Childcare and community help moms complete high school

back to school momsBack to School Moms has a simple formula: onsite childcare plus certified teachers plus supportive peers equals more women who successfully sit their high school equivalency exam.

The goal is to increase the women’s financial independence and, as a result, the quality of life for their children.

Newcomer moms aged 19 years and older can apply for the free program, which is delivered by the Immigrant Women’s Centre (IWC) at its Main Street location. Students in the program come from countries as diverse as Iran, China and Mexico.

Yujung Kwon is one of the moms. She arrived in Canada three years ago from Korea with an electrical engineering degree but could only find part-time work in a Korean restaurant. “I didn’t really learn English there,” she says. “In this program you learn everything in a short time. The teachers are excellent. I want to pass the test and then go to college.”

“These are women who want to work,” says Ines Rios, executive director of the IWC. “Most are educated but they don’t have Canadian credentials. Some are from war-torn areas of the world. Some are supporting their families alone because their marriages ended or they left abusive relationships. They all have children.”

Back to School Moms is the only high school completion program in Hamilton that offers onsite childcare, which Ines says is a critical need for newcomer mothers.

Supported by HCF’s Edith H. Turner Foundation Fund and Women 4 Change, the pilot year will have two separate 26-week sessions, each with 325 hours of classroom time—enough for most women to sit the General Education Development (GED) exam with confidence. Training follows the standard GED preparation textbook. Two certified teachers provide hands-on support, but the women also help each other. “We can give back to each other,” says Yujung.

“Certified teachers are key to a high quality program,” says Ines. “We think this program will be vital, not only to the women, but to the economy of Hamilton.”

Excerpt from 2015 Annual Report

Residents look to revitalize neighbourhood alleyways

Hamilton’s older urban neighbourhoods have one defining feature: alleyways. Ward 3 alone represents 37 per cent of all alleyways in Hamilton, the largest percentage of alleyways in any ward. While they offer easy access to homes and businesses, alleyways have grown to be the site for illegal dumping, overgrown vegetation and drainage problems.

Green Venture is looking to change that. Beginning with the GALA (Gibson and Landsdale Area) neighbourhood hub, the organization wants to clean up and repurpose alleyways in the neighbourhood, a task that seeks to engage GALA residents. The GALA neighbourhood has a population of more than 7,700 residents and is geographically bounded by Wellington Street North, Main Street East, Sherman Avenue South and the CN rail line. With a dual purpose of restoring natural diversity and inspiring communities to reconnect urban landscapes to nature, the Alleyway Revitalization Project taps into these local assets and builds upon local knowledge and connections.

Supported by an HCF grant, this community-led project starts by identifying potential project locations in GALA. Consultations with residents are held to review possible site plans and design options. Community surveys and consultations determine how the spaces will be improved.  In the process, residents propose alternate uses for a public alley, such as a marketplace, green space or for other community events. The goal is to reclaim alleys as public places.

There is a clear need for this project. Stormwater runoff can result to flooding, erosion and sewer overflows. Flowing rainwater over pavements also picks up polluting materials, leading to water quality degradation and compromising human health and safety.  This project includes removing some of the concrete and asphalt in alleyways and replacing it with native plants, trees and shrubs to reduce runoff, recharge groundwater supply and reduce the heat island effect.

Collaboration and partnerships with local organizations, such as the Conserver Society of Hamilton & District, the Social Planning and Research Council and the Hamilton Community Garden Network, ensures that the project draws on the expertise and assistance needed. With a year-long plan in place, Green Venture expects to affect and involve 200 people in the GALA hub. A maintenance plan will ensure sustainability and long-term care of the space after the project has ended.

Telling north Hamilton’s history and heritage

From the iconic Canadian National Railway tracks to the fast-growing development of the new James North GO station, you will find the past and present converging in north Hamilton.

Central Neighbourhood Association (CNA) wants to shed light on the rich history and celebrate the future of the neighbourhood – one story at a time. This resident-driven association was re-established in 2012 with an aim to create a forum where residents can voice their concerns and organize community initiatives. Located in the Jamesville neighbourhood, the association is bounded by Main Street West, Queen Street North, James Street North and the CN Tracks at Stuart Street, in downtown Hamilton.

