Mission Zimbabwe gears up to hold second take out supper

Story by: Kayla Kreutzberg

Photo courtesy of Barry Mutrie

It’s been a challenging year for all charities due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the pandemic isn’t slowing down the Mission Zimbabwe Project from continuing to raise funds. 

On Saturday, April 24 the Hope Community Church in Hanover, Ontario will be holding a roast beef drive-through/take out supper to support the children in Zimbabwe. 

Barry Mutrie, team leader for the project said Mission Zimbabwe started 15 years ago with a group of men who went to Zimbabwe to the Village of Hope.

“When we finished that trip, we decided that we wanted to build a community-based project that would connect our community in the Grey Bruce area to help the people at the Village of Hope in Zimbabwe,” Mutrie said. “So, for the past 15 years, our project has reached out to the community with community centered events to raise money for the village.” 

Mutrie said each year they take a team to the Village of Hope and they promote the sponsorship of children there so they can go to school. 

He said it has been a difficult year for fundraisers. 

“Obviously the events that we’ve run when COVID-19 first hit in 2020, we were just in the final stages of organizing our maple syrup festival which we’ve held for many years, so, we lost that event right off the bat,” Mutrie said. 

Mutrie said then in May, they had a team in training getting ready to go to Zimbabwe and they had to postpone that trip, which resulted in a dark time for them. 

He said the community has been incredibly supportive for the Mission Zimbabwe Project and they are looking forward to serving them in the upcoming COVID safe take out supper. 

Mutrie said tickets for the event are $20 each. 

“When we do these fundraisers we actually support not only the Village of Hope, but another orphanage called, Vimbainesu Children’s Home, which is a rural orphanage outside of the capital of Harare, and the money will go toward our quarterly support for these two,” Mutrie said. 

Mutrie said they provide each quarter of the year a total of $12,000 of support and the money they send them is used to educate, feed and provide medical care for the children.

Tickets can be purchased online at hopecc.ca or by calling Barry at 519-270-4461. 

H2Awesome! Water Matters Conference goes virtual for middle-schoolers

Story by: Kayla Kreutzberg

Photo by: Kayla Kreutzberg

Thousands of middle school students will be connecting virtually for the 2021 H2Awesome! Water Matters Conference.

The conference is a collaboration between the City of Guelph, the Upper Grand District School Board (UGDSB) and the Wellington Catholic District School Board.

Elementary curriculum lead with the UGDSB Heather Walker, said traditionally it has been a one-day conference that has engaged Grade 8 students only in a variety of water issues.

“Understanding water from a conservation perspective, understanding their own relationship with the water locally around them, looking at issues that impact communities in different ways, so, looking at Indigenous water issues in the context of human rights,” Walker said.

Walker said because of COVID-19 restrictions organizers made the decision to move the conference online, but this allowed them to expand it to Grade 7 students and make it ten events held over a five-week period.

Walker said the conference is important because firstly, water issues are part of the curriculum in a variety of ways.

“[Secondly], from a personal and citizenship standpoint I think it’s important because our students at that age, and not just at that age, but certainly at that age are quite concerned and rightly so about our climate, I mean if we look at the voices that are getting listened to right now it’s young voices,” Walker said.

She said she thinks for students right now it does help them, inspire them, and really let them know that they have a voice and their voice is powerful.

Walker said the more they learn about the different contexts of water then there’s definitely a greater chance that they’ll find a way to engage that works for them.

When asked what organizers hope the students takeaway from the conference, Walker said although she hesitates to speak on behalf of all the organizers, she does feel they would agree with her in that they just want the students to engage with ideas about water.

“And I’m going to circle back to that student voice piece and I think we would be thrilled if what they took away was that they have power, that their voice is important in terms of issues of conservation, issues about the environment and ideas about water,” Walker said.

She added the conference is engaging with around 4,000 students.

The H2Awesome! Water Matters Conference wraps up April 22 on Earth Day.

OPP brings project safe trade to Wellington County

Story by: Kayla Kreutzberg

Photo from: OPP

If you’re wary about online buying or selling, don’t fear, the Wellington County Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) have thought of an idea to put people’s minds at ease when it comes to online property transactions.

This week they launched a community safety initiative called, project safe trade, and the purpose of it is to create community safe zone parking spaces for people to facilitate buy and sell transactions safely.

Constable Kirk MacDonald with the Wellington County OPP said so far, there are approximately 12 OPP detachments across the province that have project safe trade, and several others that have the project in the works.

“I think part of the issue is that we’re seeing more and more fraud related occurrences particularly because of the pandemic and a lot of people are alone in front of computers looking for alternative ways to buy and sell, but unfortunately criminals are also taking advantage of that,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald said there are two designated safe zone parking spaces at each of their OPP detachment buildings in the county.

