A clearer future for kids

Five years after its launch, a local vision screening pilot program for school children is paying high-level dividends. The Ontario government recently indicated a new mandate for public health province-wide: to address vision.

HCF provided start-up funding in 2012 to the pilot at five high-need elementary schools. It discovered vision problems in 16 percent of the children screened. Of children who needed glasses, 18 percent didn’t have them. The project engaged multiple partners to provide screening space, transportation, expertise and equipment and more than 114 Hamilton schools are now involved. HCF has supported the program throughout, including subsidizing the cost for glasses.

HCF’s initial grant also helped document the project as a policy and public education tool. Now, incorporating that evidence into its broader findings, Ontario’s Ministry of Health and Long Term Care has mandated all public health units to address the need for vision screening.

“HCF’s funding was critical to getting this project going,” says Laura Laverty, from the City of Hamilton’s Healthy Families Division, ”and because of that, Hamilton has a head start on the province’s new vision mandate.”

 

Excerpt from the 2017 Legacy Fall newsletter


Code for Advancement

Women are flexing their coding muscles at a free 12-week bootcamp held at the Eva Rothwell Centre this fall.

The program, which is supported by HCF’s Women 4 Change and organized by Hamilton’s Industry Education Council and CitySchool by Mohawk, teaches women not currently in school to build websites and applications. Guest speakers and visits to Mohawk College provide inspiration and practical information about educational pathways.

The bootcamp addresses an important need in Canada. “With cumulative hiring requirements expected to reach as many as 232,000 by 2019,” reports the Information and Communications Technology Council, “attracting and retaining top female talent in this highly competitive market has never been more critical.”

 

Excerpt from the 2017 Legacy Fall newsletter


Heads up!

“Brain Smart: Let’s Play Safely,” is a research project that is tackling youth concussions head on.

Concussion can have lasting impact on all areas of a young person’s life: cognitive, social, physical and emotional. The project’s objectives are to reduce the risk of concussion in organized youth sports and increase knowledge of concussion management by coaches, athletes and parents. The initial focus is on the sports with the highest concussion rates: hockey and football.

The 16-month project is funded by a Community Health and Education Research grant, led by McMaster’s CanChild Centre for Disability Research. Numerous partners include the City of Hamilton, minor sports associations, Brain Injury Services, Lifemark Physiotherapy and the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board,

The project’s five phases include a baseline survey about concussion incidence, knowledge and attitudes and existing protocols, ; helping teams to develop or refine their concussion management protocols; outreach and education sessions for teams and players; a follow-up survey; and sharing results. The plan is to eventually expand the research to all minor sports in Hamilton.

 

Excerpt from 2017 Fall Legacy newsletter


Positive Connections

Next summer, local SoBi bikeshare hubs will be transformed by art, and in the process, increase the artists’ connection to community.

The artists will be participants in Proof Positive, a collaboration between Centre[3] for Print and Media Arts and the Regional Rehabilitation Centre that teams up 30 people who are undergoing physical and mental rehabilitation with two local experts. The participants will learn the fundamentals of printmaking, drawing, painting and photography while producing their own work on the theme of transformation. The program will be hosted at Centre[3]’s James North studio and the rehabilitation centre at the Hamilton General Hospital.

Access to collaborative, creative opportunities for self-expression is important for people whose disabilities may prevent them from going outside the rehabilitation centre and thus may isolate them from their community. Participants in the project, which is funded by an HCF Creative Arts grant, will use art to connect and share with the larger community, breaking down barriers to inclusion and sparking conversations at SoBi stations across the city.

 

Excerpt from 2017 Fall Legacy newsletter


Hamilton’s Alleyway Hero

There are more than 700 alleys in Hamilton. In its oldest neighbourhoods, these alleys gave horse-drawn carriages access to homes and businesses. Today they are transportation corridors and impromptu playgrounds, bike paths and shortcuts to school or work. Some are gang-tagged and littered with drug paraphernalia. Increasingly, they are leafy, flower-lined and bordered by public art. Brenda Duke, is determined to make every one safe and beautiful. 

Brenda started cleaning the alley behind her Gibson Landsdale home in 2011. The idea caught on, and she engaged more and more local residents in caring for their local alleys – spaces that accumulate garbage and blight neighbourhoods when neglected, but generate pride and healthy activity when reclaimed.

Brenda expanded her effort into Beautiful Alleys in 2015. Since then, the group has transformed roughly 200 alleys. Some 150 volunteers do twice-annual cleanups with support from the City of Hamilton, area BIAs, businesses and community organizations, supplies from Hamilton Clean & Green, McMaster University researchers cataloguing progress, and HCF small grants.

Brenda credits some of her success to HCF’s Neighbourhood Leadership Institute (NLI). Through her 10-week course in 2015, Brenda says she “refined her skills” and made her work more effective. She built networks and learned more about dealing with conflict. She remains a valued NLI alumni, mentoring other community leaders. “NLI is always there for you,” she says. “It’s continual learning. I recommend it to other leaders and help in any way I can.”

