Neighbourhood and Maternal-Infant Health in Hamilton

3 02 2014

Mother-ChildA few months ago, the team of researchers conducting the Neighbourhood Study of Maternal and Infant Health in Hamilton hosted an invitational meeting to present their findings and to gather input from community members interested in this work. Their research focus looked at whether or not neighbourhood variations could be found in selected maternal-child health indicators. Does it matter if a new mother has lived in particular neighbourhood for a long time? Does neighbourhood play a role in pre-term birth?

The meeting was intended to get people talking about the research findings (including maps showing health indicators, like obstetrical complications, by census tract) and to hear from those who work in these neighbourhoods as well as those whose primary interest is maternal or infant health. It was seen as a starting point for sharing what the researchers learned, and seeing what the community might do to further their work or implement their findings.


The meeting was facilitated by Karen Smith. The link to the summary report is here: Neighbourhood Study of Maternal and Infant Health in Hamilton INVITATIONAL MEETING SUMMARY REPORT

Street children – changing our view

12 04 2013

street kids international

Street Kids International (Street Kids) was founded in Canada in 1988 (and now has offices in the UK and US). Its mission is to provide vulnerable youth with the tools they need to move themselves out of poverty and into gainful employment.

Today, April 12th, marks the annual International Day for Street Children and as part of their campaign this year Street Kids International has created a two-minute animation to raise awareness and mobilize action for the estimated 100 million street children in the world. They want the world to see it, which is why they’re asking websites and TV stations to air the clip and spread the word through their networks.

This short animation engages youth throughout our global village, zooming around the globe from The Philippines to Sierra Leone, and finally in front of the CN tower in Toronto. It shares the important message that even though poverty exists everywhere, street youth are resilient and creative and, importantly, that we are all connected. In doing so it challenges the common myth that street youth are delinquents or lazy, and welcomes viewers to “Challenge Perceptions and Change Reality.”
The video is being shown online as part of a social media campaign coinciding with the International Day for Street Children. By sharing the video, we can help to raise awareness of this worldwide issue.

View/download the animation:

Let the change begin!

Feed The Dream

15 04 2011

Did you know that in Hamilton more than 23,000 students get a breakfast, lunch and/or snack each day at their local school or community centre? Many of these kids, 1 in 4, live in poverty. Others lack the required nutrition to get them through the day because busy lives, work schedules, or stressful home situations get in the way. Hamilton Partners in Nutrition (HPIN) provides nutritional meals and snacks to students across this community, funded largely through provincial money but relying also on donations and fundraising. Rising food costs require ongoing efforts to raise money and a significant dependence on volunteer dedication.

On Saturday, June 18th you can support their work by supporting their Feed The Dream Auction. It will be held at Hamilton’s Discovery Centre and will include both silent and live auction events as well as entertainment and hors d’oevres. Opportunities to help include buying event tickets, donating auction items, volunteering for the evening, or advertising in the auction brochure. EnMark Associates is pleased to be donating an auction item, and challenges readers of this site to do the same.

Full details can be found at or by calling 905-522-1148, ext. 301.  Be sure to find out about the special pre-auction cruise aboard The Harbour Queen.

There are more than 100 student nutrition programs in Hamilton, and as of June 2010 they serve 447,183 breakfast meals and 650,690 snacks with the help of 6,695 volunteers. Parents alone contribute more than 45,000 hours of volunteer time, estimated to represent more than $750,000.


Karen’s recent work has included a project with the Hamilton Community Foundation and area stakeholders to develop a universal school-based nutrition program in Hamilton. Buildiing from what is already in place, the initiative aims to make nourishment available to all elementary school students (secondary school population would come next) and to help the community move forward towards the goal of being the best place in which to raise a child. Watch this blog and the Hamilton Community Foundation’s web site (see link at right) for updates on the project.

Hunger Heroes

14 12 2010

Hats off to some of Hamilton’s generous responders to the need for food and support among those experiencing hunger in this community:

The Copetown Lions Club has “adopted” King George School on Gage Avenue North in Hamilton, supporting a nutritious snack program through donations  of $3,700 in the past year. Along with donations from other area Lions Clubs, some $12,000 has been raised by this generous service group. The Club will also host about 250 students from King George for a free turkey lunch at the Lions Community Hall in Copetown.

No Frills and Fortinos grocery stores (part of the Loblaw chain) are hosting the 2010 Extra Helping Holiday National Food Drive in stores now – the aim is to raise $1.35 million and 1.2 million lbs of food to combat hunger across Canada. Here in Hamilton, monies and food raised will go to Hamilton Food Share. Donate money at checkout, or pick up needed food items to deposit in designated collection containers. Items of particular need include canned meat and fish, pasta, rice, dry and canned soups and stews, canned fruit and vegetables, flour, cereals, peanut butter, canned or powdered milk, beans and legumes, butter, infant formula and baby food.

