ABACUS evolves

Equity, wellness and academic achievement are the three themes underlying the newest phase of ABACUS, Hamilton Community Foundation’s initiative to increase the likelihood that young Hamiltonians will graduate high school and access post-secondary opportunities.

“We learned a lot from five years of ABACUS,” says Rudi Wallace, Vice-President, Grants & Community Initiatives, “especially about the multiple influences on a child’s educational success. Transitions, mental health, sense of belonging and a host of factors beyond academic support all play an important part. This is the context for ABACUS Phase II.”

Since its 2016 launch, ABACUS has focused on the middle-school years as a crucial pivot point for students in going on to post-secondary education. Now, based on research and consultation, HCF has refined ABACUS to better achieve its goal. This includes:

  • An increased focus on the transition into and out of middle school, especially the transition into Grade 9.
  • Reading and numeracy in the earlier years.
  • Incorporating components of overall social and emotional wellness.
  • Addressing the needs of students historically underserved in the education system, including those who are Indigenous, Black, racialized, Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ among others.

The pandemic interrupted learning for many students; ABACUS Phase II targets reading and numeracy where this interruption is more pronounced through a pilot for students in Grades 4 and 5. It also focuses on the transition out of middle school and into high school with support for students through Grade 9 and into Grade 10.

“ABACUS Phase II reflects the importance of continually adapting to changes in the educational landscape to serve Hamilton’s students,” says Rudi. “It’s deeper to address the overall wellness of students, especially those who face the most systemic barriers, and wider to bring in the ‘edges’ of the middle-school years and produce the best opportunities for graduation and post-secondary access.”

Learn more by visiting ABACUSatHCF.ca


From Spring 2022 Legacy newsletter

Crossing borders for impact

A recent impact investment from Hamilton Community Foundation will fund health technology companies that support women, children and adolescents, and help make health systems more resilient.

The Women’s and Children’s Health Technology Fund is an investment offering from Cross-Border Impact Ventures (CBIV), a Toronto-based impact investor in transformative health technology companies. Using a gender lens, it focuses on medical device, diagnostic and digital health companies based in North America, Europe and Israel, as well as on commercial stage companies in emerging markets with global technology transfer potential.

CBIV monitors progress and has set a target for its investments: 500,000 lives saved and improvements in the lives of 10 million underserved women and children in emerging markets.

Impact investments are public and private investments intended to create positive impact beyond financial returns. HCF invests in local, national and international funds as part of its impact investment portfolio and is one way the Foundation is working to align its assets with its mission.

“Not only does this fund support women and children,” says Annette Aquin, Executive Vice-President of Finance & Operations, “but it’s also female led, a rarity in private equity.”


From Spring 2022 Legacy newsletter

Getting the most out of LRT

Better transportation. Employment opportunities. Affordable housing. These are just a few aspects of a vision cast by Hamilton Community Benefits Network (HCBN) for how our city will make the most of Light Rail Transportation (LRT) when it comes to Hamilton.

A grant from HCF is supporting an HCBN-led community engagement program that will “carve out a voice for residents” and ultimately make a case to press for substantial gains as the city’s LRT project gets underway. This involves engaging with community members along the LRT corridor both to educate them about community benefits and to gather their feedback. HCBN is also focusing on communities that are often left out of the decision-making process including BIPOC communities and people with disabilities.

In February, HCBN distributed a survey and plans a variety of workshops and events to reach community members.


From Spring 2022 Legacy newsletter

Worth the wait

Tucked inside the Bernie Morelli Recreation Centre is a coffee shop with a name leaving no doubt that you’ll be welcome.

In 2019, a grant from HCF supported the Inclusion Coffeehouse as a social enterprise, but the pandemic created multiple delays in its opening. This spring, Inclusion Coffeehouse is officially ready to serve the public.

The Inclusion Coffeehouse is operated by the core members of L’Arche Hamilton, a local organization that celebrates the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities. The café provides an opportunity for the core members to engage in all aspects of the business, including procuring goods for sale, baking, setup, serving, cleaning and financial management.

Its broader goal is to create an accessible, affordable café space in the South Sherman neighbourhood where everyone belongs — and so far, the feeling is mutual. “We have been so encouraged by the outpouring of support the city has shown for this project,” says Marianne Mulders, Fundraising Advancement at L’Arche Hamilton.



From Spring 2022 Legacy newsletter

What the past teaches us

Understanding the past helps us face the present and frame the future. A recent series of grants from HCF is supporting the study of history related to Black, Indigenous, people of colour (BIPOC), Two-Spirit and LGBTQIA+ and Jewish communities.

As part of its consultations aimed at supporting equity-deserving communities, the Foundation heard about the importance of literacy and education through studying history. A grants call focusing on this issue resulted in funding for programs including:

  • Stories of the Black community in Hamilton using griot format (African drumming and dance in combination with oral storytelling) from Afro-Canadian Caribbean Association.
  • Learning at Glendale Secondary School about Hamilton’s Stewart Memorial Church and its vital role in the lives of Hamilton’s Black community.
  • Settler Reflection Series workshops that help participants understand the historical and current impact of colonialism in Canada from Righting Relations Hamilton Circle.

