Posts Tagged ‘Challenges’

A big move

November 21, 2011

Some of us know the struggles and challenges that are associated with moving to a new province or city, but can you imagine how much harder it would be to move to a different country? Here you’d be surrounded by a new place where you potentially know only a handful of people, and need to find a place to live and a source of income. It’s no easy task; so often many social service agencies refer new Canadians to our program to help them transition and settle into their new life in Canada. Sometimes after a few hampers they’re able to move on and support themselves; but sometimes they find themselves in a more challenging position than when they first arrived. To give you an idea of this, here’s the story of Sophia:

I remember going to Emergency Food Hampers as a child, but I never really knew or understood what it was. I remember coming with my siblings and we would enter this “store” and fight over all the toys and stuff in the lobby. We thought it was so cool that you didn’t have to pay for anything…My parents came to Canada a long time ago, but never used House of Friendship until they started having kids. It was just the two of them, but quickly our family became seven people. As our family grew I remember my dad began staying at home. My mom said he wasn’t able to work anymore so we would receive some help from disability benefits. My parents told us that our family wouldn’t have a lot of money, but we’d always find a way to work through it. I never remember my parents being stressed or feeling that our family was poor. My mom was the only one working and providing for the family. With only a high school diploma, my mom could not find a good paying job that would adequately support a family of seven. She worked night shifts, often with over-time. But I knew it wasn’t enough sometimes; otherwise there was no reason for us to come to this program. 

Sophia’s story is not unique. Often many patrons bring their children with them to get a food hamper because they can’t afford or don’t know anyone to watch their children. Also this is one of the few chances that these parents can say “yes” to their children when they ask if they’re allowed to take that toy or pair of shorts home.

Think back about your own childhood.  The world was a pretty complicated place and you always had a lot of questions for your parents.  How would you ask them about the food bank?  Would you have been able to understand how hard it is to ask strangers for help?

If you were able to, would you be able to explain to your 8-year-old self what it’s like to struggle to balance the household finances and do the things you feel most “normal” families do, like visit the restaurants your school mates do, go on trips, and have the right clothes to fit in?

Many people who turn to us are working one way or another to make ends meet.  Today, this often means the night shift, temp work and a handful of very part-time jobs.  How do you handle that fluctuation and unexpected circumstances? It’s hard to save and plan ahead for the future because some of the over-time pay money always goes to paying down the hydro or water bill, car insurance, or dentist.

At times you get ahead but then quickly things change where you have almost no hours at work again and the bills keep coming. Work is unpredictable, but your education limits your options on where you can work, and your English is not the greatest to write a resume to even apply for another job. But if you did apply elsewhere and got a job, your family can’t wait until any new medical benefits kick in after a few months.

Luckily Sophia’s family has medical benefits. Many people accessing our program work at part-time or temporary employment positions and don’t get the opportunity to receive any health benefits. However, saving on this expense still doesn’t put them in a better situation.

Many families scrape by most months, so it’s unlikely that there will be any savings for retirement or college funds for any of the children they may have. If they work hard and get the grades some of them may be able to earn scholarships to help pay for the increasing costs; or some may get bank loans or OSAP  in order to secure a job that may deliver better future.

In the mean time, we will be here to help when things get tough.

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A new perspective on food waste

November 16, 2011

Have you ever come home with something from the grocery store full of good intentions and great ideas for how to use it?  Have you ever lost track of it and found a month and a half later behind a container of leftovers and been forced to throw it out?  I think everyone experiences this from time to time. For most of us this isn’t a big deal; but when you look at some of the impacts that food waste has, you begin to see that it’s a much bigger deal than you’d think once it’s all added up. (more…)

Can you ever have too much rice?

November 7, 2011

Feed a dream

Before we know it the sky will fill with lovely snow flakes and the days will become colder here in Ontario. While there are many opportunities to get outside in the winter and stay fit, many people tend to spend a little more time indoors.  So what can you do, while your inside, staying warm and counting the days until it’s spring time?