“So, the idea is that if people decide to arrange for a meet to do a transaction, they will come to one of our buildings, preferably during day light hours, this way the buyer has an opportunity to see the product, to inspect it and do the exchange in person,” MacDonald said.

He said it’s never a good idea to meet a stranger at your house because you never know who you are dealing with.

“We tell our kids to not talk to strangers, yet people are doing online deals and then having somebody come and step inside your house who you’ve never met before, and you don’t know who you are dealing with, and most people are good but it could potentially be a criminal and this gives them an opportunity to see the layout of your house,” MacDonald said.

MacDonald said it also gives them an opportunity to see whether or not someone has a security system or dogs in their home and if any valuables are in plain sight.

He added the OPP hopes the safe zone parking spaces deter people from doing online transactions in their homes or secluded parking lots.

OPP donates cell phones to Victim Services

Story by: Kayla Kreutzberg

Photo from: OPP West Region

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) West Region has donated over 200 surplus cell phones to 11 Victim Services agencies across Southwestern Ontario.

Executive director for Victim Services Wellington Elizabeth Kent, said they received 20 of those phones and the donation takes some pressure off their agency. 

“We have a program called the Victim Quick Response Program (VQRP) where we can provide cell phones to victims that have safety concerns, so that’s a great program if people qualify for it and they’re eligible,” Kent said. “We always have clients that aren’t eligible for that program, so now when we don’t have people that are eligible we have phones to give these people, so it takes some of the pressure off.” 

She said there have been plenty of times where the agency has provided human trafficking victims with a cell phone. 

“They lose the cell phone, or somebody takes the cell phone, or it gets stolen and we can’t replace that cell phone under the VQRP, so this again will allow us to give them another phone that they can have access to without anybody occurring any costs,” Kent said. 

Kent said a cell phone ensures that a victim or a vulnerable person will have a means of communication to ensure their ongoing access to support services, referrals and medical care as needed. 

She said people often take for granted the stuff they have such as a cell phone, where it’s a luxury to have one, even though it’s not seen as one because nowadays it’s seen as a necessity. 

“For example, if you have a victim of a crime and they don’t have a cell phone, how do the police get in touch with them, how do other agencies get in touch with them, how do they get in touch with other agencies?” Kent said. “If there’s no way to communicate because they don’t have a cell phone, so this really prevents that isolation.”

Kent said the donated cell phones will also support a victims’ safety plan and lessen re-victimization by helping to prevent isolation, and they will also support their clients who may not have access to or may not be able to safely use their own. 

She adds the OPP West Region identified a need within all 11 agencies and are making a difference with their donation. 

Students at Hyland Heights ES raise awareness about causes important to them

Story by: Kayla Kreutzberg

Photo from: UGDSB website

Earlier this year, Hyland Heights Elementary School (ES) Grade 7/8 teacher James Palmer gave his class a simple assignment of picking a topic important to them, and then asking them to give a brief presentation in front of the class about their topic.

Palmer said the assignment turned into something much more impactful.

He said some of the presentations were very passionate and some were causes that you could bring awareness to.

“So, I asked them if they wanted to do that, if they wanted to try to actually make some change, and they were really excited about that, so we had a class vote to see what topics they wanted to pursue because there were 26 different topics,” Palmer said.

Palmer said after voting the class narrowed it down to four causes, epilepsy research, adoption awareness, farmers in India and reducing waste through the use of reusable water bottles.

He said the class hoped to do fundraising for the four causes but economically they understood it’s been such a hard year for everybody, so instead they created reusable water bottles.

“It didn’t make sense to draw money out of the community, even for a really good cause, and the water bottles are a nice compromise because we got them made by a local guy who’s connected to our school, and he gave them to us for cost and he helped us with the design work, so it was a cool partnership with a local business,” Palmer said.

The class kicked it up a notch and planned a video presentation for the school about the water bottles, and they also created posters, announcements, flyers and more to further advertise them.

Palmer said the class is selling the reusable water bottles for $10 each and the hope is that they generate conversation outside of their school walls about the four causes and their importance.

He said with this awareness project he was hoping to show his class that it’s possible to have something you care about and then try to take action.

“When they get to high school they will have so much more capability and reach, so if they are passionate about something different then or even the same causes, maybe it’s a blueprint for them to [know] how to get involved, how to reach out to the community, and how to plan a campaign to let people know,” Palmer said.

Palmer said he’s incredibly proud of all his students for having causes they were so passionate about and wanting to create change.

He added the class has a goal of selling 100 reusable water bottles and if anyone is interested in learning more and purchasing one click here.

Mount Forest Fireworks Festival cancelled again but hope to be back next year

Story by: Kayla Kreutzberg

Photo by: Chris Holden

Last year the Mount Forest Fireworks Festival was gearing up to celebrate their 20th anniversary, but COVID-19 got in the way of letting that event happen.

