It can be easy to take fitness opportunities for granted. However, barriers persist that make access a challenge for many people. Fortunately, there are wonderful organizations in Hamilton working to make sure everybody has a chance to take part in healthy active lifestyles. Here are just a few programs we are proud to support that get kids active and having fun.
- Start to Finish – Running and Reading Club
Kids in this program get a healthy dose of both exercise and literacy. In the Running and Reading Club, circuit training, running-based games and relay activities are followed by nutritious snacks, “word of the day” and reading with the coaches. It all culminates in a Reading and Running Challenge that includes a 5k run and a Jeopardy-style literacy game.
- Liberty for Youth – Prodigal Sonz
Basketball, mentorship and leadership skills come together in this program at Liberty for Youth. Every practice starts with discussion led by a mentor who shares stories about dealing with challenges. Youth in the program also get the opportunity to deliver talks on a variety of issues like mental health, drugs and negative peer pressure and they learn skills relating to leadership, health, relationships, self-esteem and public speaking. In the summer, youth participate in the annual Liberty and Justice Unity Basketball Event in partnership with Hamilton Police Department.
- Living Rock Ministries – Rock-in-Action
From ball hockey games and weekly fitness workouts to dodge ball and access to the gym at the YMCA, the Rock-in-Action program offers activities for at-risk youth while promoting social inclusion. Beyond the “basics”, the program helps decrease social isolation and allows youth to experience community in a meaningful way.
- SWAM – Swimming with a mission
Teaching children water safety is crucial for preventing injuries. According to SWAM Canada, “disabled children are ten times likelier to suffer from a submersion injury than the general population”. The SWAM program gives preference to low-income families and uses student volunteers from McMaster University to give one-on-one swimming and water safety lessons to children with special needs.
- Jump in Foundation – Physical Activation Program
This program is another great example of breaking down financial barriers for families seeking opportunities to keep their kids active. Through activities that are tailored to facilitate mental and physical well-being, youth suffering from mental health issues are given opportunities to reap the “emotional, physical and mental rewards” of a healthy lifestyle. Youth are even invited to bring a family member along for the fun!
Teachers are some of the most important adults in the lives of students. As part of our ABACUS program with its focus on the middle school years, we are proud to offer funding through our Small Grants for Teachers program. The grants are designed to support teacher projects that improve students’ achievement and enhance learning experiences.
Check out the stories below for some inspiration!
- All the news that’s fit to print at Ryerson Middle School
Read all about it! At Ryerson Middle School, a professionally printed monthly student newspaper is one of the ways that students are staying informed. Beyond keeping up with the big issues of the day, the paper also gave students the opportunity to enhance their critical literacy skills when engaging with media – a skill that is as essential and timely as ever!
- Family mental well-being Fair at St. Patrick Catholic Elementary
Mental health is important at all stages of life and especially so for young students. This summer at St. Patrick Catholic Elementary School, students and their parents got to experience a fair focused on mental health. Families learned together about the different aspects of mental health as well as different coping skills.
- Long live the arts at Queen Mary
The arts are a timeless vehicle for teaching self-expression. With support from Small Grants for Teachers, an extracurricular arts program at Queen Mary allowed children with no prior experience to perform in a stage production of Beauty and the Beast. For those students less inclined to be centre-stage, the program also offered the experience to learn professional level sound and lighting for stage productions.
- History at Hess St. School
History buffs in the making! Two classes at Hess St. School got to visit Dundurn National Historic Site and the Military Museum last fall with the help of a small grant. Exploring what the neighbourhood was like before Confederation and discovering the role of former Hess St. School students who volunteered in the First World War is sure to pique curiosity and create some future historians!
- Building ‘bots at Mount Hope Elementary
Sparking students’ imaginations is a great way to get them engaged in learning. And what’s more exciting than building a robot?! At Mount Hope Elementary, a small grant helped with the purchase of VEX IQ robotics kits that students used to build and program their own robots. Coding and programming are increasingly sought after skills and a Robotics Club at school is an exciting way for students to work together using their imaginations and applied learning.
Photograph courtesy of Anna Davey
As a partner in Hamilton’s Neighbourhood Action Strategy (NAS), HCF operates the Small Grants Program that supports local projects and events that help to build healthier neighbourhoods. These initiatives are organized by residents because the NAS believes that residents know best what their neighbourhoods need, and that residents already have the ideas, skills, networks and other assets to lead change in their neighbourhoods. Here are a few examples of recent projects throughout the city supported by small grants.
