PIRGSPECTIVES Spring/Summer 2011

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participate Community Volunteer Action is a working group which helps MAC students mnd volunteer placements in the Hamilton community. The groups meet weekly on campus, travel together, volunteer with a variety of local Hamilton agencies, and renect on their experiences. Each group has a facilitator which conducts these renections, so the students are better able to understand the importance of volunteering as well as the societal issues Hamilton faces. This year we have approximately 330 students volunteering weekly which equates to 9700 hours of volunteer work! For more information please go to www.opencircle.mcmaster.ca/volunteer Wonders of Volunteering By: Shalin Shah Volunteering is a truly remarkable experience which brings wonders to one’s life. The preceding sentence may seem like a cliché but the truth is the sentence is remarkably authentic. From my experiences, most university students want to provide help to the community but are so preoccupied with their studies, that volunteering doesn’t come naturally to them. It would be safe to assume that most university students begin their volunteering process to add something valuable to their resume. While it is true that volunteer work can add wonders to your resume if you are pursuing professional studies or a job, it doesn’t simply end there. I, like most of you, initially started to volunteer to add substance into my resume. Personally, if it motivates someone to become involved in the community, I believe that the end justimes your means. It is, however, extremely important that one chooses to volunteer at a placement that is appealing to them. Otherwise, you will not be able to experience the full range of wonders that volunteering has to offer. Moreover, you will mnd it a chore to go to your volunteer placement each session and it will affect your commitment to your group. Thus, it is ex tremely important that you choose a placement that interests you the most, even if it is simply to bulk up your resume.


Overtime, you will realize that volunteering has much more to offer than simply adding substance to your resume. If you are volunteering at an agency that you mnd interesting, you will not mnd it a chore. As a matter of fact, you will be looking forward to it. Volunteering gives you great satisfaction and a break from the hectic university sched ule. It raises the energy level and the feeling is similar to what one would expect from doing meditation or yoga. It lifts you up and helps to carry on in our regular life, be it education or work. As a matter of fact, contradictory to the myth that volunteering takes up time and it can negatively affect grades, I have seen a marked improvement in my grades since I started volunteering. As a matter of fact, many volunteers that I have facilitated have also noted the same. The improvement could be due to the fact that through volunteering experience, volunteers gain organizational and management skills. Moreover, since we are helping others who are often worse off than us, we realize that people depend on us. It helps us see that we are needed and important, giving us conmdence and bolstering our selfesteem. It allows us to refocus on the more important tasks ahead. Furthermore, through volunteering practices, one’s leadership, interpersonal, and communication skills sharpen and results in personal and educational growth. As a matter of fact, I have experienced this transformation within myself and within the volunteers that I have facili tated or volunteered along. The wonders of volunteering, while immeasurable mnancially, are evident. Not only does it result in personal and educational growth, but also provides a sense of satisfaction and content. However, in order to receive maximum benemts, I should stress the importance of mnding the correct volunteering placement. Community Volun teer Action group is an excellent organization with a wide variety of different volunteer placements throughout the Hamilton community, allowing the McMaster University students the choice of volunteering at a placement that appeals most to them.

Andrew Cruickshank Interviewed by Kristina Mangligot

What social issue is most important to you that you think should be addressed?

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

There are many different social issues affecting Hamilton and the world that should be addressed, but as an engineering student I feel most strongly about how I can affect issues related to energy conservation and the move towards renewable technology. Our current use of fuels contributes strongly to global warming and air quality problems which affect the world, and I hope to help with this problem in the future.

I am currently mnishing my 5th year of mechanical engineering and society here at McMaster. I study energy systems, mechanical devices, and social development as part of this, and am very interested in environmental issues and their solutions. What do you love about being an OPIRG Board member? I have been part of the board of OPIRG since the end of summer this year during which I was working with them as the green roof researcher. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with OPIRG for many reasons. The most important reason is because of the people here. In many of the environmental organizations and social action groups I have worked with over the past few years, I have found that the people who tend to work in this industry or volunteer in it do so because they love working there, and the cause they support in their work. There are many great individuals that I have met as part of OPIRG, and have made my experience here quite enjoyable. What are the challenges of being an OPIRG Board member? The challenges of being a board member at OPIRG are mainly due to having a busy schedule to balance from university (as many students have), and deciding which groups should receive support and how much within the budget. What have you learned so far from your experience of being part of the OPIRG Board of Directors? I have learned about many different issues and organizations that OPIRG is involved with, and have been quite surprised with the number of amazing groups on campus, and what they have done in the past year. There are many great groups connected with OPIRG and they deserve a lot of credit for the work that they do.

