Posts Tagged ‘stories’

Filling in the Blanks – Advocacy With Purpose

June 10, 2014

House of Friendship Advocates With Purpose For a Poverty Free Ontario

“Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays instead of serving you if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” – Edmond Burke

Ontario residents vote for their provincial representatives tomorrow, June 12th. (Here’s how, by the way!) The idea of representing another person’s (or group’s) interests is tricky at the best of times, and it’s easy to be cynical: do our leaders really want to act in our best interests? Could they, even if they wanted to? Aren’t there just too many interests in the first place?

We could throw in the towel and leave politics to the politicians. This seems to be what Edmond Burke was getting at (see above quotation), arguing that his role as a politician was to do his job without accountability to the wealthy landowning men who elected him. However, many of the hardworking men and women who make up our government today would tell you that Mr. Burke was dead wrong.

Yes, we live in an incredibly diverse community, and no, we don’t all see eye to eye, sometimes on very basic questions. (And yes, it’s probably also true that there are some politicians with questionable intentions.) But today’s politicians are people who have decided to dedicate a huge part of their life to public service. They have a genuine interest and passion for listening to people and trying to plot a course to a better future for all of us. That is to say, they try to respond to their constituents and to public opinion.

Who Will Listen?

The problem is not that politicians never listen, but maybe, rather, that they are most likely to listen to the loudest voices. The loudest (and, relatedly, most persuasive) voices typically belong to the most privileged members of our community. We cannot buy full page ads in the Globe and Mail, or commercial time during the Stanley Cup, but my experience is that we should not discount the power of an email, phone call or letter as a means to shape political debate. By putting our views out there in letters to the editor, radio call in shows, impromptu debates around the kitchen table over dinner, letters and calls to your local politician, newspaper articles, things we post to our Facebook pages and other social media (if you are so inclined) we all get a bigger piece of the picture and take one step closer to a better community for all of us.

Filling in the Blanks

One way we have been trying to engage with people at the Food Hamper Program for the upcoming election is to provide a platform for them to share their experiences and discuss how they overlap with government services and programs.  We supplied our patrons with cards with four sentences on them, encouraged them to fill them out and committed to sharing the results with all of the candidates in the two electoral districts we serve hampers to: Kitchener-Centre and Kitchener-Waterloo (which we have already done).

Here are the four sentences:

  1. Living on Ontario Works (OW) or the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP)* is…
  2. Every day I struggle with…
  3. If elected, please remember…
  4. I want to say…

A few people respectfully declined to fill out the card. One woman shared that she doesn’t vote, because she feels ignored and undervalued, and didn’t believe that a project like this made any difference. Following her comments, another woman, relatively new to Canada, took and filled out her card. “It’s small, but who knows, we should do it.” For the most part, patrons responded enthusiastically. Their comments provide a brief glimpse into the struggles that people face every day in our communities. See below for a sample of their responses. (more…)

What the House of Friendship does to Pitch In

December 15, 2011

Trent, Christine and Colin get ready to Pitch In and share the first Turkey of the season

In the last 5 days we have been sharing stories of people who are getting involved this December and tips for getting your own volunteer journey started. (Read it here)

Today, we want to share a few more stories and ideas from House of Friendship staff.

At the House of Friendship (HoF), volunteers work closely beside us in virtually all our programs.  Did you know that HoF staff also volunteer and pitch in outside of their own jobs?  They do!  For some of us, (myself included) volunteering is what got us interested in the work that HoF does.  For others it is a natural extension of our desire to see the community be a better place and to continuously learn.

Christine told me:  “I volunteer with several local groups, with interests ranging from heritage preservation to my parish council. I have volunteered since returning from university some 20+ years ago, and remain grateful to the many talented and generous people who have taught me so much along the way.”

Have you considered that helping out can include things like preparing a meal for friends and reminding people that you’re there for them through difficult times?  Taylor at Charles Village shared with me: “My wife and I, and our friends are all making an extra casserole this week to give to a friend who has injured their hand. Because of a past personal experience we are aware of how difficult it can be to get by without the use of one hand. There is something profound about sharing food that you prepared with love. Any time of significant change or challenge is a great time to offer meals. It is a way that you can contribute something tangible during a time when things seem otherwise out of our control.”

At the Kingsdale Community Centre, staff person Fanny, volunteers  on the Board of Directors of MT Space and is the Artistic Director for Voices del Sur (a Spanish children’s choir) and Ecos del Sur (a Spanish adult choir).  She told me that she volunteers “because I have 3 passions, my language, music and children. I volunteer because it joins all these passions together. ”

And Bethany and Matt, co-workers of mine at the Food Hamper Program, have a long volunteer connection to the Christmas Hamper Program.   The brother and sister duo take time in the evening and on weekends to pitch in and help where they can, enlisting friends when possible and making it a family affair.  Matt told me “people come to volunteer with Christmas Hampers for many different reasons, but all of them seem to share the same excitement for helping people in our community during the holiday season.”

In previous years Bethany was able to spend more time with Christmas hampers, but the busy schedule here makes that difficult now.  She told me that “although I am not able to spend as much time at Christmas Hampers, I am still making an effort to deliver some hampers to people in our community. Volunteering at Christmas Hampers is a wonderful experience, where people come together every December, some who have been volunteering for many years, and others who are looking for something to get involved in during the holiday season.”

This is just a sample of some of the ways we at House of Friendship try and model the change we want to see in the community.  For us, volunteering and volunteers are a rewarding part of our lives and we hope that you’ll consider at least one way to make it a part of your life as well.  Let us know as we continue on our 12day journey of helping Kitchener Waterloo to get out there and volunteer.  Send us a shout out to @HOFKW on Twitter or post on our Facebook wall.  How are you pitching in?