Well I’m here to tell you about a fun and educational way to spend some of your spare time – especially if your household includes some school age children who want to test and expand their knowledge. To see what I’m talking about, click here.  It’s an online game with a twist.  Instead of getting points and being able to boast about your high score, each correct answer makes a little difference to someone somewhere in the world, ten grains of rice at a time.

Isn’t this great? For each correct answer you make to questions in a wide variety of subjects a little bit of rice will be donated to the World Food Program. It may seem like such a small amount but it all adds up and it’s free!  This is all thanks to the group who created FreeRice, a non-profit website now run by the United Nations World Food Programme.

But how can a non-profit website buy enough rice to donate 10 grains for each question you answer right? All the rice that you win through the game is paid for by sponsors whose advertisement banners will appear at the bottom of the screen when you enter a question correctly. Each of these sponsors also supports the goals of promoting learning or free education for everyone, and reducing hunger throughout the world.

FreeRice tries to provide more rice to countries that typically include this as a staple item in their diet. On average these countries typically receive approximately 400 grams of rice person, per day (for families, including children and adults). Generally the goal of each donation is to provide people with two meals, with the assumption they’ll also include other local ingredients, in the aim to achieve 2100 kilocalories of daily nutrition. 

By answering 600 questions correctly you donate one serving (according to Canada’s Food Guide) of a ½ cup of rice to someone in need. Although it seems like a lot of questions, you’ll rack of the number of grains you donate quickly!

If you are a part of a service club, or church, or have a circle of friends who like to do things together, you can all register as a group and compete with other groups and track the total amount of donations you have generated.

“Making the world a better place starts with food. Food fuels education. Food fuels free choice. Food fuels economic independence. Food fuels peace.” (Source)

So by playing the game you are helping do something about hunger in the world, but what about hunger in our community?  Currently rice is the fourth most needed food donation at the Food Bank of Waterloo Region. So please consider spending a few minutes to answer a couple of questions and the next time you are at the grocery store think of your neighbours in need and make a donation to the bin by the check out. (Click here to read one of our previous blog posts on what our patrons think about rice).

And in the end think of all the people who will be able to enjoy a meal or rice because of your efforts to test your knowledge.

Tears of change

October 21, 2011

We’ve said it before that one of the first times people come to our program is one of the hardest. Not only are they answering personal questions to complete strangers in front of many other people waiting for a food hamper; but they’re also coming to terms with the fact that despite every effort to support themselves they need food assistance. You may remember our intake process video from Matt’s post, but here’s the other side to the intake story. Let me introduce Ashley, a single mom of five children.

I never imagined coming to a food bank – especially with all my children with me. I try to work as many hours as possible while they’re in school but it doesn’t always work. If one of my kids gets sick, I have to call in to work because I don’t have anyone that can baby-sit, and I can’t afford to hire anyone. That’s part of what set me back actually: one kid got sick after another. My boss has been really understanding which helps. She’s a single mom too…The people who helped me register for a food hamper were really nice. I didn’t want to be too greedy taking everything from the checklist, because I knew I’d get paid in about a week and could then go buy these things. My kids are great in understanding that sometimes I can’t provide them with everything. But it really helped that the people at the counter tried to put me at ease and encourage me to take more food items if we didn’t have them at home, even if I could afford to buy them in a few days …I had no idea how much food that would mean though. I broke down in tears after the volunteer finished packing my hamper. Someone who has never met me before just changed my life more than I could ever imagine.

If you’re already a single parent you may understand how Ashley is feeling through all this chaos. But if you’re not a single parent, try to envision yourself in this situation. So if you’re a parent with a partner, imagine that your other half isn’t there to provide another income or to help you watch the kids. And if you’re not a parent, imagine that you have to take care of yourself and also a few children.

At one point you had a partner to help you handle everything that happened with all the kids – but now it’s just you. It’s pretty overwhelming right? Luckily your children understand the situation, but that doesn’t make life any easier. You try to sacrifice things for yourself and budget the best you can, but sometimes it means that you just don’t have it all together. Sometimes you won’t be able to buy their most desired toy to put a smile on their face on their birthday; or have a turkey on the table for Thanksgiving.

