Kitchener Rotary e-Newsletter
March 13, 2023

Meeting Recording

This was a live meeting and no recording is available.

President's Comments

President Adrian welcomed all to our meeting today in this, the 11th week of our 101st year.

Visiting Rotarians

PDG Doug Vincent, RC of Woodstock-Oxford and attending on behalf of the District Grants Committee
Mike Katsirdakis, RC of Woodstock-Oxford


Lesli Bartlet, Exec. Dir of Aunties & Uncles, guest speaker
Heather Richardson, Aunties & Uncles, guest speaker
Cody Hall, Aunties & Uncles, guest speaker
Ron Charie, past member
Mike Morrice, MP and honourary member
Alyno, niece and guest of Oksana Tereshchenko
Dimitry and Viktoria, newly arrived from the Ukraine, guests of Lumi Mironescu
Eric Story, guest of Bryn Jones

Club Announcements

Indigenous Library
Erin Way reminded members that we do have a lending library of books focusing on Indigenous topics in support of our initiative to become more knowledgeable of Indigenous history and culture as we work towards support reconciliation efforts.  The books are available at all in-person meetings.
Tom Mennill reminded members of the ongoing, five-club online 50/50 Draw fundraiser in support of KidsAbility.  The first draw is this Wednesday, March 15 and the next draw will start the following day. Business card size reminders were distributed and more are available for members to pass on to family, friends and colleagues to help promote the fundraiser.
International Women’s Day – Student Forums
Sharon McDonald reminded members to join Kitchener Rotary, Profound Impact, and WCT Waterloo Region in March 2023 virtually to hear from women sharing their experiences on their career pathing.  Each session is a group panel of presenters followed by a Q & A for those attending.
There are 7 events in total with 3 focused on high school youth!  The Rotary members who have been involved in creating these events are many:
Rotarians Louise Gardiner (Chair), Deborah Barton, Emma Marriott, Sharon MacDonald, Karen Redman, Marissa Watkin and student advisors Hana Karim (Tas & Karim's daughter), and Ella Mironescu (Lumi's daughter) 
Future Youth Virtual Event dates are:
  • Tuesday March 21st, 6 to 7 pm, careers in Business
  • Tuesday March 28th, 6 to 7 pm, careers in Charitable Organizations
These are all inclusive free sessions.  The sessions may be able to be used for high school student Volunteer hours.
For more information and to Register here for adults and youth Click here
Special Recognitions / Presentations
We were delighted today to be able to present Ron Charie with his Rotary Emeritus plaque.  Ron was unable to be with us at our holiday social when we introduced this new category of recognizing members for their long service and commitment to the club.

