Latest Event Updates

Kerr Street Ministries Day Camp

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They did it again: Summer camp for all, By Lucia Lecuna

For Gary O´Neil, Executive Director of Kerr Street Ministries -an Oakville charity organization designed to provide help for low income families-, speaking about their Day Camp is a “back to school” situation, because he was an energetic camper when he was a kid, and he knows the fun and learning experience you get just for being in a different environment. Being away from home and out of school is what makes it work.

It has being 18 years since Kerr Ministries has been offering one of the best Day Camps in Oakville. This is a camp for kids to laugh and learn from playing while often making lifelong friendships. It is a life changing experience for many of these kids, and it’s possible thanks to the many donations that sustain and maintain the low cost of the programs they provide for low income families.

LL: What makes the difference with Kerr Ministries Day Camp and the other options we have in Oakville?
“We have developed a program that includes a huge amount of creativity along with fun and excitement. Kids never get bored here and they feel absolutely included and appreciated by their peers and the counselors. We select and train our counselors and they are selected for having qualities we want the kids to benefit from and imitate.

The kids won’t have to stay at home just because they can´t pay for a camp experience. That is what Kerr Street Ministries Day Camp is all about. Summer can be a long time doing anything, but it can be fun when the best moments are at camp, making new friends and growing up socially and emotionally.

Last year one volunteer for a counseling guide told us that he was a former Kerr St. Ministries day camp camper, many years ago. He came back as an adult proud give something back with his experience and his happines for what he lived with our help. This made us realize that the work we are doing is improvig the future we want for all the families. This motivates us and is a proof that We have build respect and a sharing relationship with the kids. The camp experiences will make them part of a group and they will want to stay here during the whole summer.

LL: What are the main activities you will offer?
We will have arts and crafts, sports, music, swimming, field trips (in the past we have taken the kids to Niagara Falls, the Science Museum of Ontario, and The Toronto Zoo) and much more. They will have parties, movies and costume days among other exciting activities.

LL: How can the families register their kids?
We have the capacity to provide the camp for over 120 kids each year. We receive kids from ages 6 to teenagers. Their parents or Guardians have to fill out a form that they will find on our web page: http://www.kerrsteetministries.com or in our front desk. We charge $25 for registration fee. This fee may be waived for eligible families. Families should bring the form to our offices located at 485 Kerr Street, Oakville, ON L6K 3C6.

For more information, please visit: http://www.keerstree.net or call: T 905. 845.7485

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Good Habits Are Getting Trained

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Kerr Street Ministries scores again with Club 31 , By Lucia Lecuna

Walking into the Kerr St. Ministries building, which is close to the intersection at Speers Rd makes you wonder, how can they do it? And why didn´t I know about this before? The busy groups of children come and go to join guided activities in a calm and organized environment.
You can sneak into a sports and recreational room to the left, and also into a kitchen that is prepared to provide a healthy dinner for those who seek help in their facilities.

Gary O’Neil is a young business man who became attracted to this charity when he was at the top of his career. He truly believes in the success of this social enterprise, where Kerr St. Ministries is helping families from Oakville deal with their financial problems. For without the help they receive here at KSM they would find poverty at their door.

Working with children isn’t an easy task, but at Kerr Street Ministries they know how to maximize the time they spend with these children. They recognize that it is important to gain trust and respect from both the kids and their families.

The challenges they face: handling all ages, with a wide variety of situations, and helping families have a more productive life. KSM helps the children and the teens, knowing what they have to live with every day.

It’s a long path being walked by the staff and volunteers at KSM, to keep motivated, to understand, to be flexible and adaptable to the specific needs of the families and kids is a challenge they handle each day. When Gary offered me a tour of the facilities I saw the light, it was a genuine shine radiating from him. The fluency of his speech, the passion in his words, and the light in his eyes showed me what KSM is capable of accomplishing.

I have a little knowledge of some of the charities here in Canada, and I have to say that it seems Canadians have all covered. But for me, with my personal backgroud groing close to some Latin American Charities (Fe y Alegria, OSCASI, Damas Salesianas, Fundacion Corazon de Maria),this one is truly is amazing, has grown full with creativity, local compromise and great reputation. The exciting piece is that it is located in the heart of Oakville, available for local families who need help.

Club 31:
That’s 31 minutes with 31 kids doing homework!
Starting last January, KSM included a guided teaching experience designed to help children who need assistance with their homework. Some just needed a little extra practice to improve their learning experience, while others were seeking to “Grade Up” with a serious incentive to study.

Below is a Q & A with Gary O´Neil, Excecutive Director of Kerr Street Ministries

LL: How did you come up with the idea to create Club 31?
We have worked with the schools that are close to Kerr Street Ministries, and found out that the kids needed support for their homework and that the grades were coming down. Most of the kids were already part of our after school programs and we decided to be focused on their academic performance. It was a real problem that their families weren’t able to pay for extra lessons to help them with this. Kids just don´t feel that learning and good grades is something important because they see it in the distance, not important for today.

We formed an alliance with the Michael “Pinball” Clemons Foundation (MPCF), Oakville Toyota-SCION and Lexus of Oakville, and together we designed a $1.000 RESP award to students that showed improvement with their academic grades, discipline and ability to manage their study time.

LL: How can you get them to sit and do the work?
First we only ask them to stay for this task for a short period of their time. We also offer them the possibility of the $1.000 from Toyota-Lincoln fund. The teacher is very motivating so we invite them to think beyond their homework and bring their learning experience into a real life situation. Chemistry, Physics and Math become more real when the children understand how they can be involved in their world.

LL: Can any child from Oakville join your Club 31?
Yes. For the moment it is designed for 31 children, and we have two groups, one for children that are still in Elementary School and the other is for teenagers from High school. The first group comes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the other group comes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. They have to apply and demonstrate that their family has a low income. Any child, in either category from any Oakville School is welcomed.
We asked them: “Why don’t you do your homework here instead of doing it at home when you get back from the after School Program?” It just made sense for them, and voluntarily they joined in the groups.

LL: Do the children have the possibility to choose if they want to work on their homework for 31 minutes, or it is a compromise?
They are always allowed to choose and obviously they rather be playing basketball than doing their homework. But at a certain point they get it, especially if the find out that the gym or the park is empty because the other kids are in Club 31 room. Some bring friends and are starting to get into the habit. They know that afterwards they will get a snack and free time in the gym to play whatever they want until 6 pm.
I always quote the old saying, “You can lead the horse to the water but you cannot make them to drink”, so they have to figure that this temporary sacrifice will be a long term achievement.

LL: Is Club 31 seeking volunteers as teachers?
We are open to anyone who will want to contribute with Club 31. Right know our volunteers are retired or non-working professionals with a teaching background. But we still need more support that can come from anyone with teaching experience. They must be willing to help by sharing their own experience. Sometimes kids have essays to write, so it’s not only math or sciences that they need help with.

LL: Have you identified a specific population that needs Club 31?
We have identified that some clients are immigrants in the process adapting to the Canadian lifestyle. Some have been here for a long time, but have a very low income, and are often without a job. Club 31 also has Canadian kids whose families cannot finance the academic extra support needed and they come to us.

For more information, please visit: http://www.keerstree.net or call: T 905. 845.7485

Outdoors in Canada

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By Lucia Lecuna
This week we finally started to wear short sleeves shirts and flip-flops! Mother Nature finally decided to step in and hurry Spring along. This beautiful season displays more than flowers in the soil; it is the moment when people decide to go outside for more quality and healthy living.

Obviously, in a country like Canada the community has managed different and creative ways to stay active during the cold months, but the sunny days and the safety of moving and doing things outdoors, really invites people to turn off the TV and make the most of it. Canadians really enjoy being outside; they like to hike, bike, go boating, fire up the barbecue or just take the kids to a park for hours of active living and family time.

It was before this entire social nature boom started to amaze me, that my family doctor shared information with me. This is information that I considered important, to not only for new comers like me, but to all Canadians. This is because it is related directly to the weather conditions in Canada and the basic rule: stay healthy, enjoy the season and make the most of it. The following tips might be worth considering:

1. No matter what your skin complexion is, you must use sun block over the exposed skin. Originally, we believed that only Caucasians were at risk of developing skin Cancer (this is one of the most common kinds of Cancer). We now know that darker color skin types can also generate Cancer cells if they don’t protect their skin from UV rays. Hats, sunglasses and sun block lotion are meant to be used all year long. During the spring and summer season you are reminded to pay special attention to arms, hands and neckline skin, looking after these areas as much as you do for your face.

2. Allergies get triggered during the spring; if you are aware that this can happen to you, prevention is the best way to deal with it. Drugs for severe allergies can be provided only with a Doctor’s prescription. A timely tip is to ask for a refill before the season is in full bloom. Statistics show that a night time shower can wash away pollen that your hair and skin has been exposed to during the day. It’s a good idea to let your doctor know about any changes in your diet or personal hygiene (for you or your family) this can help determine what might cause allergies to erupt.

3. Shoes: some people like to run in their flip flops (I have seen plenty of people doing this here in Ontario), some also wear flip flops when riding a bike. Don’t – please, wear proper running shoes. Statistics show that ankles, knee joints and even hips can get hurt if you are not wearing the proper foot wear. You don’t have to spend hundreds on those running shoes, but if you plan to work out or do outdoors activity, plan on wearing the right shoes.

4. Use the trails, sidewalks or biking routes the cities have developed. I love to run, bike and walk. I now know I should also be careful of where I go; research shows that in Canada I have more chance to die by a car striking me, than suffering a gun shot wound. Towns have developed on-line maps of the routes that are created for safe outdoor activities. It is the best way to enjoy those outdoor sports. Talking about safety; check out the traffic signals and whether on your bike, walking or running, follow the rules the same way you would when behind the wheel of a car.

5. Hydrate before, during and after you enjoy any of the above activities. Outdoors activities consume your body’s reserve of water faster in this weather, than in winter. Always remember to carry a bottle of water with you.

Spring happens to be the best time to work on your lawn, to cut and weed the grass, do the gardening and handle all the little things needed to perk up your house for the good weather.

Exercise is important; remember to bend your knees instead of just leaning forward when picking up anything from the lawn, flower garden or outdoor patio. Use gloves; they can be silicone or gardening gloves, they will help avoid some of gardening injuries and scratches we often get as we welcome Spring. Don’t expect to get everything done in one day. Keep it simple, follow the rules, enjoy Mother Nature’s gift to us. Remember, we are supposed to enjoy this great weather, so don’t try to fit it all into one weekend.

Lucia Lecuna is a newcomer to Canada, a journalist who is enjoying her new lifestyle. Read all her articles on her Blog.

Learning, Achieving, Setting Tasks to Improve My Networking Skills

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By Lucia Lecuna

Networking is probably the only way people can create their social influence map, one that will ensure their business survival. Some might think networking is instinctive, like curiosity, but it is not. It is a skill that can be trained, and I also believe it is an attitude that goes beyond the human need to socialize. Networking, when done strategically, provides a methodology to measure results.La Prima Dona (getting to know who is Donna Messer)

From the first day that I heard about the Canadian Queen of Networking, I knew: “I want to meet her”. I felt certain that would be a specialist who understands all about this networking skill that some people take for granted. I knew that for some it was as natural as getting up in the morning. For me and almost everyone new to Canada, it is not easy to learn to network. So I wanted to learn, set tasks and improve my networking skills.

Most people in Canadian society are eloquent; they have a huge vocabulary, a method of pronunciation and pace that is the common way to communicate. I found that in many cases, new immigrants, and foreign trained professionals, need guidance to maximize this much needed networking skill.

Enter an expert; her name is Donna Messer (by the way, she is my mentor). She is a Journalist, a trainer, a speaker, and a business woman. She is an open minded social worker, with the skill and energy that keeps her in perpetual motion. She is constantly sharing her experiences, secrets and know-how to anyone willing to listen, learn and follow her advice.

But following in her footsteps is not easy, since she goes faster than speed of light. She made me realize that one of her secrets is her story telling. She shares many success stories on business people, companies, families and students that are part of her network. Those stories are all about lessons learned, about those men and women who have gone through her network and her training.
Networking is about meeting people, but with much more than the shy “nice to meet you”. It is offering something measurable. It is asking what you can do to help them, and paying attention to what they need. It’s listening and offering them something that can add value to the relationship. Networking is an active and effective way to relate to others. It is being open and proving to be trustworthy, sincere and respectful.

Two weeks ago I decided to follow Donna to one of her networking training sessions, one she calls, “The Power Team”. The venue she chose was awesome; it was an indescribable house close to Toronto, adapted to receiving visitors. The venue is operating as a Bed and Breakfast, with enough space for events accommodating over 50 people. It was here that I met a diverse group of professional men and women who were there to expand their network. At the beginning, we were encouraged to begin talking with people we didn’t know, to share a little insight into who we were, and why we were at the event. We couldn’t talk about the weather; we had to talk about ourselves.

So there we were, beginning to build relationships, meeting each other while enjoying a variety of delicious canapés prepared by our host Doug Rapien. It was then that we began to realize, what it was that we could do to help each other.

Some could provide IT solutions, while others offered connections to financial services. There was a dentist, several marketing specialists, an accountant, an art expert, and incredibly talented business men and women. There was even a succession planner, who could help with funeral planning. All in the room had one thing in common: they wanted to improve their lot in life. They wanted to change their direction a little and to offer their expertise in a field they understood and could control.

I began to take notes on my phone until it ran out of battery; this was something I should have thought before I began my note taking. Luckily, I had my little note book, so I’m still able to share some of the main ideas I learned that night:

• Network in small groups, preferably less than 60 people, this way you have a chance to speak to at least half of the people in the room.
• Build the relationship first; keep track of what you suggest during your conversation. A follow-up e-mail is mandatory as a next step.
• Set goals and determine ways to relate to those you meet. Business can develop.
• Ask for what you need, but never ask for a job or expect privileges over others in the room.
• Listen to people in an active way.
• Try to read more than their words. Body language and tone are equally important.
• If you want to start a successful business in the next few years, focus on: seniors, pets and children, this is where the growth is.
• Your infomercial is important. Words should be precise and practiced; you have to choose your personal description, and use enough interesting material so that people will want to ask you for more details and your business card.
• People enjoy hearing stories, and we all have some we can share. We are the only ones that have those relevant and timely stories. These stories can be about a situation at your place of work, that can be humorous, but they should not be embarrassing for you or anyone involved.
• Anywhere can be the perfect place to network. You never know what contacts your neighbor, the man next to you that works-out every day at the gym or another parent at your child’s school may be willing to share with you. All may have something in common with you.

The networking training is Donna’s strength. If you want to learn from her or connect to her, she lives in Oakville. Her website is http://www.connectuscanada.com . Donna travels all over Canada and the United States training and mentoring. She always shares her resources.

In doing my research, I noticed that when is about networking the key words could be “finding coincidences”.

I’ll close for now, “Have a good one”… as they say here in Canada. Watch for my next writing exercise.

Spring! – I hope so!

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Flor (20)Surely it must be spring! At least, the calendar says so. But this year, spring in the province of Ontario seems to be coming very late, or maybe it was just that winter started too soon.

Local neighbors and friends don’t seem to agree, some say they have enjoyed while others hated this weather. One thing is for sure, no one has seen weather like this in the Greater Toronto Area, since the 90’s.

For my family and me, this was part of the fun that came with the adventure of coming to a new country, in the north. For us, the winter was good, even with the 40 cm of snow we had in one day. However, the -30°c., wasn’t very nice, but we all learned to bundle up and enjoy the outdoors.

For someone that has lived in an endless summer, sometimes warmer than the regular 25°c, having fun in snow was always exciting. So for my family, winter was good even with the shoveling, the slippery driving and the cold days. I have to confess it got a little tedious when I had to dress and undress my children and myself in this weather. By the second month of winter, we finally realized that this was not a vacation, this was life.

We had to get used to it, otherwise I think we would have felt out of place. For me, it was wonderful to see Canadians doing their jobs and enjoying their hobbies regardless of the weather. They didn’t stop just because it was raining or there was a winter storm. This year we had an ice storm that caused a great deal of damage with power out for days. Freezing rain like this storm is very unusual even for this country. I watched in amazement, the rain fell and even though it is wet, it froze as it hits the street. The trees shone, the power lines, house rooftops the streets and sidewalks, all sparkled with an icy glow; it looked so beautiful. But that beauty had plenty of consequences. The freezing rain left more than a thousand households without power for days; this was something that was really difficult for a city that had -5 to -12°c during those days.

The nicest thing about the weather here in Ontario, is that it changes. So by this day, April 13th after a wonderful white Christmas and a long and cold winter, nature has made space for the green to fill the outdoors.

It is incredible that two weeks ago we had snow in the streets and now we are starting to see tulips and plants emerge from the soil. I have never experienced something so wonderful, and I see it as a real gift that reminds me that when you think everything is done, life gives you another chance.

Sometimes people from the tropical countries don´t realize the gift they have. Now I start to understand why nature and preservation is a major issue for Canadians. It´s more than the weather, it seems to be a reason for living.

Rob Ford… a Phenomenon or a Media Genius?

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By Lucia Lecuna

Today I ran onto Rob Ford near Toronto City Hall. When I realized that it was really him, I tried to think of a question that would give me the chance to have a brief conversation with him. As always, he was surrounded by people who I assumed were his collaborators. For me this was a trigger, it reminded me of the situation in Venezuela.

This man, who has captured my attention for his constant front page presence in all the media in Toronto, and also in some nationwide media, seems like a Chavez-media phenomenon.

Let me explain – by 1998, when Hugo Chavez ran and won his first presidential election, there was not a single conversation, positive or negative, where this man was not the main character. Almost immediately all the journalists, followers or not, listened to their editors and began to write about his “new” proposal. His strategy, which I felt was simply a political opinion that was so well carried out, not only did he win the elections, people believed in all he said, never questioning whether it was the truth or fabrication. They still believe.

I have learned that Canadians, at least most of them, have a huge issue with lies or more politely put, fabrication.  So do I, but here in Canada, it seems that the “lies” or fabrications are not going to be the trigger for the next elections. From my perspective, I don’t agree or like the way Ford manages his life and his political responsibilities. I support the City Hall decisions and applaud those who made them. I chose this Country because a strong legal system exists to be followed, I can only hope that one day, Venezuela will follow the Canadian example.

So, as a newcomer I try to learn about the rules, the idioms, nuances and idiosyncrasies of the English language. I listen, I listen carefully to people talking in the food court, in the bus or on the train, and I hear young people saying things like; “it’s ok if he parties… who doesn´t?”, or “I´m pretty sure he is not the only one who has tried a few relaxing things, at least he is like us”. I wonder if I really understand what they are saying.

I won’t get into the ethics or morals today, because it really worries me. I will focus on the popularity of this incredible media man.

The way I see it with Ford, is that he is getting free advertising every time he is on the front page. You might like him or not, but one thing is for sure, you know what he did today. My encounter with him was a casual walking by, so for me, even if I already have my personal assumptions about him, he seemed accessible. As a politician, he nodded at my husband… not at me… I don’t know why he didn’t acknowledge me, when we made eye contact first… but, I don’t really care.

As a new immigrant, I still have half of my belongings in boxes, and we are just starting to get to know people in Canada, so I really shouldn’t criticize my colleagues in the media. I can only share what I lived through during 14 years of the Chavez kingdom. I hope never to see something similar happen here in Canada.

Politicians need the media and any kind of public exposure is valid for them. Statistics show that they actually have mixed feelings about journalists, often because most are free souls who don’t always obey their editors. They usually like to research more than what is easily found on the surface. While politicians are humans, we expect much more from them because of the responsibilities we give them with our vote.

When I saw the scandals that Ford has been involved with I thought “maybe he just needs a good media relations and public opinion agency”. I recognize that he must have one, they all do. The problem as I see it, is accepting what the experts tell you to do.

I ran from Venezuela dreaming of a new opportunity, a life with freedom and in a country where we could all fit in. I still can’t vote here, but I encourage the Toronto media to focus on other issues of more relevance, and not give free public exposure to any candidate.

Don’t be so ingenuous to think all he does is accidental.  He knows the media is behind every step he takes, and it is helping him meet his objective of being in every conversation.

Lucia is a journalist who can write in both English and Spanish. She is currently in a work placement with Sheridan College.  

The language in times of Multiculturalism

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The real-time interconnection of millions of people, make communications the greatest achievement of the century, as evidenced by the steady growth trend of investments and businesses related to information and communication technologies (Google , Verizon, Apple, Microsoft , Samsung) , which even belong to(are part of the day to day life) the club of the most productive companies in the world.

Finally, the technological barriers have been conquered allowing us to travel this village called “Earth” with ease. The term “Global Village” raised by the Canadian sociologist Marshall McLuhan in 1962, is what we are enjoying today. But, what is happening?  Even though we know more languages ​​and have different translation programs, we can’t understand each other?

Sultan, a competitive global Manager for a well known organization, who is from Pakistan and has travelled to more than 60 countries for personal and professional purposes, says: “In this era of communication and technology, where business is more varied in number and in types of cultures, language is not the only thing. We must learn social and cultural customs to make communication more effective”.  He emphasizes that “future managers should be open, flexible and eager to learn about the people”.

His lifestyle, as well as the thousands of professionals that today are the key strategy of success for global companies, is a restless culture apprentice who overcome the ability to speak several languages. This new management style has to manage the differences of the same word, taking note of the context in which it is located. Not every professional is aware that the English of England, United States, Canada, Australia and the English Caribbean Islands, is different.

The word’s context and its meaning are constant and alive, coupled with the basic manners to be observed in different cultures. The world is more than ever Multicultural, and so is the language. Mary A. De Vries, a writer specializing in communication styles, notes: “Most of the business people involved in Global Communications, never learned in their studies how to write (or talk) to someone from another country. Unless your company offer training on the cross, or that they do apply for several courses in international communication, business people don’t consider the differences.

The task is larger. It is not only to know how to dress, or what the locals like to eat. The task is learn the ins and outs of social and culture differences; an example, understanding that in a country like China, there are many languages, and we cannot assume that everyone speaks the same dialect and language.

Today we see that the immediacy of communication accelerates processes that should be reviewed carefully. The road becomes slower for companies and people, because the precision takes time, and time is very valuable. The point is to reach a balance and take care of what is written or said and who is the audience.

Sultan suggests that having respect, simplicity and attitude of constant learning is the most effective way to promote the communication journey in an organization.