When you have a limited income, sometimes it means missing out on celebrating holidays. You might be able to make up for it a few days later but it doesn’t make it easier as a parent that you have to make your children wait until you get paid before they can get a birthday present. You know they’re not making a fuss because they don’t want you to feel bad, but they don’t realize that you already do.

Now you’re coming here for a food hamper, after trying to explain to your children that you’re struggling – without worrying them. You started by not checking off much, because you think there are people who need this service more. But then you’re touched when the staff try to encourage you to take more because programs like us are around to help people when they fall in these struggling circumstances.

You’re trying to stay strong because you hate when your kids see you cry. Also it would be weird to cry in front of a room full of strangers. However you can’t hold back when the volunteer finishes packing your hamper. Before coming here you had next to no food in your cupboards and fridge, but now you’re confronted with a bunch of possible meals. There’s a selection of anything from yogurt, to school snacks, to vegetables, to meat, and a wide variety of other products.

As you can see it’s pretty evident that we’ve touched Ashley’s life in a significant way. However what she doesn’t realize is how she’s touched the lives of the people who work at our program. Her tears of joy show the volunteers that though each task is small, it has an irreplaceable impact on a person’s life. This single mom has come to us with no idea what to expect, and leaves us without enough words to thank us for all we’ve done.

There’s something missing

October 4, 2011

Every time you go to the grocery store there is an abundance of possibilities that you can take home. But unfortunately for over 20 000 people throughout the year their grocery trips are limited, because they’re accessing a food bank.

Food banks generally operate almost exclusively on donations – donations of time, money and food. As a result, it’s not uncommon for programs such as ours to experience a few weeks or months without certain food items such as canned soup, cereal, rice, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, canned meat, or canned beans. At the moment, three very significant products are on the top ten lists of most needed food donations. Any idea what they are? If not, click here to find the answer.

Unfortunately three of our four protein products are on the top of the list: canned meat and fish, peanut butter, and canned beans. This has dramatic implications on the overall nutrition of our hamper; and also how many meals patrons can make out of the food we have to offer. You may remember how important food items like canned meat are to our patrons; but if not click here.

Luckily the Food Bank of Waterloo Region has been getting in higher amounts of frozen meat products. This means that our program has been able to slightly increase our quotas since the beginning of August. Here’s an idea of how our quotas have changed:

Family Size

Previous Meat Quotas

Current Meat Quotas

One person

500 g

750 g

Two people

1 kg

1.5 kg

Three people

1.5 kg

2 kg

Four people

2 kg

2.5 kg

Though it’s a minimal amount, it has an impressive impact. For example single people generally got one choice of meat such as a bag of sausages or a few chicken breasts in the past. Now a single person meat pre-pack will include two choices of meat products or a larger chunk of meat. But let’s look at the nutritional implications of raising our meat quotas:

Family Size

Increases of servings

One person

2 servings (1 day)

Two people

4 servings (1 day)

Three people

4 servings (almost 1 day)

Four people

4 servings (half a day)

To read more about meat and alternative nutrition, please visit Canada’s Food Guide.

For many people more frozen meat in their food hamper is a welcome change! One of the things that we learned through the work of Jesse and Leah, our two summer students, is that many patrons would purchase more meat or seafood products if they had more money available. However, because of the increasing costs of fresh or frozen meat products, many individuals often use lentils or canned meat as the best alternative to still get protein in their diet.

But with our supplies running out and many people not having the flexibility in their budget to buy a can of beans, a jar of peanut butter, or a can of meat, what do they do? Sadly it often means that many people will be without that food group in their diet for a few days.

Going without canned beans or canned meat and fish has a smaller nutritional impact on our hampers, but it does interfere with meal planning. Now instead of many people being able to throw one of these choices into a casserole, they’re left scrambling to find another alternative to get meat in their diet and complete their meal. Both a can of beans and a can of meat or fish contain approximately a full days worth of meat nutrition for a single person. It’s easy to see how quickly the nutrition of a hamper can diminish without these necessary staples.

Not having peanut butter available also decreases a hampers ability to provide a good level of nutrition for meat and alternatives. It takes two tablespoons of peanut butter to provide one serving of meat and alternatives. For a single person who likely needs approximately two servings of meat for the entire day, a 500 gram jar provides about seven days worth of protein. Larger families typically receive a one kilogram jar of peanut butter. To break this down it means that two person hampers lose approximately seven days of protein; three person hampers lose approximately four and a half days of protein, and four person hampers miss out on approximately three days of protein. Without this staple food, many people are left without anything to eat on a sandwich for lunch or to spread on some celery for an afternoon snack. Click here to read about the significance of peanut butter to our patrons.

What do you eat for lunch each day?  Imagine opening your bag lunch and only having two slices of bread with some mustard and lettuce between them.

You can change this though! Please keep these food items, and any other that you typically enjoy in mind during the fall food drive. Each donation makes a meal and brightens someone’s day – sometimes more than you can imagine. Whether it’s a box of cereal or crackers, a can of pasta sauce, or a drinking box it’ll make someone’s life one measure easier. Each food item they receive is  one step closer to a healthier diet, or one less explanation to a child for why it’s not on their dinner plate. And as our recent blogs show, not having food is only one of the many situations that our patrons are encountering throughout their day.

Living in a teeter totter

October 3, 2011

Life is full of ups and downs. When things are looking up, it’s great. But when they fall down, the challenges can sometimes be too much to bear. It’s especially difficult when you’re thrown into a pattern of traumatic and stressful events. It’s a real test of will and strength, and often very easy to fall in a position of needing help. Overcoming these falls can be harder than you’d ever imagine. Once the bills pile up it’s hard to know if you’ll ever get caught up.

Balancing between paying the rent and buying groceries is hard. I haven’t been able to keep a steady employment record so I never should have tried to afford an apartment on my own. Rent is really expensive! I’ll probably have to move into a rooming house. I’ve done that before. It wasn’t so bad – but it wasn’t great either. But it’s better than Mary’s place or some other shelter. I just like having a space to call my own…I use to own a house with my husband. Well ex-husband. After three stillbirths our marriage dissolved. We had a lot of problems and I never really got over being an alcoholic; but we did manage to have one child survive. And after many years I’ve decided not to drink. I want to be a good role model for my son, Trevor. He’s a miracle! Trevor was two pounds when he was born nine weeks premature. He went three weeks with no amniotic fluid. My water broke and then I delivered three weeks later. Go ask any nurse and see if that’s possible…Unfortunately I haven’t seen a lot of my son though. Around the time that my husband divorced me I had a breakdown. So Trevor lived with his father while I spent some time in a psychiatric hospital. I’ve been in and out of those places; trying to take care of my son whenever I could. But Trevor doesn’t really want to spend a lot of time with me. I’m not sure I want to see much of him either. At the age of seven he started abusing me just like his father did…But he’s my son and I love him. I’m trying to be a part of his life; but it’s hard. He’s in trouble with the law. So now that I’m out of the hospital, it’s likely he’ll be going to jail. It seems like he’s always in trouble – and I’ve told him I won’t give him the money to help out. Normally I would. I’m the type of person who will give you whatever you need if I have it. If you came to my door needing bread, you’d have half a loaf if I had it. My mother always raised me to share and help others. We were raised with the values of the church and to acknowledge something bigger than you or I. I’ve always believed that God will send someone to help whenever needed.

Think of this as your story. Take a second to reflect how you’d feel in this situation if Trevor was your son.  What if you were Trevor?

While your son is pushing you away, you’re trying to form a relationship with him. You know he doesn’t care what you have to say or share your values; but you want to be a part of his life. Actually you need him to be a part of your life because family support and love is often what separates you between experiencing another mental breakdown or not.

Yes he’s frustrating you because he’s making all the wrong decisions in your eyes, but you can’t stop dwelling on the fact that he’s family and you love him. But how much longer can you watch him make these decisions? You know his bank account is running low because few people will hire someone with a criminal record. So what will you do when he doesn’t have the money for his court fines or lawyers fees? Although you want to help, unfortunately you’re financial situation isn’t much better than his. You continually struggle to meet your basic needs such as rent, utilities and groceries. But at least you’re willing to access various programs for supports; Trevor refuses to talk to strangers about what’s going on in his life because he feels they wouldn’t understand.