In partnership with local historic landmark The Workers Arts and Heritage Centre, CNA collected community stories and encourages residents to embrace Hamilton’s history through  storytelling workshops and neighbourhood walking tours, Supported by HCF, this storytelling project took place in various venues in the neighbourhood, including seniors’ homes, schools and points of historical interest. 

The six-week project called Stories from the Central involved professional storytellers providing input and guidance in the art and craft of storytelling. This culminated in a 90-minute narrated walking tour where residents shared stories about their home and neighbourhood. The project goals were to promote understanding of the past, pride in Hamilton history while providing tools for residents to enhance their involvement in the neighbourhood.

Connecting karaoke-style

Some 80 at-risk youth are singing a new tune, thanks to a Liberty for Youth program.

With the help of a karaoke music studio, leadership curriculum and volunteer mentors from Hamilton Police Services, the program helps participants identify their strengths, connect with caring adults and make constructive choices.

Supported by an HCF grant, karaoke in the renovated studio feels like hanging out with friends, with the added benefit of creative self-expression and positive risk-taking.  While karaoke helps youth find their voice, the leadership program and one-on-ones with police officers help them find their feet:  they’re finishing high school, moving on to jobs or college, and developing the skills to overcome their circumstances.

The road to better health

Community health brokers build a bridge to wellness in Crown Point

A successful cancer screening program called CASTLE (Creating Access to Screening and Training in the Living Environment) is expanding to help residents in the Crown Point neighbourhood take important steps to better overall health.

Focus groups in this east Hamilton community revealed the need for improved health care access and prevention information.  Funded by HCF, “CASTLE Beyond” uses a trained community health broker—someone who is known and trusted in the neighbourhood—to link residents to health promotion services. It’s a strategy proven to be effective, especially for underserved groups.

Through neighbourhood partnerships, the program focuses on the community’s self-identified needs and interests. In tandem with a public health nurse, the brokers connect with residents and organizations, to work together to promote health information and health-related activities.   By increasing their knowledge and confidence, residents are empowered to overcome barriers and take action on their own health, including accessing screening and other services and lowering chronic disease risks.

Freedom ride

For older adults, taking the bus spells freedom – no matter what language they speak.

Social isolation can affect all seniors but those from ethno-culturally diverse communities are at greater risk.  A grant from HCF is helping the Hamilton Council on Aging to expand its successful “Let’s Take the Bus” workshop designed to increase these seniors’ independence and sense of belonging.

A workshop for South Asian seniors included presentations on everything from planning the route to paying the fare, all assisted by a volunteer interpreter, and materials in Urdu and Punjabi.  Following the workshop, the City of Hamilton supplied a bus and driver to take participants to Jackson Square, where they were treated to lunch.

Participants reported feeling more comfortable with the bus and plan to take it more often.  Future workshops are planned for the Italian and Portuguese communities.

Interval House

In 1986, Interval House opened as an emergency shelter. Today, the community-based agency offers comprehensive services for rural and urban women who have experienced abuse, including shelter, support, legal advocacy and counselling. It also works toward system change that will result in greater safety for all women and their children.

In 2006, Interval House took the important step of establishing an agency endowment fund at HCF, taking advantage of a $5,000 incentive offered by the Foundation to any local charity that chooses to establish such a fund.

Donors can now give directly to the Interval House (Hamilton) Freedom & Hope Fund at HCF. It provides an important way for donors to give to Interval House, knowing funds will support programs and services and ensure that they are available into the future.

Excerpt from Spring 2014 Newsletter

Pairing teens and seniors: a recipe for community

Beyond food security, Neighbour 2 Neighbour Centre knows that community gardens and food programming offer opportunities to learn the value of local food and build relationships between communities. A grant from HCF is helping N2N to expand its programming to connect teens and seniors through food, creating an intergenerational food garden and cooking programming. Sackville-Nat-2014

Working with Sackville Senior Recreation Centre to make use of its extensive green space and fully equipped commercial kitchen, N2N hosted garden skills and cooking sessions to enhance food growing and literacy skills. This 8-week program paired senior participants with youth to work together around food. It gives seniors new energy and youth mentorship – a win-win for both.

The cooking and gardening presentations were run by university summer students. Vegetables, fresh from the N2N community gardens, were used as ingredients for delicious and healthy meal. One senior participant noted that the program offered opportunities to try new foods and to learn to live healthier.

In addition to increasing knowledge of food and making healthier dietary substitution, the social aspect of the program was also valued by participants, who got to socialize with people in the community while gaining knowledge in food and gardening.

Building on their ever expanding network of community gardens, this initiative has proven to be both educational and life-changing. Participants learn the importance of local food, build relationships, develop new skills and experience improved mental and physical health. In addition to continue growing its on-site community food programs, N2N plans to offer site-specialized mobile programming to reach new audiences and connect closer with people in the community.


Getting students to learn through the arts

What happens when Beethoven meets Thomas Edison? The Hamilton Wentworth District School Board’s answer to this is Learning Through the Arts (LTTA), a series of innovative programs that combine core curriculum with art-based teaching methods to create fun learning experiences that encourage students’ creativity and self-expression in the learning process.

The HWDSB placed specially-trained Arts Educators in over 100 classrooms to create more dynamic learning experiences in collaboration with teachers and their students.  A grant from the HCF’s Edith Turner Foundation Fund has extended the reach of the programming to over 500 more students from eight high needs schools.

Music composition, poetry, dance and aboriginal drumming were just a few of the many arts activities that HWDSB students got to experience as they learned about environment responsibility, social justice, fiscal responsibility and more.

Students composed new music to express their thoughts on the health and restoration of the Hamilton Harbour and watershed. Through spoken word and dance, students explored topics on social justice and used choreographed movements to illustrate their viewpoints.

The Hamilton Community Foundation grant also enabled the introduction of two new programs:   Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) and the Music Champion program to HWDSB.  YEP  supports youth in vulnerable situations, using the arts to engage students experiencing learning difficulties.  Its impact is far-reaching, beyond just supporting the learning of core curriculum but also addressing critical social issues faced by these youth. Similarly, Music Champion is a program harnesses the power of music to teach math, science and language arts.

The LTTA programs prove that the arts and engaged learning go hand in hand. School-wide survey results showed 100% of teachers agreeing that LTTA lessons kept their students more interested and engaged. Additionally, teachers also noted that students with behavioural issues responded positively to LTTA programs.  Said one staff member, “It was an exciting program for the kids. Every single student loved what they were doing and when I talked to them about what they were doing, they were able to articulate the learning that was taking place in the classroom as well.”

Dr. Steve Perry – Eastburn Fellowship Fund

Dr. Steve Perry PHOTOI graduated from Westmount High School in Montreal in 1974, then earned an Honours B.Sc. in Biology from Concordia University. In 1977, I received an NSERC 1967 Science Scholarship to enter the PhD program in Zoology at the University of British Columbia; I graduated in 1981 and took up an NSERC post-doctoral Fellowship also at UBC for one year and conducted a final year of postdoctoral training at McMaster University (Biology) in 1982-83.

I was made aware of the award by my second postdoctoral supervisor, Dr. Chris Wood (Department of Biology, McMaster University). Ironically, he also told me that I didn’t really stand a chance of being successful because the competition for these awards was so stiff.

I have been a professor at the University of Ottawa in the Department of Biology since 1983. Currently, I am the Dean of Science. The Eastburn Fellowship was pivotal in allowing me to continue my post-doctoral fellowship training, which, in turn, allowed me to become competitive in the academic job market. Being able to add such a prestigious scholarship to my CV certainly contributed to my success.

I was at a crossroads when I applied for the Eastburn, no funding, no prospect of securing a PDF without a scholarship and certainly too junior to be successful in the job market. Quite simply, I would not be a professor today if it were not for the receipt of the Eastburn scholarship – it changed my life.

If I could say anything to Mr. Eastburn, I would say, “Thank you   X 10^6! Your generosity changed my life and consequently, also influenced (I hope in a positive way) the many students whom I have mentored over the years. Your gift lifted me to where I am today – I am forever grateful.”