Horton of Xtea with House of Friendship Tea

The simple things bring back memories

I find that tea tends to slow people down. The preparation, the smell, the ritual… you are more present it seems when making and serving tea. Everyone seems to have a tea memory. When I started attending tea seminars I noticed that everyone has a favourite tea memory. The smell reminds them of something: maybe tea with their grandmother, or a tea cup close to their heart.

My name is Zenia Horton, and I own and operate a kitchen design business by the name of Zen Design. I am also the founder of a loose leaf tea company by the name of XTEA CO.

My passion for design and creating spaces for people to interact and communicate in led me to start a loose leaf tea company. Community is always an important part of what I do. (more…)

Hunger Awareness Week – May 5-9 – Who’s Helping in Waterloo Region?

May 5, 2014

Today, we are pleased to share a post from Kate, at the Food Bank of Waterloo Region about Hunger Awareness Week.

On my visits to The House of Friendship Emergency Hamper program I am always surprised how many of our neighbours need help with food assistance. There is no one type of person who requires food assistance. My visits remind me that many members of our community of different ages, genders and backgrounds need the help of a healthy hamper.

This week, May 5th to 9th, marks Hunger Awareness Week. (more…)

What Children Teach Us About Giving

April 28, 2014

Childhood is usually thought of as a time when you start to learn about your place in the world and how to be a part of it.  Parents and other adults sheppard children from infancy through adolescence and into adulthood.

But not all life lessons need to come from adults.

Recently, six year old Ben delivered a large number of brand new toys and books to the Sunnydale Community Centre to share with children in the community.  The community centre is situated in North Waterloo in a culturally diverse community which is home to many new immigrant families, a large number of children and youth and many living on a limited income.   Many of these families access services, resources and programs through the community centre. (more…)