At least he’ll talk to you though. Well it’s more that he just stops by when he needs something. You think he may be abusing your good nature, but you can’t turn him away. You’ve tried sending him back to his father but he refuses to tell him anything. You suspect it’s probably because he doesn’t want to suffer the same physical and emotional abuse that he knows you went through. His father has the money to help him, but is it worth the abuse that you’ll both endure? Your ex-husband continually blames you for all the problems Trevor has.

But no one is to blame here. Unfortunately your life has been filled with a what feels like 10 life times of hardship that have been almost impossible to overcome. Each day is filled with a new challenge and sometimes it’s hard to catch up.

A common sentiment from our first time volunteers is how being here for a while reminds you of all the things you should be thankful for.  This post is the last of a short series of stories from some of the many people we serve.  They are the result of a lot of the hard work that our two summer students Leah and Jessie did over the summer trying to connect with people and get more of their story.

Though each story is complex and different in its own unique way, each shares the same basic theme: no money, no food, and no other option. Fortunately House of Friendship is available to provide a limited amount of support, but it’s often not enough. Each day the patrons of our program are facing more problems than just not having enough food. Turning to food banks is just one of the few options for relief in many individuals’ lives. By accessing a food hamper they’ll have a few moments of peace before needing to worry about having enough food again. Maybe then they’ll have the time to focus on one of the many other struggles and challenges they’re facing in their lives.

What we hope you take away from each of these stories is a little spark of empathy and a desire to make at least a small change for the better in our community.  Consider volunteering, donating, or talking to people and politicians in the upcoming provincial election on October 6th.

What a party

September 30, 2011

When Sara approached the counter to register for a food hamper it was very clear that she was uncomfortable. As I talked to her she told me that the crowds were making her uncomfortable. She doesn’t like to be around a lot of people even on a good day. And lately she’s starting to forget what a good day feels like.

My fridge never stays full long. I have five teenagers at home, plus my husband, Robert and I. My kids never feel full – no matter what they eat or how much they eat. I never thought I’d be spending this much on groceries. I always grew up having enough money to buy whatever I wanted; but now I barely have enough money to buy all the things we need. And it’s not going to be any easier now that my best friend, Amy moved in. She was evicted from her apartment after not being able to make her rent again. She told me it’d be temporary until she can get a full-time job again. But I knew she wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for her bad-tempered boyfriend, Josh mouthing off to his employer. He deserved to get fired for it. But doesn’t he care about paying the rent? It almost seems like he doesn’t care how he’s hurting Amy. I’m not a fan of Josh but I know Amy loves him and she’s a close friend. So I agreed to let them move in with me for a bit because I couldn’t live with the idea of her living on the streets. And she won’t go into a shelter because they won’t be allowed to be together.
Now they’re going to be staying with me for a lot longer. Recently Amy was in a terrible car accident. So Robert and I are trying to make the best of our even fuller house. As if things weren’t busy enough we’ve got two more people to sit at the table everyday. Our house is a big party, except without the fun. Sometimes it can be hard to have friends. You don’t want to turn them away but it’s not easy to take them in when you don’t have a lot to spare.

Imagine being at Sara’s table even before getting a food hamper. Since there are so many people in the house and barely any income to cover all the expenses it’s more than likely that you’ve been eating a lot of cheaper foods like rice, beans, potatoes and pasta – all the starchy foods that aren’t necessarily the healthiest choices but make you feel the fullest. These might not be the foods you’re craving at the end of the day; it’s just all the grocery budget can afford so that everyone can continue to see food on the table.

Now that Amy and Josh are living with you things are even tighter. No one wanted to give their identification to register for a food hamper program. They have a lot of fear and uncertainty. They’ve never had to come to a food bank before. But what other options are there? How many more days can everyone skip eating a meal? As a parent, how many more times can you listen to your children tell you there’s nothing to eat? There’s a clear choice: go hungry or ask for a food hamper. Which would you do?