Chair of the Mount Forest Fireworks Festival committee Sharon Wenger said, they made the decision to cancel this year’s event due to the current climate of the world.

“This event, we draw in crowds of thousands, up into the I would say into the tens of thousands for some of our events, so just the logistics of having that many people in one area we knew that was not going to be allowable by July,” Wenger said.

Wenger said it came down to the health and safety of those that would attend the festival, committee members, volunteers, entertainers and the community as a whole.

The four-day (July 15-19) event takes 11 months to plan and over 250 volunteers are needed to run it.

Wenger said she was pleasantly surprised by the responses they got when they made the announcement on March 22 to cancel the event.

“People are disappointed which is totally understandable, we as a committee are also disappointed, we as a committee are all volunteers, we do this because we love this town, we love this event, we pour hearts and souls into this event, but everybody seems to be understanding of where we’re at socially, and I think people understand that crowds of thousands are just not possible right now,” Wenger said.

Wenger said when it comes to all the businesses that support the event she believes that they are most likely dealing with their own complications from the pandemic right now, and aren’t in a financial situation to give the festival that support they would have needed this year.

She said it was another consideration they made when making the decision to cancel.

Another reason they decided to cancel this year was to ensure the longevity of the event with their financial viability in mind.

“By moving our deposits forward and not trying to hold the event when we can’t maybe sell as many tickets as we need to, to make sure financially we were still viable that we would continue next year if we were given the go-ahead from public health and those other entities that would make sure that we can put on a festival,” Wenger said.

Wenger said they still have contracts in place and entertainment lined up for next year.

She added even though the four-day festival is cancelled the Get Your Hillbilly On group that generally holds their rib fest on the Thursday evening, are looking at the possibility of doing a drive-through rib dinner event.

Details will be posted on the Mount Forest Fireworks Festival’s social media accounts closer to the time.

Safe Communities WC takes part in National Poison Prevention Week

Story by: Kayla Kreutzberg

Photo by: Pxhere

Safe Communities Wellington County is taking part in National Poison Prevention Week, from March 21 to the 27, to raise awareness about preventing unintentional poisoning.

The Ontario Poison Centre said they are seeing an increase in cases of children unintentionally eating edible cannabis products and requiring hospital admission.

Safe Communities Wellington County program coordinator Christine Veit said, 88 per cent of Canadian parents agree that it’s easy for a child to mistake cannabis edibles for candies or sweets.

“But it’s crazy that only just over 30 per cent of adults actually put their cannabis edibles and products high and locked away from their kids,” Veit said.

In 2020, the Ontario Poison Centre saw a six per cent increase in calls coming from the home versus calls from hospitals, schools, workplaces and public areas.

Veit said many cannabis edibles are in packaging that sometimes looks identical to candy sold in a convenience store, and if the general public sees this they can call Health Canada as well as the Ontario Poison Centre to report the misleading packaging.

After reviewing their top 10 home exposures, household cleaning products moved up to the number one spot for children under 6-years-old.

The Ontario Poison Centre said the shift may be related to the pandemic with more families staying home, and there has also been an increased focus on hand washing, cleaning and disinfecting.

“In general, the biggest thing that we’re trying to get out there is keep your cleaning products, prescription medication [and] your cannabis high and locked [away], that’s probably the easiest way of putting it,” Veit said.

Veit stressed even if people put these things high out of reach from children, they will find a way to climb up and get them, so it’s crucial for people to purchase a lock or a lock box because if children retrieve these things they will harm them if ingested.

During National Poison Prevention Week, Safe Communities Wellington County will also be focusing on educating the public on opioid overdoses.

Viet said although the majority of accidental poisonings happen to children under the age of 6-years-old, there has been an abnormal amount of overdoses across Ontario and in Wellington County.

“We’re working with the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy and talking to them about how we can educate the general public and the biggest thing is to have naloxone kits available, that we need to have naloxone kits in the hands of people who have family and friends who are at risk,” Veit said.

Veit said people need to be aware that naloxone kits cannot be kept in the car because they are temperature sensitive and they also have an expiration date.

She added participating pharmacies’ do give out free naloxone kits or people can call Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy to get one.

Ontario’s AstraZeneca pilot underway in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph

Story by: Kayla Kreutzberg

Photo by: Pxhere

The province’s AstraZeneca primary care pilot is already underway in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph (WDG).

WDG has been chosen to participate in the pilot and it’s being delivered as a partnership between WDG Public Health and participating local family health teams.

Danny Williamson, communication specialist for WDG Public Health said the pilot will see local physicians vaccinate healthy individuals who are 60 to 64-years-old.