Simon Christopher Andrew De Abreu Interviewed by Kristina M Please tell me a little bit about yourself? I am an activist performer, teacher, poet, director, producer and community organizer. I have an M.A. in Theatre Studies and a B.A. with Honours in Communications Studies, Theatre and Film. I also have a post-graduate certimcate in Human and Community Development from the ESI (East Side Institute) in New York City. I am presently working with seniors at Queens Gardens Long-Term Care Residence in the recreation department here in Hamilton, Ontario. Why were you interested in volunteering for OPIRG? I felt that the organization would be a great place to learn more about social justice, community development and it would be a place I could meet like-minded citizens. What kind of work did you do during your time with OPIRG? I served on the OPIRG McMaster Board of directors from 2004-2008. I also was the lead coordinator on many events that OPIRG helped me organize: Arts and Activism Symposium on Fair Trade (March 2004), where I raised $2 000.00 1st Social Justice Film Festival in Hamilton entitled: Project Peace Film Fest (March 2005 & 2006), where I raised $10 000 over the two years I created the OPIRG working group: TLCP-Theatre of Liberation Community Project (2006)


I produced & directed the Liberation Theatre Extravaganza 2006 I raised $1000 for the on-campus production To date, I have raised over $20,000 for nonpromt NGO-TLC Project What do you like most about OPIRG? I love the kind and caring staff that support Fair Trade goods and the equally-passionate members of the organization. Which other groups are you involved with besides OPIRG? PACSS-Peace and Connict Student Society MACSS-McMaster Association for Communication Students McMaster Theatre and Film Students Society CFMU-McMaster Campus Radio Station as a host of my own show entitled: “Window into My Dementia� Madelaine Cahuas Interviewed by Kristina Mangligot

ects that are essential to improving not only campus life, but strengthening the Hamilton community. Also, as a board member, I am able to learn about so many diverse and important initiatives taking place in and around campus and even globally. However, as a board member I can not only learn about such initiatives, but build rela tionships with students, support working groups and bring students and community members together through collaborating on special projects and events. It is also extremely motivating and inspiring to be surrounded by critically conscious and passionate students, community members and dedicated OPIRG staff. So what's not to love? What are the challenges of being an OPIRG Board member? I feel my two greatest challenges are managing my time between OPIRG, school, work and my commitments to other organizations, projects and activities as well as making decisions on applications of support. OPIRG McMaster receives so many excellent applications, it's very difmcult at times not to award as much funding or support due to limits on our own funding.

Tell me a little bit about yourself I am an older sister and come from a large extended family of diverse, migrant heritages. My father is Peruvian and my mother is Romanian, and I identify as a second generation Latina. I'm currently in my second year in the Health & Aging Master of Arts program at McMaster University. My work mainly focuses on the effects of neighbourhood "revitalization" on community members' perceptions and resistance to stigma as well as the intersections between housing, neighbourhood and health. I wish to pursue a doctoral degree and engage in critical research and teaching with my communities. What do you love about being an OPIRG Board member? I enjoy being in a space that facilitates creativity, openness and meaningful dialogue and action between students and community members. As an OPIRG board member, I feel that I'm part of something incredibly greater than myself since OPIRG is a vital hub for countless student and community social justice and environmental proj-


What other groups or organizations are you involved in besides OPIRG (if there is any)? I am currently actively involved with the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS) at McMaster. I am also a Graduate Student Representative for Health & Aging students and sit on a number of committees including, the Health & Aging Graduate Committee, the Gilbrea Chair in Aging & Mental Health Selection Committee, the Chair in Health, Aging & Society Selection Committee, the CUPE3906 Equity Action Committee, the President's Advisory Committee on Building an Inclusive Community, and the Black History Month Planning Committee. I also organize the montly Health & Aging Speaker Series and work with Barrio Nuevo, a Latin American grassroots organization based in Toronto. What do you think is the best and most effective way of educating people about anti-oppressive behaviour? (I.e. Is it through books, news articles, schooling, etc) I think it begins with engaging in critical dialogue

and discussion where people actively listen and respond to one another in constructive ways. This can occur in classrooms, cafeterias, on the streets and any sort of meeting place you can think of. However, this in itself is at times difmcult to do and it's not even enough, because dialogue and discussion must be followed with some sort of meaningful action, however small or large. I also feel that the roles people play in sharing knowledge about oppression and anti-oppression differ according to their positionality, but that we can all play a signimcant role. Personally, my education in anti-oppression was never learned by my "formal teachers" or required readings in school (although that would've been great!). I began the learning process through key student mentors that took the time to patiently engage in conversations with me and point me to some wonderful authors and community leaders to begin developing my own political agenda that must always be linked with my communities. In addition, I learned antioppression from my family and the people in my communities present and past that showed me how to survive, resist and love. What social issue is most important to you that you think should be addressed? There are so many important issues that I'm passionate about, but if I would have to choose one it would be health equity. I feel that it is extremely unjust for an increasing number of people living in Canada to suffer incredibly worse health outcomes than their wealthier counterparts. Lower life expectancies, higher rates of disease and dis/abilities is preventable and needs to be addressed. Inter-City Homeless Outreach By Hayley Moody

fully, McMaster University has stepped up to the plate to aid in tackling this problem through InterCity Homeless Outreach Initiative (ICHO). The ICHO at McMaster is a student run organization which focuses on the elimination of homelessness through the concept of relationships. Audrey Naluz, long time member of the branch in Toronto, explains that when you are able to reach the individuals at a personal level, you are better able to address their specimc needs. So, instead of just handing out sandwiches and water, ICHO volunteers also know their names, their stories, their aspirations… Relationships are established and avenues open for learning and opportunities, for both the volunteer and the homeless individual. The ICHO Hamilton division, run through OPIRG’s working group status, recently began in September 2010. While their numbers are small, their hearts are big, with their campaigns already delivering big success. During the Christmas season, ICHO sold ‘candy-cane reindeers’ in the McMaster Student Center, raising money for new socks, underwear and thermal gear for those who are faced with sleeping on the streets. Recently, the ‘FRESH’ fundraiser was established, raising money for fresh produce through a series of bake sales.There has been a continuing effort through the ‘BELOW ZERO’ effort, which collects new and used clothing for those who need it most, as well as mnancial donations to buy socks, underwear and toiletries. This campaign will run until March. As ICHO continues to grow, it is hoped that volunteers will be able to enter the Hamilton downtown core and distribute much needed items, as well as develop relationships.

On too many occasions have I walked past homeless individuals in the downtown core without more than a second glance – we are all guilty of this. Isn’t it just part of life? With so much going on in our own student lives, how can we care about the men, women and children who have to bounce from shelter to shelter, or take up a spot on the street corner every night? Its’ not our problem to deal with, right? Wrong. Homelessness is a complex issue which affects all Canadians–ignoring the problem will not make it disappear. Thank-


develop DIY COSMETICS Coffee Body Scrub: Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups cane sugar 1/4 cup ground coffee beans 1/4 cup shredded coconut 1/4 cup oil (olive oil, almond oil etc) 1 tsp honey 3 - 5 drops essential oil of choice A tin or jar with lid Method: 1) Mix sugar, ground coffee, coconut and oil in a bowl until fully combined . Add honey, followed by the essential oil. 2) Transfer the mixture to a closed container (the scrub will keep for 1-2 weeks sealed at room temperature). 3) Rub a generous amount of the scrub over your body, scrubbing medium to hard depending on your sensitivity. (Skin should be moist when applying the scrub). 4) Rinse off in the shower under warm water, ensuring that the sugar crystals disintegrate completely. Pat dry to allow the oils to soak into your soft glowing skin. How the ingredients work: -Coffee grounds: Reduces cellulite; their course nature helps remove dead skin and helps in toning and mrming the skin -Sugar: Exfoliates the skin and removes dead cells -Olive oil: moisturizes the skin, makes it soft and gives it an over all glow -Honey: brings blood to the surface, removes impurities, smoothes and softens the skin -Coconut: Adds to the aroma and the bufmng/exfoliating action of the other ingredients Face Scrub: Ingredients: 2 Tbs almond meal/ground almonds


4 Tbs mnely ground oatmeal (any kind) 2 Tbs white clay or powdered milk 2 Tbs mnely ground herbs such as rose petals and lavender buds 1 tsp poppy seeds (for grit - also optional) 3-5 drops essential oil of choice (optional) 1 tsp kelp powder (optional) A tin or jar with lid Method: 1) Mix all the dry ingredients well and followed by the oils if you are using them. Transfer to a closed container. 2) To use, scoop out a little and mix with either honey almond or olive oil, rose water, tap water or milk to form a paste. 3) Using your mngertips rub the paste gently into your skin. Leave it for a couple or minutes, or even till it dries. Wash your face well with warm water.

How the ingredients work: -Almonds: gentle moisturizing exfoliating for dry and sensitive skin -Honey: brings blood to the surface, removes impurities, smoothes and softens the skin. -Kelp: nourishes the skin - especially with cartenoids. -Lavender: promotes tissue regeneration; good for aging skin, as well as oily, dry, cracked, scarred and sensitive skin, a truly universal skin nower; antidepressant, antiseptic, and nervine. -Oats: gives skin a smooth silken appearance; heals wounds and cuts, soothes irritated skin, nu-

tritive, antidepressant and nervine -Rose: helps control thread veins, good for cracked, scarred and sensitive skin; heals wounds; helps skin keep elasticity. -Rosewater: gentle astringent and antiseptic. -White Clay: cleanses and draws out toxins; helps the skin to rejuvenate, stimulates circulation and soothes innammation. -Milk: moisturizing and good for deep cleansing of pores Deodorant Ingredients: 1/4 cup baking soda 1/4 cup arrowroot powder 4 Tbs coconut oil 10 drops essential oil A tin or jar with lid Method: 1) In a bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Add the oils gradually until you like the consistency and mix with a fork. Store in a closed container at room temperature. 2) If the mixture seems too soft, try refrigerating it for a bit to make it mrm) 3) To apply, scoop up a bit with your mnger and rub well into the area. 4) This mix should last you 4-5 months. Also note that the coconut oil has a shelf life of about 2 years Antiperspirants vs Deodorants -Antiperspirants work by clogging, closing, or blocking the pores with powerful astringents such as aluminum salts so that they can t release sweat. (Note that aluminum can accumulate in the brain and can lead to early alzheimers.) -Deodorants work by neutralizing the smell of the sweat and by antiseptic action against bacteria. -Deodorants are preferable because they don t interfere with sweating, a natural cooling process. How the ingredients work: -Coconut oil has natural anti-bacterial properties and makes the deodorant more moisturizing -Baking soda works because it neutralizes the odor of sweat. -Arrowroot powder helps maintain the proper acid

and alkali balance and also helps absorb perspiration -The essential oils you choose also add to the properties of your deodorant Food-For-Life Recipes Paprika Chicken Ingredients: 3 tablespoons paprika 1 tablespoon cayenne powder 1 tablespoon dark-brown sugar 2 teaspoons hot chili powder 1 teaspoon ground cumin 1 teaspoon garlic salt Procedure: 1) Mix everything together and store in a cool, dry place 2) Rub mix on chicken thighs or breast. 3) Bake in oven at 375 F for 15 mins 4) Then set it to broil for 5-10 mins. You can poke it with a fork to check if it is done. The liquids that run out should be clear if its done, otherwise it will be slightly pink.

Farmstand Ratatouille Ingredients (makes 2-3 servings): 1/2 egg plant 2 cloves garlic 1 zucchini 2 plum tomatoes 1 onion 2-3 medium Portabello mushrooms Balsamic vinegar 4 fresh basil leaves Salt and pepper (to taste) Olive oil Water


Method: 1) Chop the egg plant and zucchini into 1 inch pieces. 2) Dice the onion and tomatoes roughly and mince the garlic or use a garlic press. 3) Halve the portabello mushrooms and cut them into thin strips, approximately 1 cm wide. 4) Roll and roughly chop the basil leaves. 5) Add oil to the pan and turn onto high heat. 6) Once heated, add the onions, garlic, and basil into the pan, stirring consistently to prevent burning. 7) Turn the heat to medium and stir until onions are translucent. 8) Add the diced tomatoes and cook until tomatoes have disintegrated. Set this aside for later. 9) Add oil to the pan and turn onto high heat. 10) Once heated, add your zucchini or eggplant, stirring until pieces are evenly coated.