Everyone is anxiously waiting for you to come home. And you can’t wait to get out of our building. This is an experience you never imagined living. But you know that this food hamper means so many different things: you’ll have the money to pay the rent and other bills, and you’ll also all be able to eat dinner for the first time in a few days. Then we call your name.

You thank the volunteer who packed your hamper after giving you the food hamper. But before packing the boxes in your car you take a second to look through the food that you received:

This is a hamper that we packed for a family of seven people.

You’re thankful for what you’ve received but you can’t stop thinking about a few of the things you were hoping to see. There are no eggs or cheese…the kids won’t really like that cereal…and I’ve never cooked cabbage before. And wait, what can the kids take as a snack to school? You’ve got a million questions and thoughts running through your head. Plus you know once you get this stuff home the kids will impulsively want to eat a lot of the items, especially the pretzels and cookies. How can you ask them to wait? This food is all you have until your child tax benefit comes through in a few days.

This food is a blessing and a challenge all in one bundle. You’re going to have to adjust your cooking habits and food preferences a little because what other choice do you have? You could spend a few dollars from your bank account but then your hydro may be cut off because they won’t let your overdue charges run much higher. If you still have a phone setup, you can look forward to the inevitable collection agency calls. Then how do you explain that to the kids? Finally you decide that you’ll find a way to mange through the food because a little sacrifice now will bring better things in the future. Hopefully.

One mitten short of a pair

September 27, 2011

It’s not uncommon for some people to cycle in and out of our program. Often they have spurts of good luck where they’ve got a good job that leaves them with enough money to pay the bills. But then, just as each of our stories demonstrates, life throws some type of curveball to put them back to square one and in a place they never expected to be.

After 23 years of marriage my wife (Taylor) lost her battle with cancer. Losing her has been one of the hardest experiences I think I’ll ever face. I lost my mind for a while. With the grief of losing the love of my life and my best friend I barely want to get out of bed most days. But I’m slowly taking steps to re-building my life one piece at a time. I started going to counseling and got put on some medication to help my depression. This is helping me to accept that things will never be the same. It’s not easy to lose someone. Life doesn’t stop though. I’ve got to make the best out of the worst situation. Slowly I’m learning to cook, do laundry, and to clean the house while remembering to pay the bills. We were a great pair but now it’s just me.

Some days you probably come home wishing that the chaos would stop. Well what if it did? Think about it as if Taylor was your partner. You were there to drive to various appointments, carry them upstairs to bed at the end of the night when they’re too sick to walk, and been there to wipe away all the tears. Now who will wipe away your tears? Who will be there to support you through your struggle?

Not only does this situation put you in emotional turmoil but now you’re in financial stress. You’ve lost part of your income, since Taylor isn’t around to collect a pension anymore. Plus you’ve had additional expenses to cover the cost of the funeral, since you never had the money to save for it in the past.

Now your life has changed in a way that you never would have expected. You’re likely going to rely on food assistance and other social service programs until you can come to terms with the loss of your partner and figure out your finances again. It’s a big adjustment that you never wanted to plan for, but now you’re left without a choice. You’ve got to find a way to adjust to your new situation and pay the bills.

So in the mean time we’ll see you pass through our doors from time to time. We’ll hope that the food hamper will provide you with all the things you’re use to having available at home. And if not you’ll have to try to scrap together the money from somewhere, access another program, or simply go without. You know food banks are working on donations, which means sometimes certain items aren’t available. Either way you know it’s better to have some food than no food at all. That’s really your only choice in this situation; because let’s face it: the creditors and bills won’t stop just because your wife passed away. Instead you’re left to continue fighting to meet your basic needs and hoping that one day soon your struggle will come to an end.

A big kick off to the fall

September 26, 2011

Have you seen this poster recently? What about the donation bins located near the check-out at many grocery stores within the region? Well this is the time of year when they are extremely important to places like the House of Friendship because the Food Bank of Waterloo Region will soon kick off their annual Fall Food Drive!