Riverdale: Family Fun Day
In July, community organizers, including a youth leader, put together Riverdale Family Fun Day – a day to bring newcomers and refugees together with fun activities like a monkey bus, a magician, face-painting and more. Kids made new friends – and so did the grown-ups! Inclusive community events like this work to increase a sense of belonging, and strengthen bonds between families.
Crown Point: Whitfield Ave. Food is Free project
From May to October a truck bed garden will, from time to time, provide free vegetables for neighbourhood residents. The garden also acts as a space for residents to gather and socialize while kids learn about gardening. Local partner Liberty Iron Trading provides the space, truck bed and other equipment for the project.
Sherman: safeTALK suicide prevention workshop
This September a workshop in the Sherman neighbourhood will provide training in mental health awareness and suicide prevention to coincide with Suicide Prevention Day. Erich’s Cupboard, operated by Neighbourhood Leadership Institute alumni, will plan and implement the safeTALK workshop and issue certificates upon completion. The hope is to train 30 participants who will serve as safeTALK responders in the neighbourhood. The project also includes partners in Crown Point neighbourhood and HARRRP.
Jamesville: Youth Soccer League
Physical activity and sports have countless health benefits but they also provide opportunities for positive social development. With support from John Howard Society of Hamilton, the Youth Soccer League in in Jamesville creates an environment where kids can stay fit and socialize with one another. A small grant supports the league with jerseys, equipment and the opportunity to compete in a Toronto youth league.
Stinson: Songs from the Bishop
Inclusiveness is at the centre of this project in Stinson neighbourhood. Every Thursday in July, free performances featuring local musicians took place in Bishop’s Park. Designed in part to draw people into the park, the performances welcomed everyone, with a special focus on inviting members from St. Leonard’s Society of Hamilton who also sponsored the project.
When serious complications from a quadruple bypass left Bonnie in a wheelchair and confined to home, every day presented the same difficult choice: order in from a restaurant she couldn’t afford, or not eat at all. All that changed when she learned about a free home food delivery program, co-ordinated by St. Matthew’s House, which helped her get back on her feet. Literally.
Referrals to the food delivery program mostly come from seniors themselves, who are told about the program by the Hamilton Police Services seniors’ support team, the community paramedic program or another food bank. A grant from the Edith H. Turner Foundation makes sure participants receive seven days of food with each delivery. Those with special dietary needs or who have no way to store or cook food are given nutritional products such as liquid meal replacements.
The food, however, is only the beginning.
“Seniors call us because they have an immediate need—hunger. But what makes our program unique is we marry food bank supports with intensive case management,” says interim co-executive director Karen Randell. “We don’t just deliver the box of food and leave. Our program staff are trained to explore what other needs the senior may have. Our ultimate goal is to improve the quality of life for the seniors we work with.”
Visit by visit, the food delivery team is able to develop a rapport and connect the senior to resources, including the St. Matthew’s Senior Centre, which provides weekday meals, weekend care packages, social activities and a medical clinic. “We start with preventing food insecurity and end with improving quality of life,” Karen says.
Which brings us back to Bonnie. Once she started attending the senior centre’s programs, she no longer needed home food delivery. Eventually, she no longer needed her wheelchair or walker. “I’ve come alive coming here,” she says.
Excerpt from 2018 Annual Report
They’ve planted corn, beans and squash. Learned a 3000-year-old seed song. Beaded with porcupine quills, visited McMaster University and Mohawk College, made corn husk dolls, listened to stories told by elders, cooked with wild rice and learned to count lunar cycles on the back of a turtle shell.
This isn’t your typical school program. It’s NYA:WEH Elementary, a program co-ordinated by Niwasa Kendaaswin Teg to engage and support First Nation, Métis and Inuit students in Grade 6, 7 and 8. Formal activities are offered during nutrition breaks and after school, but students are encouraged to drop by to smudge, sing, bead, talk or drum any time the program is available. Students from every background are welcome; on any given day, between 15 and 40 children attend.
ABACUS funding supports NYA:WEH Elementary’s focus on helping middle-school students successfully transition to high school and beyond. The program operates at Prince of Wales, Queen Mary and Gatestone schools. Many of the students will eventually attend Delta Secondary School, where there’s a NYA:WEH high school program.
