Archive for the ‘Guest Blog’ Category

Hunger Awareness Week – Let’s Draw The Line On Hunger

September 19, 2016

Today we are pleased to share a piece written by Wendi Campbell, Executive Director of the Food Bank of Waterloo Region.

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Hunger Awareness Week - Let's Draw The Line On Hunger

This week is Hunger Awareness Week. Food Banks Canada is asking us all to draw the line on hunger. Across Canada 850,000 people access a food bank each month. Here in Waterloo Region 12000 people access food assistance each month. How can this be?

The food assistance network in Waterloo Region consists of more than 100 community programs with The Food Bank of Waterloo Region and the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank at the centre. Every day, throughout the community, the staff and volunteers of these programs hear stories of despair turning into stories of hope because along with the food came a smile, a connection to a vital resource, words of encouragement and the knowledge that they were not alone. For many of those seeking assistance their stories are connected to mental health challenges – family breakdowns following job loss, years of battling and illness that has resulted in being unable to work, addictions deeply rooted in childhood trauma and an overwhelming inability to move on.

The Food Bank of Waterloo Region held an event recently to explore mental health as one of the underlying factors affecting the need for food support. Martin Bauman spoke of his recently completed fund and awareness-raising cross-Canada bicycle trek. He informed those in attendance that 1 in 5 Canadians deals with mental illness in their lifetime. On his journey Martin realized the transformative power conversation can have – simply talking and sharing with someone else can make an immeasurable difference. His message that it is important to look out for one another and simple things like smiling and having a conversation have a positive impact were reinforced by singer song writer Chris Scott’s “All It Takes” song. His lyrics, “with a touch of love, they can rise above all the shame. With a chance their lives will never by the same” helped drive home the importance of connectedness.

Police Chief Bryan Larkin and the Working Centre’s Executive Director Joe Mancini brought to mind many images of our community and those struggling to make their way. Whether it be someone asking for assistance at a street corner or someone dealing with their personal challenges silently, and unknown to you, our community has many residents that need help. The initiatives of our local Food Assistance Network strive to make connections among people as well as to critical resources. The most important connection is the bridge from despair to hope that is made by simply acknowledging their existence.

Homelessness, poverty, lack of employment, mental health are intertwined social issues. Often the intersection occurs at a community food program providing emergency food hampers, shelter, outreach, food pantry or meal programs. Communities across the country are facing social issues that have no easy solution and require open minds, thinking differently and creative, systems-based solutions. Bringing people together in new ways, gently encouraging connectedness can help to mend broken social bonds that are exasperated by stresses such as limited work options.

This Hunger Awareness Week we encourage everyone to take time to reflect and connect with those we know are struggling and consider who else may need a helping hand, a reassuring smile and a touch of kindness. Thank you for your support of our community’s Food Assistance Network. Together we are drawing the line on hunger.

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$15 And Fairness Campaign – A Day Of Action Across Ontario Tomorrow!

April 14, 2016

Today I’m happy to share a message from Marjorie, a BSW student on placement with us, and a representative of 15 And Fairness.

Do you care about any of the following?

$15 minimum wage?
Paid sick days?
Equal pay for equal jobs?
Fairness in the workplace?
Employment Act that protects ALL workers?

Come and join 15 And Fairness on Friday for a day of action!

The Ontario government is going to make changes with or without you now is the time to let them know what you think is important!

Meet us at Victoria Park by the fountain entrance closest to the Charles Street Bus Station. We will meet at 11:30am get organized and then march to City Hall! Come have your say! 11:30am to 1:00pm – BE THERE AND HAVE YOUR SAY! (more…)

Sing The Song Of Your Heart And Trek 4 Kids!

April 13, 2016

Today‘s blog comes to you from the desk of Phil Martin, Trek 4 Kids Hike and Bike committee member and cycling enthusiast who is making week-long, overnight summer camp a reality for kids-at-risk!

1-phil martin

When I’m not on my bike, I’m introducing kids to the love of cycling through a school program I founded called Cycling Into The Future (CITF)! In schools across Waterloo Region I teach young people (and a few older ones) about cycling safety and etiquette by presenting the CITF program which includes hands (and feet)–on cycling experience! Many kids find that their world grows bigger when they take our course. They have more independence (I don’t have to rely so much on being driven everywhere), a growing sense of competence (I can fix a tire) and the great feeling of fresh air in their faces as they pedal off on new adventures. (more…)

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…)

The State of Food Insecurity: Hunger Count 2015

November 17, 2015

 

hungercount2015-singles-p3-normalToday, Food Banks Canada released the HungerCount 2015 report, which shows that 850,000 people access food banks each month. More than 300,000 of those helped are children. Here in Waterloo Region 1 in 20 households received food assistance. Half of these households are families with children.

The HungerCount offers stark evidence of the realities faced by far too many people in Canada: the reality that a job does not always guarantee food security; the reality that safe, quality housing is too often unaffordable; the reality that social assistance, disability and basic pension benefits are inadequate to support people who have fallen on hard times.

The volunteers and staff who run community food banks are proud of the work they do to help Canadians put enough food on the table. Nationally, the food bank network has adapted to changing times by increasing the variety of food available to the people it helps, and by providing services that go beyond the simple provision of food. The network today is radically different from what existed in the 1980s, when food banks first started opening their doors in Canada.

In Waterloo Region, we have a vital community Food Assistance Network of more than 100 programs anchored by two food banks: the Cambridge Self Help Food Bank and The Food Bank of Waterloo Region. By working together the network provides a respectful, warm environment where members of our community can receive the nutritious food they need. They can connect with programs that empower them to learn more about healthy eating, budgeting, food preparation and services to help find employment, counselling, affordable housing and other needs. (more…)

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…)

Where Will You Go, If You Walk With Others In Our Community?

November 28, 2014

“House Of Friendship remains committed to working with our community and walking with our most vulnerable members to ensure we pursue long-term solutions to homelessness, poverty, addictions, and mental health.”

John Neufeld, HOF Executive Director


Welcome to my walk with House of Friendship, my name is Marie Morneau.

My walk started some 13 years ago when my daughter Rosemarie started to volunteer at the Kingsdale Community Centre. Back then we were in portables, not the big beautiful building we have now!

Six years ago my husband Denis and I started to help by volunteering at Kingsdale, on Wednesdays. Denis drives the van to the Food Bank and brings back a load of food to Kingsdale, where we repack it and put it away. On Thursday we take that food and set it up for distribution between 1:30 and 3pm for people residing in the Kingsdale area. (more…)

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.