Program Highlights

Our program today consisted of several parts, our main presentation was from members of a group called Aunties and Uncles that provides support to indigenous youth that have reached that age where they are no longer supported by Family and Children Services.  Two of the group’s organizers – Lesli Bartlet and Heather Richardson, along with a recipient of their services – Cody Hall, spoke to us.
The group’s co-founder, Lesli Bartlett, started this group to support youth leaving care and to fill a gap of services and support for them and their caregivers.  She is an experienced indigenous foster carer and a group home worker.  One of her cousins was adopted during the 60's scoop which impacted her family.  At the age of 20, she became a foster parent to prevent her youngest cousin from going into “stranger” foster care like their siblings did.  Over the years, Lesli and her husband opened their home to a number of older Indigenous youth with special needs.  When older children moved out, her family continued to be their primary support system.  She learned that many Indigenous youth aged 16 - 25 whose parents were “the system” did not have a stable support system, no permanent home base with family or cultural connections when they left.  A lack of indigenous trauma informed support was especially concerning to Lesli, a Metis woman who grew up outside of her Indigenous community feeling like an outsider when trying to learn and integrate into her birthright.  As she began actively living and immersing herself in her culture, she started receiving calls from Family and Children’s Services workers looking for assistance in connecting youth to the indigenous community.  Thus the program was formed with a focus on creating an Indigenous family network for youth with the caregivers being trauma informed.  This needed to be more than just a temporary resource and support.  She found that the youth connected to the Indigenous way of Aunties and Uncles becoming an extended part of their family.  Unconditional care, cultural teaching, support and a family system by those with lived experience, knowledge and a secure supportive model offered to fill the gap the child welfare and government systems created.
Lesli explained that the groups wishes to create awareness with the Rotary Club about what Gi Zhawenimin provides to Indigenous caregivers and youth in the Waterloo Region.  Many of the youth and young adults that they provide support to have experienced the involvement of Family and Children’s Services along with other services like KidsAbility, Sunbeam Developmental Services or the legal system along with the effects of intergenerational trauma, addictions and mental health challenges.. They are a vulnerable sector of the indigenous community that may have lost connections with biological family, culture or permanent carers.  The purpose of the program is to link youth and young adults to indigenous Aunties, Uncles, Two Spirit Carers, Grandmothers, Grandfathers and Elders to form safe, supportive and potentially permanent relationships within community.
Cody, one of the first youth to be referred to the program was introduced.
Cody is a strong advocate for other youth aging out of care.  He shares his story at events on permanency and advocates for the needs of families supporting youth who age out of care.  While in care and through multiple moves, he completed high school and transitioned out of care.  This involved about a year of attending and participating in various programs regarding finances, skill building and life skills.  He was also active in sports and in guitar club during high school.  He has also honed his culinary skills working on a culinary arts program which he hopes to complete at some point.  He is a wonderful mentor to younger youth.  He loves being a big brother to his younger siblings in his chosen family.  He is always happy to give a listening ear. He is a gifted artist and has recently started to do beadwork.  He hopes to start selling his creations and has now switched from culinary arts to the construction industry through a program offered by NPAAMB.  Cody has been part of the Gi Zhawenimin program since transitioning out of care and now brings his experiences, voice, knowledge and care to other youth in Waterloo Region.
Cody told of how critical it was to his development and mental health to have the connections provided by this group.  He spoke of the sense of permanency that is developed, the sense of knowing that there are others who have experienced what you are experiencing and who will always be there to support you.  It was through the connections and support provided that he was able to create a positive live path for himself.
Heather Richardson. Is a wife, mother, auntie, daughter, niece, cousin, friend and nanna.  Her  own journey of reclaiming her indigeneity started a number of years ago.  She felt there was always a piece missing in her life.  Something that wasn't spoken about much, something that we were told not to divulge to people as it was dangerous.  She was raised with the teachings however, they just weren't called teachings.  When she went to college, her guidance counselor at high school looked at her marks and said she should take a business course because she was good at it.  Most of her life she had wanted to be a nurse or counselor.  Throughout her life, though, this type of work field has always found her.  As she started to reclaim her heritage and learn and understand herself and her family better, the more her work started to center around indigenous support.  Her husband and her adopted their three children and then fostered a number of children.  They were also a kin placement for a few children.  Even through that journey, she noticed a lot of differences between her way of doing things and the western way of doing things.  Her job also started to shift towards supporting customary care families or kinship families.  Their heart daughter is also indigenous and Heather has seen the struggles first hand through her and other youth that have been involved in various systems.  She has seen the search for identity, the struggle for safety and the challenges and strengths obtained on many peoples reclamation journey.  On her journey she has been able to learn that she is Conestoga and Cree.  She has spoken to an Elder a few months before this opportunity sought her out and he had also indicated to her that she would be involved in a learning environment that focused on indigenous pathways.  During her teen years, she attended a boarding school. She, and others involved, recently won a class action lawsuit against the school.  She can identify with this even more given the history of the residential schools and what it has done to her people.  It is important to her to have voices heard, and to create and keep relationships.  Experiencing the system as a parent, as an advocate and as an indigenous person this is important to her to ensure success for our younger generations.
The indigenous food sovereignty collective is also something that she is involved in.  Her role is as lead for the pantry, which organizes, makes and delivers meals and food top ups to the community when needed.  It allows me to make connections and form relationships with people which is important in being able to support others on their healing journeys.  This has all led her to Gi Zhawenimin.  The organization recently got funding to enhance our program which supports caregivers (Aunties, Uncles, Two Spirit mentors) of indigenous youth who are at risk, leaving care or have aged out of the system.  She sees the importance of community and reclaiming their culture and if feels that if she had had someone like herself, she may have followed a different path.  She is grateful for what she has been able to do and see the opportunity for so much more!
Heather explained that the funding for the organization is through donations and is appreciate of any support that can be provided.  They were fortunate and thankful; to have received a Trillium grant that is being used to provide training for the Aunties, Uncles, Two Spirit Carers, Grandmothers, Grandfathers and Elders who provide the support for the youth but the day-to-day operation of the group is funded only through donations.
The second part of our program was a brief update from club honourary member and Member of Parliament – Mike Morrice.  Mike talked about, despite how it appears in the media, that parliament is consumed by partisan issues and conflicts, there is much good that does get done through the parties working together.  He gave two examples:
  • Recently an all parties committee met with representatives from Syria who indicted that not only was there a critical need to provide support in the country to overcome the effects of the earthquake but there is an equally as great need to expedite the requests for those who have requested immigration to Canada.  The all parties committee supported and facilitated the request and the Minister responsible has put an expedited process into place.
  • A mixed group of MPs has also been working on a law to provide for a guaranteed minimum income for persons with disabilities.  Many hours were spent crafting the law and reviewing amendments, one of which that was accepted was to the make the income provided indexed to inflation.  Parliament has passed the law unanimously and which is now in the Senate
The last part of our program today was a cheque presentation to our club for $2,500 from the District Grants Committee.  PDG Doug Vincent was on hand to present the matching grant cheque in support of the work we are doing with the Better Tent City.  Committee chair, Neil Swayze accepted the cheque on behalf of the club and explained that the funds have been used to provide equipment for the kitchen and common area at the facility.

Closing Remarks & Reminders

Members were reminded that there will be no meeting next week. Watch for the sign-up email for the in-person event on March 27th. 
Upcoming Speakers
Mar 20, 2023
Committee Meetings to be Scheduled by Committee Chairs
Mar 27, 2023 6:00 PM
Rock This Town Music Tribute with Betty Ann Kellar
Apr 03, 2023 12:00 PM
Apr 10, 2023
Easter Monday
View entire list
Birthdays & Membership Anniversaries
Member Birthdays
Deborah Barton
March 5
Dave Smith
March 6
Kingsley Madu
March 24
Join Date
John Tibbits
March 15, 2003
20 years