“The students are introduced to NYA:WEH Secondary staff long before Grade 9, so they already know they’re safe and supported,” says program co-ordinator Lauren Williams. “Once I know what high school they’re going to, I take them their project box so they can transition from one NYA:WEH to the other. It’s a physical representation of moving the fire from one longhouse to another.”
Jake Cruickshank is an Indigenous recruiter at McMaster University and connects with the kids at his monthly visits to NYA:WEH Elementary .
“I never thought about going to university until Grade 12, and by then I had a lot of catching up to do,” he says. “We’re starting early to help these students see post-secondary education as an option for them.”
The program builds confidence by building community. “By Grade 8 these kids know elders, people at the school board, high school staff and people at the post-secondary level,” Lauren says. “They have all these people wrapped around them, like a big hug.”
Excerpt from 2018 Annual Report
Alfred and Joan Robertshaw met on stage at the Players’ Guild—a love story with a legacy, thanks to the fund Joan established to honour Alfred’s 40-plus years in community theatre.
“The performing arts have brought much joy to both our lives, not to mention lifelong friendships,” Joan wrote at the time. “Alfred realized how important it is for such organizations to have financial support in order to encourage creativity and often foster those who go on to professional careers in the theatre.”
With Joan’s passing in 2013 the Alfred & Joan Robertshaw Memorial Fund continues to support the couple’s passion for community theatre as well as heritage preservation efforts in Hamilton. This year’s recipients included Hamilton Theatre Inc., Players’ Guild of Hamilton Inc., Theatre Ancaster and Village Theatre Waterdown.
“We really believe in community building,” says Village Theatre president Corrie Giles. “We want Waterdown to be a vibrant place where people can find their entertainment close to home.” Village Theatre has used its grant to build a new website, rent costumes from Stratford, support a bursary for Waterdown high school drama students, create banners and signs, construct the set of an English country house, and purchase equipment. They also plan to host a professional workshop for young sound and lighting technicians.
Attracting the next generation is a priority. “We take our development role quite seriously, but we haven’t always had the money to do it,” Corrie says. Village Theatre encourages high school students to complete their volunteer hours learning makeup, set construction, and the technical booth. A recent production had two Grade 9 boys learning how to work the lighting board alongside a woman in her 60s. Over the 43 years that Village Theatre has existed, a number of volunteers have gone on to local and national careers in theatre.
“When the community foundation gives us money, many people share the benefits,” Corrie says. “And because it is an operating grant, we have the flexibility to use it where it’s needed. We can make it go a long way.”
Excerpt from 2018 Annual Report
Anne (not her real name) is a respected professional in our community. She is also a victim of domestic violence who fled her abuser, only to become locked in a succession of legal battles that have put her $100,000 in debt. No longer able to afford a lawyer, today she represents herself in court, cross-examining her abuser in order to protect her children, her job, her home and her name. But thanks to Jared’s Place, she’s not alone.
Jared’s Place helps women experiencing violence and abuse navigate the legal system, whether it’s an immigration, family, child protection, civil, housing or criminal matter. The free program is named after Jared Osidacz, an eight-year-old boy who was killed by his father while on an unsupervised court-ordered access visit.
“Jared’s mom went through the system and no one was helping her,” says Nancy Smith, executive director of Interval House of Hamilton. “That’s why she let us name the program after Jared.”
The program relies on grants and community donations. Funding from HCF helps support the legal advocate, who is a specialist in violence against women and is well versed in the legal system. The advocate can clarify a woman’s rights, provide information, attend court, review court orders, help with paperwork and make lawyer referrals. Safety planning is the first priority. Almost as important is building a woman’s confidence to engage with people and institutions that have power, since perpetrators often try to manipulate the system to continue the abuse.
The legal advocate is also a witness. Before Anne knew about Jared’s Place, her abuser tried to run her down outside the courthouse. Now, Anne is never alone at court and she always has someone to call.
“Jared’s Place offers a woman hope,” Nancy says. “In a traumatic situation one’s clarity isn’t there, but the legal advocate is—every step of the way, if that’s what a woman wants.”
Excerpt from 2018 Annual Report
Hanan is a high school student who dreams of being a nurse one day. James is an electrical engineer who likes to bike from Dundas to downtown. Aref is a dedicated community volunteer who loves Hamilton’s libraries. And Shahd? She’s a recent marketing graduate who has discovered the best ice cream in town is on Duke Street.