“So, really, it’s [people] without significant underlying medical conditions and part of the reason that it’s great that the pilot is with people’s primary care physician, is your doctor and you are in a great position to make sure it’s right for you,” Williamson said.

Williamson stressed that people should not call their doctor, if they are eligible and their doctor is participating in the pilot, then they will get contacted to book a vaccine.

He said six family health teams throughout the region are participating in the pilot.

“We’ve said all along that one of the great successes of the region has been this sort of all hands-on deck approach, you know, we’ve heard [that] associations, individual physicians, the family health teams, everybody’s been ready to kind of play their part, so, it’s exciting now to have this venue for doctors to be vaccinating folks,” Williamson said.

Williamson said the goal is if the pilot is successful to be able to expand it to other doctors throughout the region.

He added that the first shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine the region received was a bit more than 3,000 doses.

Participating family health teams include:

-Upper Grand Family Health Team

-Mount Forest Family Health Team

-Minto Mapleton Family Health Team

-Dufferin Area Family Health Team

-East Wellington Family Health Team

-Guelph Family Health Team

IWD: Women in Crisis strive to educate public on gender equality

Story by: Kayla Kreutzberg

Photo from: Pxhere

A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.

That’s why, this year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) is a rallying cry for generation equality, to act for an equal future for all.

Jensen Williams, public educator at Guelph-Wellington Women in Crisis said the feminist organization really strives towards achieving gender equality, and IWD is a day to recognize the advancements that they’ve made towards gender equality, and what steps need to be taken to get them further there.

“We know that gender-based violence is rooted in gender inequality, some things such as unhealthy ideas about relationships and gender roles contribute to violence against women, and as a society many individuals have negative ideas about survivors, such as that they are to blame for what happens to them,” Williams said.

Williams said part of their work to prevent and eliminate gender-based violence means tackling all the systems that stand in the way of achieving gender equality, and to utilize IWD to empower the community to take action in their everyday lives to help them get there.

She said the organization hopes people recognize that everyone has a role to play in making their communities a place where women can have the right to live a violence free life and a life free of inequality.

Williams said it’s really important for the men and boys listening today to know that they too can play a huge role in celebrating IWD.

“And a valuable role in seeking towards being involved in the movement to achieve gender equality because that movement does require everyone’s support,” Williams said. “As we know that a world where there is gender equality is a world that’s better for everyone.”

She said this can really start with calling out harmful comments they may hear their friends making about women, participating in educational events to learn more about things such as consent, or healthy relationships, and to challenge gender stereotypes and biases.

Williams added that the organization is doing a social media campaign where they’re asking people to take photos with messages of how they’re pledging to commit to ending gender inequality today and beyond, by using the hashtag choose to challenge (#ChooseToChallenge).

WDG region still seeing red when it comes to province’s COVID-19 framework

Story by: Kayla Kreutzberg

Photo from:  https://covid-19.ontario.ca

A week ago, the Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph (WDG) region did not get the go-ahead to move to the orange restrict zone, and has since been in the red control zone dating back to February 16.

Danny Williamson, communication specialist for WDG Public Health said the region did have a week to ten days of very good numbers when coming out of the lockdown.

“Looking at our indicators, we are starting to trend again in the wrong direction, ultimately these decisions happen at the provincial level, [and] I think the province was waiting on gathering a bit more data before they made a move in our region,” Williamson said.

Williamson said if the region continues to trend in the wrong direction that means it is less likely to be moved to the orange, yellow or green zone, and more likely that the region goes in the other direction, one that no one wants.

When looking at Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph in terms of active cases, Guelph has had the most this week when comparing it to Wellington County individually as well as Dufferin County.

Williamson said a question that keeps coming up is, why not treat the three regions individually then?

He said it’s a fair question to ask, but people need to remember that the region is extremely interconnected.

“Folks who live in Wellington, live in Dufferin, live in Guelph, may work in one of those other regions, maybe travelling back and forth, [or] maybe to get their groceries somewhere else, so, while we’re basing our data on where people live, it’s also important to remember how interconnected we are,” Williamson said.

Williamson said people should be careful not to draw too many conclusions and place blame on Guelph for the region staying put in the red zone, as the region is deeply interconnected and it’s important to remember that.

He said when it comes to evaluating what zone the region gets put into there’s no magic number, it’s a bit more complicated than that, and ultimately, it is the province making these decisions and they’re looking at a holistic picture of everything.

“They’re looking at our cases per 100,000, they’re looking at our positivity rates, and they’re looking at where those cases, what they mean, are they outbreak based, how many variant cases are we seeing,” Williamson said. “It’s a more complex picture than just saying, ‘what is the number that says we are red, or what is the number that says we are orange?’”

He added that it’s the choices people make in the region, and the cases, and the picture of COVID-19 that determines how open it can safely be.