As she gears up for the next cleanup, Brenda has an ambitious goal – to put Beautiful Alleys out of business. “When residents take over the care of their alleys, you don’t need our group to come in,” she explains. Already, the number of “new” alleys needing help is going down – a sure sign her leadership is making a difference.

Excerpt from 2017 Fall Legacy newsletter


Bistro puts job skills on the menu for those living with mental illness

Rainbow’s End assistant manager Tom Varley is a testament to the power of meaningful work

Look behind the stainless steel prep counter at The Rainbow’s End Bistro and you’ll find a pot of gold — a meaningful job for those with lived experience of mental illness.

The Bistro anchors the busy food court at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton’s West 5th location. With a focus on serving healthy, high-quality food, it’s a social enterprise providing training and employment for those living with mental illness.

One in five Hamiltonians will experience some sort of mental illness in their lifetime. Many want to return to work, but struggle to find opportunities. The Bistro not only provides its team members with training in safe food handling and exposure to a fast-paced kitchen environment, it proves they can be productive contributors to both workplace and community.

“The people who work here show us that despite some very difficult hurdles, they continue to climb,” says David Williams, executive director of Rainbow’s End. “I learned my relentless enthusiasm from them.”

Accommodations come standard. “We adjust the jobs to fit the people,” says Tom Varley, who started as kitchen help and is now the Bistro’s assistant manager. “Some people come in beaten down, with no self-confidence. Then they see they’re a vital member of the team. The change is amazing.”

Tom speaks from personal experience. “I was an addict for 25 years. You fool yourself into thinking you’re functioning but you’re not. Now I’m fully self-sufficient, and helping others, too. It’s like night and day.”

With support from an HCF grant, the Bistro is enhancing its training program with six-month paid internships and expanding its catering services. New signage, equipment and marketing help from Mohawk College students are also on the menu.

“We’re successful because of the hard work of our team members,” David says. “They belong here. They belong in the community. And they’re contributing to the success of Hamilton.”

Excerpt from 2017 annual report


Connecting community, one meal at a time

Clare Wagner brings people together around food at the Hamilton Community Food Centre

It’s a cold and rainy Saturday morning, but inside Neighbour 2 Neighbour’s Hamilton Community Food Centre on Limeridge Road West, everyone gets a warm welcome.

The centre is the first of its kind in Hamilton and only the eighth in Canada—a place that’s changing the food system through the power of a great meal, cooked with love and eaten with others.

At the Saturday market and café, a woman from South Korea and her son sample Persian tea and vanilla crêpes. A man from Dubai with a PhD in agriculture fills out a volunteer form. A woman from London, Ontario, in town to visit family, marvels at a table full of bright green chard for her mom’s Kurdish dishes. “I don’t know of anything like this in my city,” she says.

More than one in three people in some Hamilton Mountain neighbourhoods are living below the poverty line, with very few services. Programs at the Hamilton Community Food Centre are free. The market and café sell their wares at or below cost. No one is asked to prove their need.

“We aren’t teaching poor people to cook,” clarifies director of community food, Clare Wagner. “We’re creating a space for people to grow, cook, share and advocate for good food.”

Community Food Centres Canada chose Hamilton from among 24 Ontario communities for a five-year, $1 million investment. A loan from HCF’s Hamilton Community Investment Fund is helping to bring the centre to life by supporting construction, a capital campaign and operations.

The centre’s programs are filling up before there’s even a sign on the building. HCF funds support the Welcome Baby program, delivered in partnership with the City’s Public Health Department, and food-focused after-school and summer programming for children and youth.

Other popular programs are an intercultural community kitchen, lunch and dinner drop-ins, community gardens, a language exchange and community action training.

“There’s hope when we bring people from different backgrounds together around food and start talking about what needs to change,” says Clare. “This is a space where people can grow and feel valued.”

Excerpt from 2017 annual report


Canada 150 funding helps Hamiltonians be the face of change

Sandi Bell is one of the allies declaring their commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation commission’s calls to action

Canada’s history when it comes to Indigenous people is nothing to be celebrated, but an HCF grant is working to help Hamiltonians heal and move forward together.

In partnership with the Community Fund for Canada’s 150th, HCF is supporting 43 wide-ranging projects across Hamilton that inspire understanding, build healthy communities and engage a broad and diverse group of people.

“I Am Committed” is a campaign co-led by YÉN:TENE—the Indigenous justice initiative of the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic—and the Professional Aboriginal Advocacy and Networking Group. It will help celebrate Canada’s 150 PLUS, the Indigenous-led reimagining of Canada’s sesquicentennial.

I Am Committed asks friends and allies of Indigenous people—some well-known and others not—to have their snapshot published as a symbol of their commitment to the calls to action contained in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report.

“We don’t want people to just read the report,” says Indigenous justice coordinator, Lyndon George. “We want them to put it into play in their everyday personal and professional lives.”

