Hope in Action
51,226. That’s the number of meals that generous donors like you provided to hungry neighbours in the past 12 months. What an incredible gift!
We are grateful for each of those meals and for all the other blessings you made possible in 2021. In this issue, read how you’ve created a nurturing space for our Community Centre guests and a chance for a new beginning for youth in custody.
All of us at Ray of Hope thank you for your life-changing support and wish you a safe and peaceful Christmas!
Meals — and much more
Over the past twenty months of the pandemic, when many social agencies were forced to close, your generosity kept our doors open.
Last November, the ROHCC extended its weekday hours so that guests had a safe, warm place to spend the day. And as COVID-19 shut down other food programs in KW, the ROHCC began offering breakfast and lunch, in addition to its long-running supper program. Since November 2020, the ROHCC has served 51,226 meals.
Thanks to your support, the Ray of Hope Community Centre (ROHCC) continues to provide hundreds of our guests with food, resources and safety.
The lack of stable, full-time jobs and the housing crisis have hit our guests hard. In September, the Region of Waterloo’s point-in-time count found that 1,085 people were experiencing some form of homelessness. That’s more than triple the number of people counted in 2018 — and ROHCC programs are seeing the impact.
“We are anticipating an increase of 80 to 100 guests for our extended day and meal programs due to the closing of shelters,” says ROHCC Program Coordinator Boris Emanuel.
Even those who have housing are struggling. For ROHCC guest Darlene, sky-high rent means that even with her husband’s job as a tow truck driver, she has only $80 each month to feed a family of four. Meals at the Community Centre are a lifesaver. Without them, Darlene says, “we would starve.”
Your gifts to Ray of Hope ensure that guests like Darlene can feed themselves and their families. And because guests frequently come to the ROHCC for a meal then stay for the programs, Boris says, you are also helping them build their resources to achieve independence and stability.
He notes that “the extended hours have helped to make guests aware of support services provided through the RAP Room. We have seen a drastic increase in the number of guests who are using our services.”
In addition, when the pandemic closed other agencies’ programs, the RAP Room provided space and time for guests to connect with Lutherwood Housing, Waterloo Region Community Legal Services and Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre.
Longer opening hours also allow the ROHCC to offer guests a whole range of social and skill-building programs. Darlene participates in a number of these programs, from a women’s self-defence class to Getting Ahead and Life Skills. She also uses the Rap Room’s computers to find additional resources.
“I’m proud that I’m getting help,” she says. “Boris and the rest of the staff are amazing and so supportive.” One day, Darlene hopes to be able to give back to the ROHCC community, perhaps by volunteering to teach a crocheting class.
For Joel, who began coming to the ROHCC a few months ago, the Community Centre is not just a place to get a warm meal and a shower. It’s a refuge where he can create and contribute.
Joel volunteers on Wednesday nights with a meal team made up of ROHCC guests. He joined the team because he enjoys cooking, and “when I get something, I like to give back.”
Joel is also a talented writer. His free-verse poems, illustrated with striking photographs, are woven with imagery drawn from Norse and Greek mythology. Joel says that the ROHCC provides a safe place, away from the dangers of the street, where he can write in peace.
When asked what he’d tell donors like you, who make the ROHCC’s meals and programs possible, Joel says, “Thank you. You’re making a difference for a lot of people – you can see the results.”
Cooking in custody
Mike* is putting the finishing touches of chocolate drizzle on a decadent-looking cake. Looking at him in his chef’s hat and uniform, you might think he’s a baker or pastry chef. And one day, he may be. But right now, Mike is the first participant in Youth Justice’s new culinary program, aimed at helping young men prepare for life after custody.
Program Manager Orlando Jackson explains that most residents at the Ray of Hope Secure & Detention Youth Facility are boys ages 12 to 17. Through an education program offered in collaboration with the local school board, they have the chance to earn high school credits. But until recently, there were few learning opportunities for older youth, many of whom have few skills and little education.
Youth Justice staff want to give these young men a better chance for a productive life after they’re released. To do that, they are launching new programs that teach critical employment and life skills.
In the culinary program, participants earn certifications in seven areas, including safe food handling, money management and respect in the workplace. These online certification courses are complemented by the hands-on cooking experience participants gain in the facility’s kitchen, where they prepare meals under staff supervision.
To enter the program, participants must go through an application and interview process. Staff evaluate each candidate’s suitability for the program and participants must maintain good behaviour to stay in the program.
“I really enjoy baking because I’m good at it. My peers and staff enjoy eating my baked goods,” Mike says. “Every day my peers motivate me and make me want to try different things while I’m in the kitchen.”
Plus, he adds, “my peers rely on me and kitchen staff to have their food ready at a set time every day. This has helped me improve my time management skills.”
If Mike completes the program successfully, he will re-enter society ready for the workplace, with practical experience, industry-recognized certifications, and even a chef’s uniform.
Orlando, who has known Mike since the young man arrived at the facility in 2019, says “It’s been good to watch him grow.” He notes that Mike has become a mentor to younger residents, and he’s hopeful about Mike’s future.
“He wants to do something with his life.”
*Name has been changed
Help a neighbour in need
When you give, you make life a little easier for vulnerable people in our community. Thank you!
The Marketplace food hamper program has put out a special call for these items:
*Thanks to you, we have a large supply of tomato soup and tuna. Other canned soups or canned fish/meat are welcome!
For more information, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also feed hungry people through our secure donation page.