Addressing Change by Creating Opportunity by Debi Banerjee (excerpts from Marlette Ravelo) Opportunities are all around us. Some of them we create and others appear when we least expect it – this is how I came to be aware of Community Volunteer Action. During an impromptu stroll through the student centre, a CVA info board caught my eye. Being new to Hamilton, I wanted to know more about the community, explore the city, and hopefully meet new friends along the way. Volunteering seemed to be the perfect outlet to meet all these goals. But did I have the time to contribute? The physical, emotional and mental pressures of student life can get taxing, and you demnitely need to “pick and choose” what occupies your schedule. But as I read the placement descriptions of where I could be volunteering – enabling adults with disabilities, working with at-risk youth, feeding the hungry at a soup kitchen, or tutoring recent immigrant youth, I realized that we also need to dedicate time to pursue the things we enjoy. For me, volunteering for a worthwhile cause was an easy decision. Spending a couple hours a week at a teen homework club catering to immigrant youth did not take much of my time. In fact, it was a much welcomed break from the routine of school life! But to the many Canadians who utilized this service, it was considered a precious gift.

11) Add approximately 1/2 cup of water to the pan and stir, allowing the zucchini or eggplant to soften slightly. This process will be quicker if you add a lid to the pan and allow it to steam for 1 minute. 12) After the vegetables are tender, but not fully cooked, set them aside. 13) For the mushrooms, add oil to the pan followed by mushrooms, at high heat. 14) Stir until evenly coated and follow up with a quick splash of balsamic vinegar, stirring to get an even glaze on all mushrooms. 15) At this point, you may add all of your vegetables back into the pan and turn to medium heat, stirring constantly. 16) Add salt and pepper to taste, and use a lid if you have one to speed the cooking process.


Spending a couple hours a week at a teen homework club catering to immigrant youth did not take much of my time. In fact, it was a much welcomed break from the routine of school life! But to the many Canadians who utilized this service, it was considered a precious gift. At mrst, the teens were sceptical. Why would these University students, these “proper Canadians” want to help them out? It was evident that many of the students we tutored placed the University and those who attended it on a pedestal an entity beyond their reach. Slowly but surely the youth developed a sense of comfort and familiar ity around the volunteers, calling them by name, requesting specimc individuals for tutor help, and asking “When will you be back?”. With time, the

commit Restore Cootes by Randy Kay Restore Cootes is encouraged by McMaster University’s work to improve the sustainability of campus, and applaud efforts so far as the university makes the shift toward a smaller environmental footprint. With the hope to build on success, we are writing to convey our thoughts on plans to re-open parking in McMaster Parking Zone M. Our concern is that restoring parking will negatively affect the potential for an improved natural habitat adjacent to Coldspring/Ancaster Creek. As you are aware, the campus Master Plan refers to a desired “30 metre naturalized buffer” between parking lots and the creek], as proposed by the Hamilton Conservation Authority (HCA). The HCA is tasked with protecting Hamilton’s natural assets, but this signimcant yet degraded area is of course worthy of all of our attention. I am conmdent we share the desire to see the best possible outcome for the environment. Plans to use permeable paving in place of asphalt at this site are progressive and innovative, and may indeed qualify for LEED points, but in this instance, perhaps are not the ideal. Rather, a more passive approach leading to rehabilitation of the landscape may be preferable for this section of Zone M Parking, and should rightly rank higher in terms of sustainability. Our concern is that the plan to use this area, even for occasional “overnow” parking will disrupt any potential benemts a more naturalized surface will create using permeable pavers. At one level you will create better environment for wildlife, but using it for parking will quickly negate this benemt. The campus has already absorbed the loss of parking since construction began in 2009, calling into question the need to replace the lost spots. Looking at campus parking level of service, it is imperative that we consider at least two variable


conditions while looking to the future 1) The price of oil – we know that when gasoline prices rise, people look for alternatives to driving and will take advantage of transit and cycling opportunities where they exist This is supported by recent research that indicates “that price sensitivity has started to increase, up to -0.1 to -0.3 in the short run, suggesting long-run elasticities of -0.3 to -0.6 (a 10% price increase [for fuel] reduces vehicle travel 3-6%)” 2) Changing demographics – when the parking lots were built in the late 60’s young people expected to drive. This is changing: “the number of young drivers – 16-to-29 year-olds – is increasing at the slowest pace since the mid-1990s. These developments are expected to reduce growth in the vehicle buying population to 0.6 percent per annum in Canada over the coming decade. This represents a sharp slowdown from an average annual growth in the driving age population of 1.4 percent over the past 50 years. Restoration Local efforts to restore lost habitat have been undertaken by key conservation and civic agencies under the Cootes to Escarpment Park System: Conservation and Land Management Strategy, headed by the Royal Botanical Gardens. There are several key issues identimed in the report that could be applied to this site, but one will illustrate the importance of a site bordering a key waterway: Maintaining and increasing woodland cover is probably the most important factor to protecting biodiversity in fragmented southern Ontario landscapes. At a broad regional scale, it is also valuable to have a diversity of habitats to maintain landscape richness. Opportunities for the restoration of natural connections need to be identimed and implemented. Protecting and enhancing existing wildlife pathways, such as along stream corridors, and protecting natural features in close proximity to each other are also important to natural system functions.

Clearly there is much to be gained from a biodiversity standpoint to expanding the buffer between McMaster parking and the creek. McMaster’s expertise from diverse academic and research backgrounds could be brought to bear on a restoration project involving students applying their learning here in our backyard. The importance of Cootes Paradise as a biodiversity hotspot, to the local economy and to recreational pursuits cannot be understated. It is interesting to note that the parking areas in question were, until the late 1960s, part of the Royal Botanical Gardens Coldspring Valley Trail system. (Figure 3) To bring back lost habitat and the species dependent on the former noodplain and spring fed ponds is the kind of project that carries national, indeed, international signimcance, and would enhance McMaster’s reputation as an innovative and sustainable institution. Ideally, erasing the footprint of pavement used for car-parking and restoring the ecological integrity of the area would be pursued in a staged manner. With these considerations in mind, Restore Cootes respectfully requests that McMaster University work in conjunction with the City of Hamilton, the Hamilton Conservation Authority and the RBG to: 1) Leave the parking area closed due to the construction of the CSO tank vacant as prime rehabilitation lands i.e. no overnow parking 2) Reconmgure remaining parking along the creek edge to create a naturalized 30m buffer in the short to medium term 3) Create a long range plan to phase out parking in the lots west of Cootes Drive. Melanie Skene Interviewed by Margot Rosenberg

During my time as an undergrad at McMaster I was frequently involved with OPIRG activities both directly and indirectly. I was on the board of directors during the 2003/04 school year when I was in charge of acquiring new resource materials. In 2008, I worked directly with OPIRG to create

a one-day art exhibit as a practicum for one of my classes. The exhibit was called Visioning a Sacred Ecology and was dedicated to showcasing the relationships between the environment, the human spirit and art. OPIRG also provided invaluable support for many other projects that I undertook during my time at McMaster. They have assisted my work in many ways - mnancial contributions, promotional assistance and the folks in the OPIRG ofmce have always provided a safe space for discussing ideas and planning events. Other events I have worked on with OPIRG assistance: -The mrst (March 2005) and second (March 2006) annual Projecting Peace Social Justice Film Festival of which I was a co-coordinator. I have also worked with two different OPIRG working groups – SMART and TLC Project. -For SMART (Student Math Action Research Team) I participated in their video project about global warming called The Shocking Truth. I appeared in the video interviewing the other SMART group members. -I was a part of the TLC Collective (Theatre of Liberation Community) and worked as an artistic facilitator and summer program co-coordinator for the TLC Project. In January 2011, I graduated with my Masters in Environmental Studies from York University. OPIRG provided support by mnancially contributing to my Major Research Project which involved organizing a community arts street festival called Solus: A Community Earth Vision Festival, which took place in June 2010, in downtown Hamilton. I am presently planning Solus for the second year. I currently have my own community arts practice called Many Hands Art in which I work with community members to create art projects such as Solus. Feel free to check out my website for more information www.manyhandsart.org. I also do freelance work, puppets, stage props, workshops, etc. Most recently (Oct 28, 2010) I ran two workshops for Living the Environment 6, an environmental conference for high school students, which was co-organized by OPIRG.