Yes it’s that time of year again. Though the Food Bank is fortunate to collect many donations each week from local grocery stores, the big shelves at their warehouse are getting empty. Just last Wednesday, my co-worker Raymond was touring their warehouse and mentioned that there were starting to be more empty spaces than full. As a result the Fall Food Drive is kicking off on October 3rd, and running until October 16th. At this time of year programs like ours hope that enough food will be collected to cover the demands placed on the Food Bank over the coming months. How much food is needed? What are we hoping to see? Click here to see the top ten most needed items.

How can you help? Over the coming weeks the Food Bank will be participating in a variety of events that you can have fun attending and help out by donating a few non-perishable products. Please visit their website for more information, but here’s a brief overview to help you mark your calendar:

All of these events are always a lot of fun, and they are a great way to help the Food Bank and our  regional friends (Cambridge Self Help, Woolwich Community Services, Wilmot Family Resource Centre) reach their 375 000 pound target goal for donations. Bringing even one can of food or bag of pasta or rice to each event means you are helping to put a meal together for over 25 500 people who will receive food from food hamper programs in the coming year. From all of us at House of Friendship and the many other food banks throughout the region, thank you in advance for all your generous donations!

Getting down to business

September 23, 2011

Ontario is a province with a wide variety of employment options for a number of people. Each day many people go in to work never thinking they’ll be injured. But as the statistics show, this reality is closer than many of us would think. Let’s take a second to look at some of the facts:

  • Annually about 300 people die and nearly 270 000 more file workers’ compensation claims due to a work related injury or illness. (Source)
  • Each year over 10 000 Ontarians under the age of 25 submit a claim after an injury leaves them unable to return to work for a few days. (Source)
  • In 2008 alone, Ontario reported 488 fatalities and 317 031 claims for work related injuries and illnesses to the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB). (Source)
  • The injury rates of workers may be much higher because many workers don’t bring the injury to the attention of their employer, or the employer doesn’t submit a claim to WSIB. (Source)

Unfortunately Ronald is living proof of these statistics. After an injury at work, he’s waiting for his claim to be approved by the WSIB board. So in the mean time he’s coming to our program for assistance. It’s likely that he’ll use the six visits we offer in a year within the next month or two; because his family is without an income for a few weeks and can’t wait that long to buy groceries.

I’m a father and husband to a family of five. When people learn that I’m using a food bank they always ask “how did that happen?” or look at me wondering why I can’t find a job to provide for my family. Well I was working at a factory and had 800 pounds of product fall on me. Now I’m lucky to be alive; but it hasn’t been easy. It took the doctors eight years before they realized that the intense pain in my back meant that it was broken. No one would believe me, so it was hard to get any type of compensation. I struggled to convince the doctors that there was something wrong…and when they finally got the medical proof they needed, I was immediately booked in for a surgery. After that my back healed to the point that I was able to continue working at a different job. But as my luck should have it, I had another accident at work and here we are again. As hard as I try to put food on the table, something eventually gets in the way. Then we need to come here for a food hamper until we can figure out where our next paycheck is coming from.

Put yourself into Ronald’s shoes, this is your story now.  After your accident you aren’t even able to work light duty at any of your old jobs. Each one was very labour intensive and your employers are less than understanding. As a result you have now burned through the little amount of vacation pay you had accumulated; and neither job gave any paid sick days so now you have no income.

On top of this your extended family doesn’t support your decision to not return to work after your injuries. Many of them stopped visiting over a year ago because they didn’t want to hear you complain about the injury the doctors couldn’t find. To date, no one has responded to any calls or emails that the doctors finally discovered your back was actually broken.

What do you do? How many weeks could you go without a paycheck? Who would you turn to for help?

It is no surprise that Ronald was directed to our program for assistance. But his family will likely need help paying for school supplies, buying the kids clothes, and paying their rent at the end of the month. So to do all of this Ronald now has a new “job”. His job is to shuffle through the phone book and talk to a variety of people who will point him in various directions to find the services and support he needs to get through this difficult time. Though he may use the 211 services to find the right direction, he’ll still be left at the end of the day with a stack of papers from a variety of social service agencies that he’s come in contact with. And his family can only hope that each agency visit will bring them another step closer to the end of this unfortunate limbo between incomes.