More than 18,000 people rely on food banks in this community, and by extension rely upon our generosity. This is the time of year when the level of that generosity peaks, but please remember the food bank each and every time you shop for groceries throughout the year. Pick up an extra item or two, especially from among the needed items list above, and drop it in the collection container when you check out. Hamilton’s hungry thank you for doing so.

Losani Homes’ Record-Breaking Turkey Drive

11 12 2010

As a follow-up to my recent post congratulating Losani Homes on being honoured for their philanthropy, here’s an astounding accomplishment that has gone quietly unnoticed by most Hamiltonians…

The Losani family hosted about 500 guests last week for their annual Turkey Drive. The event raises money for local charities. This year, the modest goal was $50,000. But that amount was

Lino and Fred Losani at cheque presentation

nearly reached before the event even took place, thanks to early calls and requests made to Losani Homes trades associates. By the time the event finished, a whopping $210,000 had been raised! This is quite likely a record for a single fundraising event of this kind in Hamilton.

Fred Losani, speaking to guests, acknowledged the generosity of their associates and recognized the success that can happen when we all work together. He pointed to recent events like Al Pacino’s visit to the city, which raised a reported $150,000 for charitable causes, saying that by

Food Share's Joanne Santucci accepts donation

comparison very little effort was required for Losani Homes to achieve this incredible outcome. The bighearted company provided food and drink for guests at the Turkey Drive and organized the “virtual sale” of turkeys to those in attendance. Of the money pledged, $110,000 has been shared between the Community Child Abuse Council, Hamilton Food Share and Good Shepherd. The remaining funds, once collected, will be distributed among other worthy causes.

Any other companies out there feeling generous enough to try something similar with their own network of associates? There is no shortage of need in this community, and this approach to philanthropy is just the sort of gesture that can make a huge difference without requiring

Community Child Abuse Council Board Chair, Greg Doerr

charities to knock on doors or invest huge amounts of time and energy for limited returns. The Losanis have set the bar and shown that the results can be tremendous – their quiet leadership is admirable and sets an example for us all. We are grateful for their commitment to this community, and thankful for the generosity of their associates – Barzotti Woodworking, Pearson Dunn, Turkstra Lumber and the many others who gave to this event (a full list was published in the Hamilton Spectator on December 9, 2010).

Giving that truly counts

6 12 2010

There has been a lot in the news recently about the trend for giving so-called philanthropic gifts (a goat, school books, water purification tablets, mosquito nets) through various international aid organizations. These are tremendous opportunities to add an additional layer of meaning to the gift-giving act and to make a difference in the lives of ordinary people who need help.

Interested in doing something like this right here in your own community? There are no shortage of opportunities! Be creative, think of the many needs out there, and do something difference-making this year. Here are some ideas to get you thinking in the right direction:

  • sponsor a family through the Children’s Aid Society
  • drop off warm coats to the Salvation Army
  • remember the food bank when you do your grocery shopping
  • purchase a magazine subscription for a local women’s shelter
  • introduce yourself as a volunteer by presenting a ‘VOU’ certificate to a worthy organization (provide your contact information and let them know how much time you are willing to give them for a future occasion when they may need it)
  • take up a collection at your holiday gathering and donate it to a local charity
  • invest in the future of Hamilton with a gift to the Hamilton Community Foundation
  • share some of your homebaked goodies with the volunteer dog walkers at the SPCA
  • offer your expertise to a local agency who might otherwise have to pay for a service: tune a piano for a senior’s centre or take care of the snow in an agency parking lot
  • ask your neighbours what they are supporting this year – find out about a need and respond if you can

If you have a favourite charity, call and ask them what they might be needing this holiday season. Many have a wish list of needed items. Check web sites for wish lists and other ideas. Find your own unique gesture that will make a difference, no matter how small. The gifts that keep giving are some of the very best. I find that it feels like the gift was one received rather than given. If you can’t give money, give in another way. It’s the giving that counts.

Congratulations Losani Homes

4 12 2010

‘Tis the time of generosity again, the season when so many look for opportunities to give back, lend a hand, or make a donation. The media is reporting that despite a downturn in Canadian philanthropy overall, Hamiltonians remain generous. Many local charities who depend on this generosity hope that’s true and that it continues. There is so much to be done.

Fred & Lino Losani (centre) receive AFP award

The Association of Professional Fundraisers, Golden Horseshoe Chapter, honours one company each year for its philanthropic support to the community. This year that honour went to Losani Homes, recognized for their leadership and community spirit at a luncheon in November. The company supports many worthwhile causes, including the Community Child Abuse Council, Hamilton Food Share, and the Good Shepherd. And their support is increasing, reaching further to do more for the community. That takes not only a healthy bottom line in business terms, but also a commitment to ongoing philanthropy that is not simply based on quarterly results. Kudos to them for demonstrating just such a commitment and strengthening this community in so many ways.