In total, 14 initiatives were funded through this program. A complete list is available at hamiltoncommunityfoundation.ca


From Spring 2022 Legacy newsletter

Community calls the shots

After almost 18 months of pandemic restrictions, members of Hamilton’s Indigenous communities came together at Gage Park in September to dance, heal and make an informed choice about vaccination.

The Indigenous Health Social featured food, vendors, door prizes, traditional singers and contemporary Indigenous artists, including Juno-nominated headliner DJ Shub, to attract a new crowd to an event that focused on strengthening body, mind and spirit.

The province’s mobile vaccination unit — the GO VAXX bus — was on site, but the focus of the event was not exclusively COVID-19. Recognizing the negative experiences that have led some Indigenous people to view the health care system, and vaccinations in particular, with fear and suspicion, event organizers Hamilton Public Health and Indigenous organizations in Hamilton promoted the health of the whole community. To further increase trust and decrease barriers, information was also translated into Anishinaabe.


Excerpt from 2021 Fall Legacy newsletter

Making the right connections

There is no overstating how the pandemic has increased both reliance on technology and the technology gap for those already facing systemic inequities. A new pilot program that connects McMaster University and community partners is working to address this need.

As part of its environmental stewardship plan, McMaster’s Academic Sustainability Programs Office was exploring ways to donate tech devices in the community. At the same time, community organizations working with racialized communities, including newcomers and immigrants, expressed a critical need for technology, particularly as the pandemic disproportionately affects these communities.

The Foundation helped connect McMaster with a group of local non-profits, including the Afro Canadian Caribbean Association, Empowerment Squared, Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion, Immigrants Working Centre, Munar Learning Centre, and Refuge: Hamilton Centre for Newcomer Health. Up to 100 high-quality tech devices will be available for re-use each semester. An HCF grant is also supporting Empowerment Squared to acquire software licenses and refurbish the donated devices for distribution.

“This pilot is an example of community coming together to address a significant challenge for many communities in remote working and learning environments,” says Rudi Wallace, Vice-President, Grants & Community Initiatives.


Excerpt from 2021 Fall Legacy newsletter

Natural value

It turns out putting a price tag on nature can be a good thing.

Supported by an HCF grant, communities that intersect the greenbelt are getting the tools and training they need to think of their natural assets as essential infrastructure. As a result, they will be able to value nature’s contributions to clean water, breathable air, healthy soil, sustainable food, flood reduction and climate stability, and include this accounting in provincially mandated municipal plans.

Hamilton is one of 10 municipalities with near-urban nature — defined as the natural areas and farmlands that surround and intersect our cities — that will complete natural asset inventories as part of the program. These inventories will list the community’s natural assets, assign a value to the services these assets provide, and model the costs and benefits of natural solutions compared to alternatives.

The ultimate goal is to protect and restore the greenbelt’s natural integrity.


Excerpt from 2021 Fall Legacy newsletter

Making life less taxing

Thanks to the Social Planning and Research Council’s free 2020 tax clinics, clients received an average refund and tax benefit of $3,359. It’s an income boost of more than 10 percent for those living on $30,000 a year that would have gone unclaimed without the program.

In total, since 2018, $9 million in refunds and tax benefits have come back to Hamilton residents living on low incomes. A grant from HCF’s Pandemic Response Fund helped keep the program running in 2021.

Program volunteers have assisted seniors, people with disabilities, single parents, working couples and others. The benefits go beyond financial. Clients report less stress and better food security. Some have been able to retain their immigration status as a result of the program.

“Many clients are terrified to do their own taxes,” one service provider said. In the words of another, “This program is a life-saver.”


Excerpt from 2021 Fall Legacy newsletter

Mapping for student success

Local students will benefit from The Hamilton Community Research Partnership (CRP) — a coalition whose groundbreaking work will provide insights into their pathways to, and through, secondary and post-secondary education.

CRP’s members are Hamilton’s two school boards, McMaster University and Mohawk College. Hamilton Community Foundation and the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario brought the group together in 2018, and are providing funding and organizational support.

The group’s purpose is to connect data housed by individual educational institutions, to provide a fuller understanding of students’ trajectories and how they could be affected by spending and other decisions. Within a secure infrastructure, CRP provides the means to share de-identified data and fill critical information gaps. This will lead to knowledge such as the characteristics and predictors of students’ likelihood to attend post-secondary and their success once there. It can provide information about the programming and assistance that may increase this likelihood, and how colleges and universities can support incoming students, particularly those who need it most.

“CRP is a good example of HCF’s systems-change work in education,” says Lorraine Valmadrid, HCF’s Learning and Evaluation Lead. “Deepening our understanding of student pathways also helps to ensure HCF’s roles as funder, convener and policy influencer are based on the best evidence.”

Like the Foundation, all CRP members will gain an improved, evidence- based understanding of how educational systems can support student success across the learning journey.

“Our interest in students doesn’t end when they leave us in Grade 12,” says Dave Hansen, director of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board. “CRP highlights what we can do at an early stage to increase the likelihood of success later, and defines the partnership’s shared purpose: to serve the students of Hamilton.”


Excerpt from 2021 Fall Legacy newsletter