They’re all immigrants to Hamilton and ambassadors for #HamiltonForAll, a campaign that helps newcomers and longer-term Hamiltonians find common ground.
“The campaign ambassadors serve as a human library,” says Yohana Otite, executive director for Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, which is co-leading the campaign with the Hamilton Immigration Partnership Council. “They tell their stories on our website and at schools and events so we can discover our commonalities instead of focusing on what separates us.”
Myth busting is one component of the campaign. One myth is that Canada doesn’t need immigrants: a 2017 University of Toronto survey shows that one in five Canadians would support an end to immigration. The fact is, according to the Conference Board of Canada, our country will need 350,000 immigrants annually by 2035 to meet its workforce needs.
Supported by an HCF grant in partnership with the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, #HamiltonForAll includes posters inviting people to post a welcome message using the hashtag, and a website listing inclusive actions anyone can take. “Welcoming newcomers is usually left to settlement agencies,” Yohana says. “#HamiltonForAll inspires everyone to play a role.” Activities across the city are being plotted on a map to be shared at Hamilton’s first Newcomer’s Day this summer.
The hashtag was trending on Twitter when the campaign launched. Since then, people and organizations have been showcasing the posters, planning events and posting on social media. The impact has been widespread and personal. As one person tweeted: “Thank you for launching a campaign like this. I cannot tell you what this would’ve meant to me as a child.”
Excerpt from 2018 Annual Report
When Community Living Hamilton established its agency endowment fund with HCF in April 2016, they didn’t expect it to be a teaching tool for their clients.
Like other agencies, they established the fund to support the future of their organization in perpetuity as well as to access Hamilton Community Foundation’s investment and other expertise. But when it came to making a decision about what programs to support with the earnings from the fund, they invited input from their client base.
The result was impressive.
Community Living Hamilton struck an advisory committee, made up of seven of their service users – people with a range of developmental abilities. The group began by learning what an endowment fund is (they used an image of a tree and its seedlings) and then laid out criteria for projects they might fund. They then weighed various possibilities against the criteria and, after discussion, recommended one project to the organization’s board.
“I was incredibly impressed by their presentation,” says Community Living Board member Judy Colantino. “It was so thorough and thoughtful. We accepted their advice unanimously.”
The recommendation? To grow the money another year and then support the agency’s award-winning, 35-member drum corps trip to Indianapolis, where they will represent Canada. If their rehearsals (and track record) are any indicator, the visit is sure to be an overwhelming success – thanks in no small measure to the additional funding provided from their endowment fund.
Excerpt from 2018 Annual Report
To mark Indigenous History Month and Indigenous Peoples Day we’re highlighting HCF-supported projects that leverage Indigenous knowledge, experiences and communities in Hamilton.
- McMaster Indigenous Research Institute
From Indigenous research reform to innovative interdisciplinary research and knowledge translation, the McMaster Indigenous Research Institute (MIRI) is one of the only institutes in Canada dedicated to study that centres Indigenous ways of knowing as valid scientific knowledge. Read more here.
- Reconciliation through music
Intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect are laid out in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. Through this music-based program from Métis Women’s Circle, kids at Hess Street School experience traditional Metis dancing, singing, drumming and teachings over an eight-week period, a wonderful example of reconciliation in action.
- NYA:WEH Elementary
NYA:WEH Elementary, co-ordinated by Niwasa Head Start, engages and supports First Nation, Métis and Inuit students in Grades 6, 7 and 8. Students are encouraged to smudge, sing, bead, talk or drum and can re-engage with NYA:WEH at the secondary school level once they’ve graduated.
- Endaayang Knowledge Keeper
Endaayang, which translates to “our home” in Ojibwa, is an initiative of the Hamilton Regional Indian Centre that gives housing support to Indigenous youths at risk of homelessness. A key component of the program is connecting youths with their culture through elders who serve as “knowledge keepers”. Read coverage of the program in the Hamilton Spectator here.
- Strawberry Thunder Festival
The first annual Strawberry Thunder Festival is a multicultural celebration that took place earlier this month and featured Indigenous singing, drumming and crafts. We’re proud to support this community celebration from Keith Neighbourhood Community Hub.