The Poverty Push

11 11 2010

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” (John F. Kennedy, speech Jan. 20, 1961)

Polling conducted around the time of Hamilton’s recent municipal election revealed the issue of poverty as one of significant importance to local voters. In fact, it led the list of burning election issues. Some found this surprising, given the economic upheavals we have faced and the uncertainties of stadium, football team, steelmaker pensions and other local challenges. How heartening to know that Hamiltonians are looking for more and better solutions to the poverty crisis. The push, it appears, is on. Media attention has been significant, and the buzz in the community has reached near vuvuzela proportions.


Now that the election is over, what can we expect? Will our newly elected representatives pay heed to the significance of this issue? Are we to finally see a coordinated and concerted effort to address poverty in Hamilton? Only time will tell. We’ll have to keep the volume turned up and continue to voice our opinions. Community leaders will need to continue their efforts at collaborating in search of new and effective solutions. There is a role for each of us in the poverty push – voters and volunteers, concerned citizens and families, educators and service providers, businesspeople and students, faith communities and corporations. Whether we give voice or give time, make a donation or make a difference in other ways, we are the force behind the poverty push. We need to be informed and engaged, and to be diligent in our monitoring of Hamilton’s progress.

The rallying cry is “making Hamilton the best place to raise a child”. To get to that, we’ll need to sort out the line-ups at the hot meal programs, the staggering numbers depending on food banks, the waiting list for social services, the lack of a living wage for many, and the inertia that has allowed this community to reach this state. That’s a tall order, but essential.

Canada’s Gender Gap

1 11 2010

November is Woman Abuse Awareness Month, and that has brought a substantial amount of research across my desk that is released or publicized in conjunction with events and activities designed to mark the month and support awareness and advocacy efforts. One of these research reports caught my attention in a big way.

The World Economic Forum has been publishing the Global Gender Gap report since 2006. It tracks national gender gaps in economics, politics, education and health, and ranks countries according to these criteria. This allows for comparisons across regions and income groups, and over time.

Every year since its inception in 2006 , the report has ranked Iceland, Norway, and Sweden in the top spots (Finland made it to #3 this year). The forerunner to this report, Women’s Empowerment: Measuring the Global Gender Gap (published in 2005), ranked Canada in 7th spot. Since then, however, we have fallen significantly in the rankings.

2006 -14th
2007 -18th
2008 – 31st
2009 – 25th
2010 – 20th

The United States (19th this year) closed its gender gap, rising 12 places to enter the top 20 for the first time in the report’s five-year history. Our current federal government took power in 2006 and has obviously not made this a priority. When the subindexes are scrutinized, we find that Canada ranks 10th for women’s economic participation and opportunity, but 60th for health and survival, and 62nd for political empowerment. We are ranked 38th for women’s educational attainment.

Melanne Verveer, US Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues, points out that the report “shows a strong correlation between gender equality and a country’s prosperity and economic competitiveness.”

This month, as we contemplate the continued existence of woman abuse in 21st Century Canada, we might also reflect on the missing values that are reflected in Canada’s poor performance in shrinking the gender gap – if women and their contributions to Canadian life are indeed valued, this certainly isn’t mirrored in our ranking or in our failure to end the abuse of women. Like child abuse, we won’t be able to solve this problem with education alone, or prosecution alone, or treatment alone…we’ll need all of these things, and more.

My thanks to Krista at the Sexual Assault Centre (Hamilton & Area) for sharing the global report. For more information, go to

or find the report at

World Food Day

16 10 2010

October 16 is World Food Day. This year, the theme of the day is “united against hunger”.

We are fortunate in Canada to be among the world’s healthiest populations and producers of significant amounts of food. From grains to fish, our ability to draw from the land and waters is abundant. Still, we have our own problems with hunger. Many find this surprising, but we nonetheless have a sizeable number of people in this country who do not get adequate food on a regular basis. Food banks, hot meal programs, community gardens, and various public health and community initiatives are aimed at this food insecurity problem. Here in Hamilton, local farmers and concerned donors have joined in the battle against hunger. Hamilton Food Share was out in those fields today, receiving freshly-harvested carrots destined for food banks in the coming days. Increasing the amount of fresh food available to food bank users is just one of the challenges facing local service providers.

In coming weeks Karen will be working with the Hamilton Community Foundation to support a community initiative aimed at bringing enhanced nutrition and food intake to local schools. Hunger hits children particularly hard, negatively affecting their development and learning. More than 8,000 children use local food banks despite breakfast programs and school nutrition initiatives. Watch for future updates about the local food insecurity landscape and the Hamilton Community Foundation initiative.

Of interest, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization has a world hunger map indicating levels of food insecurity and hunger around the globe. With the exception of Australia and New Zealand, the current map shows the entire southern hemisphere as being hungry to varying degrees. North of the equator, parts of Central America, Mexico, the Caribbean, China, the Middle East and Southeast Asia are indicated on the map as experiencing some level of hunger but nowhere in North America, Europe, Scandinavia, Japan, or the rest of Asia.

For more information, visit

To support local food banks, go to: Every $1 in donations raises $5 in food. To support the Hamilton Community Foundation, go to:

You can add your name to the worldwide anti-hunger petition by going to: