Waterloo will observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
"The University of Waterloo will observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30 as a day of commemoration," wrote President Vivek Goel and Jean Becker, senior director, indigenous initiatives and interim associate vice-president, human rights, equity & inclusion in a memo circulated to campus this morning. "The federal government recently passed a bill creating a national holiday on September 30 for employees in federally regulated workplaces."
"This date coincides with Orange Shirt Day in observance of the Indigenous children taken from their homes and forced to attend residential school. Our community was sickened by the recent discovery of mass graves near the sites of several former residential schools. The last residential school closed in the 1990s, but the effects of this horrendous system are still deeply felt in communities today."
"Reconciling with Indigenous communities is our shared responsibility. As outlined in the strategic plan (Connecting Imagination with Impact), promoting and supporting Indigenous initiatives and a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusivity for all, is a high priority institutional goal. We remain committed to embracing and acting upon the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations and calls to action and building stronger relationships with local Indigenous communities."
"While this is not a statutory holiday in Ontario, we should use this day to reflect on the tragic history and ongoing legacy of residential schools, as we work together for a better community for all peoples. Understanding Indigenous history, developing an awareness of the damaging and intergenerational effects of the residential school system, and taking responsibility are vital components of the reconciliation process."
"The Indigenous Initiatives office and the President’s Anti-racism Taskforce (PART) have organized a series of events to recognize the legacy of the residential school system, honour the victims, survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that this tragic history is never forgotten," Goel and Becker write. "We look forward to participating in these events together with you all, as we commemorate the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation."
United Way Charitable Spotlight: Kind Minds Family Wellness
By Jessica Manarang. This is the third in a three-part series of articles on the charities supported by the University's United Way Campaign.
The pandemic has affected us all, though some more severely than others. Ajirioghene Evi-Cobbinah, the executive director of Kind Minds Family Wellness (KMFW), explains: “we know from data and research that Black communities have been the most impacted with the pandemic by way of deaths”. Kind Minds Family Wellness is a Black-led, culturally inclined grassroots organization that launched amidst the pandemic and Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, serving Black-identifying, racialized, and equity-seeking bodies in Waterloo Region.
Reflecting on one year of perseverance, progress, and promise
Just last August, KMFW was created by a group of black professionals working in local mainstream and euro-centric settings who recognized the gaps in social services for Black persons which have been emphasized during the pandemic. The tragedy of George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent amplification of the BLM movement was their signal to actively address and attempt to close those gaps in our community. Initially, they targeted Black-identifying youth; however, Evi-Cobbinah explains they quickly realized that “if we’re supporting the youth, we need to support the people also supporting the youth”. Thus, they expanded to serve all members of a family and embodied their full name as Kind Minds Family Wellness.
Within one year, KMFW has offered and supported a variety of initiatives and programs. Particularly important is their Afro-centric counselling, because people “feel confident and more connected if they are with an organization, community, or professionals that actually do represent them… culturally or even racially,” explains accounting and operations personnel, Tafadzwa Takaendesa. Similarly, its Klib Liv (Means ‘Book Club’ in Haitian Creole) Book Club celebrates Black excellence while promoting literacy. Other services include employment support, advocacy, community outreach, mentoring programs, and youth groups. A key component of each is upholding accountability through regular research. As Takaendesa states, “Kind Minds Family Wellness is committed to providing equitable and culturally sensitive programs within the context of an evidenced-based practice”.
KMFW has worked with other organizations, such as Carizon, to bring Black-identifying and newcomer seniors together. In collaboration with the Cambridge Self-Help Food Bank, KMFW provided cultural cooking classes. Essentially, KMFW aims to connect their clientele with other social service agencies in a way that understands and honours their cultural or racial backgrounds. “It’s been a long-time coming, to create a hub for Black persons and Black residents,” Evi-Cobbinah explains. “We know that there are other organizations that are doing amazing stuff – whether they are grassroots, Black-led, or mainstream – but we could be that bridge [for Black-identifying residents]”.
The United Way has been a crucial supporter of these achievements, not only by providing funding, but also a platform to meet and hear about other organizations in the community that are serving different needs. As well, KMFW has benefited from the exposure, information, and resources that the United Way has shared. “We’re so proud that as a young organization, we’ve actually felt welcome,” Evi-Cobbinah says. “Shout-out to United Way, they came through”.
Moving forward with passion, purpose, and propositions
Although Kind Minds Family Wellness has developed impressively quick, there is still so much it needs to address and overcome. Accessibility is a consistent point of difficulty without an interpreter to help communicate with clients whose first language is not English. Using technology to access Kind Minds Family Wellness’ virtual services has also proved a challenge for some senior clients or clients without access to internet. Indeed, the pandemic has made it hard for KMFW to reach many of its clients. Caretakers struggle to balance both their own needs with their children’s, while victims of domestic violence are stuck at home with their perpetrator. Therefore, these clients have limited access to the services KMFW offers that could support them.
As social isolation restrictions are lifted, KMFW faces the challenge of transitioning to in-person service and strategizing new operations. Building new partnerships and collaborations with other organizations and institutions is a priority to reach as many people as possible, especially students. Zino Ojogbo is a Board Member and Treasurer at KMFW, but also a PhD Candidate at the University of Waterloo. “Speaking from both my experience with Kind Minds Family Wellness as well as a student, it would be nice if the University of Waterloo could partner with an organization like Kind Minds Family Wellness that provides cultural-inclined counselling for racialized students,” she shares. “Culture is an important factor to consider in counselling”. Other opportunities include student placements with KMFW, sponsorships, and simply amplifying their message and sharing their presence.
“We’re new, we’re growing, so our needs are huge,” Evi-Cobbinah admits. As is, Kind Minds Family Wellness is significantly reliant on passionate volunteers and contractors, and demand for their services is only increasing. More funding is required to provide the organization stability through hired staff and further development through increased resources. Donating to the United Way during this year’s campaign can help Kind Minds Family Wellness and other important agencies across the Waterloo region obtain the funding they need to support the people in our community who need them.
To learn more about Kind Minds Family Wellness, visit their website: https://kindmindsfamilywellness.org/. Stay tuned for content about our campus’ United Way Campaign in October to support Kind Minds and other important organizations in our community by donating.
Science names award for Herbert Fernando, diversity champion
In July 1965, Herbert Fernando, his professor wife Aggie and their two children – which quickly became three – departed Sri Lanka to embark on a new life in Waterloo. Herbert was eager to begin his tenure as associate professor in a newly created Department of Biology at the University of Waterloo. Over the next 33 years, he would go on to create an incredible legacy of teaching that put student experience and student success above all else. Herbert Fernando was a tireless advocate for all student education that incorporated experiential learning outside of the classroom.
Herbert’s love of fieldwork, and his belief that field courses play an essential role in the full education of biologists is shared widely by Waterloo’s current faculty members. Field studies allow students to gather their own data, learn through direct observation and allow for scientific research through field experiments. However, the rising costs of field courses, some in excess of $2,500 for a trip within Canada, or over $4,000 for field courses in Brazil or Costa Rica, left many students unable to participate. In fact, it was noted by associate professor and field course coordinator, Heidi Swanson, that participation levels were even lower in students of Black and Indigenous communities. After confirming within to her Ontario network of peers that there was an equity issue, she reached out to fellow Waterloo biologists to see what could be done to promote wider student diversity in field courses.
Lecturer and teaching fellow, Marcel Pinheiro and current biology chair, Kirsten Müller, are both strong believers in the value of experience gained by field courses and were quick to jump on board to establish an award to help Black and Indigenous students enroll in biology field courses. It was aptly named after Professor Herbert Fernando.
“I think naming this award after Herbert would make him proud,” Pinheiro says. “He was a champion of diversity and equity for students and, of course, valued the type of education only a field course could provide.”
Kirsten Müller has been on her fair share of field courses from Newfoundland to Costa Rica, and describes them as critical to the student experience. She believes that helping the Black and Indigenous students enroll in these courses will ultimately be for the betterment of science and learning. “Right now we’re potentially missing out on people who could be great field researchers simply due to the financial barriers that currently exist,” she says. “Field courses are just too important to be limited for financial reasons.”
Herbert Fernando passed away in 2018 after an extraordinary full life. Those that remember him recall a generous, happy individual who was a marvelous cook, passionate educator and had a knack for breaking out into Russian song for seemingly no reason except to make others smile. His widow, Aggie, was touched by the establishment of this memorial award in his honour and has contributed on behalf of his family. His daughter Shanti spoke about his advocacy for racialized students: “He was their voice when they couldn’t find it. Education should be accessible for everybody and Dad would be very honoured to have his name associated with an award that helped provide that education.”
About the Herbert Fernando Memorial Award
Two awards, valued at $500 each, are available annually for Black or Indigenous undergraduate students enrolled in a field-based course in the Department of Biology, in the Faculty of Science. Selection is based on academic excellence in ecology-based courses (minimum 3 courses taken). To be considered, interested students are asked to self-identify their eligibility by completing an on-line form by January 15 of each year. This award is made possible by donations from faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the University and of Professor Herbert Fernando, who supported diversity and equity for students in the Department of Biology. To learn more about this award visit the Student Awards and Financial Aid listing of the Herbert Fernando Memorial Award.
Help us continue the legacy of Herbert Fernando by supporting his memorial fund. Your donation will help create a more diverse scientific community by ensuring that Black and Indigenous students can access these critical biology field courses.
"Waterloo Womxn + Nonbinary Wednesdays is putting a twist on its annual September meet and greet," says a note from W3+. "Whether you're still at home or back on campus this fall, we invite you to give us a quick live virtual tour of your workspace, or share photos in the chat, and get to know other womxn and nonbinary members of the UWaterloo community. This event is open to womxn and nonbinary graduate students, staff, postdocs, and faculty."
Human Rights, Equity and Inclusion (HREI) will be hosting 2SLGBTQ+ Fundamentals on September 14 (that's today) from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. "This is an introductory workshop to help Waterloo students and employees develop greater understandings of 2SLGBTQ+ identities, gain knowledge about protected rights, and, identify and explore barriers to develop and foster actions that create a more welcoming campus environment and offer meaningful and relevant support," says a note from HREI. "All are welcome."
The online workshop, held on Microsoft Teams, will be facilitated by Sarah Grzincic.
Also today, the Waterloo Warriors Athletics and Recreation Virtual Open House will be taking place at 3:00 p.m. Attendees will have an opportunity to view the amenities and programs Athletics is offering this term and will have a chance to ask questions. Attendees will also be entered to win prizes including a $25 gift card from Freshii.
"Dr. Susan Horton retired from the University of Waterloo on September 1, 2021," says a note from Carol West-Seebeck in the School of Public Health Sciences. On Wednesday, September 22 from 2:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., the School is hosting Professor Horton as she gives some reflections on her University career. Please contact Carol West-Seebeck at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and the link to the virtual event.
The 2021 Optometry Rack Pack team will again be participating in the 'CIBC Run for the Cure' virtual run on Sunday, October 3 to support the Canadian Cancer Society," writes Marie Amodeo. "Our current total is $5,700. As a breast cancer graduate and the team captain, I know how important research to find a cure is. We are gratefully accepting donations to our team online."
"Every amount makes an impact," Amodeo writes. "Together we can make breast cancer beatable."