Photos will appear on posters, banners and the web. Content will be shared in English, French and Mohawk. Organizers hope newcomers, as well as people whose families have been in Canada for generations, will step forward to make a commitment. “Broken promises and abuse are part of our shared history,” Lyndon says. “A move to reconciliation must happen together, nation to nation.” YÉN:TENE, in fact, is Mohawk for “You and I will go there together.”

You might see Sandi Bell’s face on a poster. Her Indigenous heritage was lost when she was adopted. “I didn’t grow up with my traditions,” she says. “The Black part of me, the Canadian part of me is definitely an ally.” As chair of the legal clinic, she expects the diverse faces of the campaign to inspire people to listen, learn and join in, across Hamilton and beyond.

I Am Committed follows the model used in YÉN:TENE’s successful I Am Affected campaign, which used photos of Indigenous people to start conversations about the intergenerational trauma caused by Canada’s residential schools.

“This project is all about belonging,” Sandi says. “It’s about Indigenous people belonging in Hamilton and being free to follow their dreams. And it’s about the residents of Hamilton coming together to make sure people belong.”

 

Excerpt from 2017 Annual Report


Tutoring program helps students make the grade in their new home

Using everything from fraction games and make-your-own-book projects to soccer tournaments and campus tours, Empowerment Squared’s Homework Circle is helping newcomer youth imagine a brighter future through education.

Mentors who share a common experience with students are an important part of the Homework Circle

The program is supported by ABACUS, HCF’s 10-year initiative to increase high-school graduation and post-secondary access in Hamilton. Through ABACUS, the Homework Circle will provide one-on-one tutoring, mentoring and academic goal setting to remove educational barriers for as many as 100 at-risk and newcomer middle-school students each year.

Executive director Leo Johnson says that 75 percent of the youth have first languages other than English. Ninety percent have been placed in a grade much higher than their academic ability. “Without support, they won’t have enough credits to graduate high school,” he says.

ABACUS support expanded the Homework Circle program to middle-school youth, but it builds on seven years of success. Past participants are now a lawyer, psychiatric nurse and chiropractor. Twelve-year-old Nawel wants to be a doctor. “I’m in Grade 6 now but sometimes they give me Grade 7 work,” she says. “This program changed my life. They never give up on you.”

Participants can often see themselves in the mentors, many of whom come from McMaster’s African Students Association, Muslim Students’ Association, Nu Omega Zeta (Canada’s first Black-focused sorority), McMaster’s Polish Society and Mohawk College’s Living Lab Program.

“My family immigrated to Canada,” says a Nu Omega Zeta mentor. “I understand the kids’ struggles. And I know how important literacy is to university.”

The Homework Circle integrates ABACUS findings that show parental engagement directly affects how likely children are to pursue education beyond high school. A six-week digital literacy program teaches parents key computer and Internet skills, including how to use online translation tools and navigate school board websites, so they can better participate in their children’s education. They leave the program with a fully loaded computer.

Additional support from HCF’s Edith H. Turner Foundation Fund has allowed the program to handle the overwhelming demand, including from Syrian youth.

“Our biggest success is when kids trust us enough to say they don’t know something,” says Leo. “Once we get them to a place of self-confidence, they amaze us.”

 

Excerpt from 2017 Annual Report


Giving with confidence: Losani Family Foundation Fund

Shelly and Fred Losani believe in the importance of involving their children in philanthropy

Shelly Losani didn’t expect that being  engaged in responding to community needs would feel so natural — and so important.

After years of family and corporate giving she says the feeling  she has when she visits an organization and meets the people they are helping is more than satisfaction: “It’s a feeling of ‘yes of course’ — this is how it should be.”

Shelly’s husband Fred Losani, CEO of Losani Homes, has spearheaded their corporate and family giving over many years and also feels a deep responsibility to the community, both locally and internationally. The couple’s three children are involved too, learning new skills from hands-on experience and input into decision-making.

The company has encouraged the philanthropy of its corporate partners, with tireless help from employees. The family and staff of Losani Homes have worked around the world on housing, clean water, health, and other issues. They support Me to We and local charities like Hamilton Food Share, Good Shepherd, St. Matthews House and many others.

Hamilton Community Foundation is now home to The Losani Family Foundation Fund, offering the family the knowledge and professionalism of the HCF team.

“Initially, we just found our way,” says Shelly. “But we’ve grown. Now, with HCF, we have someone locally to guide us, make sure we are on track, organized and making an impact. That gives us comfort of mind.” She appreciates the Foundation’s knowledge and experience, and the role it plays in sorting through funding requests. ”We know what we want to do,” she says, “and having the Foundation involved means we are giving with a lot more confidence.”

“We’ve been fortunate and we’ve achieved success in our business,” says Fred. “I’m equally proud of the work we are doing through the Losani Family Foundation Fund. Every one of us has a responsibility to make a difference.”

Excerpt from 2017 Annual Report