OPIRG Alumni, and Beyond by Thessa Sandoval Each and every one of us are born with different set of capabilities, skills, strengths and weaknesses-- things that make us unique. Each and everyone of us believes and hence mts into a certain cause where we can contribute our time and skills, and learn more and develop these gifts. The Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG) at McMaster is one of the organizations which have been supporting a lot of these causes. For many years, OPIRG has supported and trained individuals who peacefully mght against societal issues especially on social justice and the environment. And all through these years, OPIRG has also produced individuals who didn't end their work when they received their degrees and stepped out in the real world to become professionals. No matter how important it is to discuss societal issues and let people become aware of it, we believe that it is important too to let people know about the unsung heroes behind it; these people who made signimcant contributions in the past that made OPIRG what it is today. And yes, they are the alumni. One of them is Rabea Murtaza. She was once an OPIRG Board Member in the late 90s while doing her Undergraduate degree in McMaster. Rabea has continued social work in the last few years doing community-based research and popular education training in research skills for refugee youth, homeless youth, LGBQT youth, and low income people of colour. She still facilitates and attend anti-opression workshops in which "the content has developed over time," she says. When asked about some of her memorable experiences while working for OPIRG, Rabea says, "While I was a part of OPIRG McMaster, [the] staff went on strike and the Board organized solidarity actions including soliciting old socks to string up on clotheslines on the picket lines." She explains the action was done to satirize one comment made by McMaster Univeristy's former President Peter George that he had been late for a meeting because he cannot mnd his socks after recently moving to a larger home. "My hands stank for


days after rolling up hundreds of letters into old dirty socks and delivering box loads to Dr. George's ofmce," she added. The action may be a bit tenuous for some but there was a greater intention behind this. OPIRG staff wants to support workers and put pressure on the school's admisnistration. This proves that there is no small action for good intentions. She continuously brings the principles and values that the organization instilled in her in every work she does, may it be politically, professionally or personally. Rabea is currently on maternity leave taking care of her newborn baby. Her experiences in OPIRG gave her a contrast of raising a child in a societal context of war, patriarchy, racism, and violence; and of love, friendship, community, and beauty now that she is raising a child of her own. Another alumni worth mentioning is Scott Neigh. Scott has been a former member of the Board of Directors and got mrst involved with Mac OPIRG right after the funding was approved to create it. Scott was doing a Science degree and felt like he needs to do something else besides his major. "I did not encounter much in my classes that encouraged me to think critically about the social world," he says. He started reading books about the world and this made him decide to try looking for a social movement activity towards the end of his second year to get involved. He found OPIRG and realized what it is all about. He discovered things he cannot learn in the four corners of the class room with OPIRG when he joined it, and the rest was history. The next thing he knew, he was sitting on the hiring committee, organizing annual

general assemblies, and starting a campaign with other OPIRG members against the corporization of the University. Like Rabea, Scott had his fair share of memorable experiences with OPIRG too. He got involved with Waste Reduction for two years and one fo the tasks that was assigned to him is to do an audit of waste of the University that involved sorting out one day's worth of garbage and weighing it. "Sorting through a couple of tons of garbage is a big and unpleasant job except for the fun people that you get to do it with, which makes it much more pleasant," he explains. Scott has also worked with other members to produce the OPIRG newsletter on a number of occasions with the other staff and mentioned how supportive everyone was. All these experiences and all the people he met during his years in OPIRG has made signimcant contributions to mnding his cause. "I'm still very involved in social change work, and much of my writing relates to social and political issues and social movements." Currently, Scott is residing in Sudbury and is balancing his time being a writer, an activist and a parent. As of the moment, he is involved in a movement called Sudbury Against War and Oppression, and a related group called Justice for Freedom for John Moore, which is focused on supporting a wrongfully convicted Ojibwe man in search of justice.

He is also a part of an an advisory board of a radical political journal called Upping the Anti. In terms of writing, Scott does a lot of blog-based writing in his blog site A Canadian Lefty in Occupied Land (http://scottneigh.blogspot.com). He is also mnishing a book project which is tentatively

titled Talking Radical. The book revolves around oral history interviews with long-time activists from different Canadian social movements with historical and political presented in his own voice. It is set to be published on Fall 2012. He is also a father of a seven-year-old son to whom, he said, most of his energy is focused. "I wouldn't describe OPIRG as the cause, but involvement in it was certainly an important early step when I was just starting to mgure things out," he stated when asked about the impact of OPIRG in his life.

Years with OPIRG surely had a great impact to both Rabea and Scott but for Zsuzsi Fodor, another OPIRG alumna, all she needed was one summer gig with OPIRG to realize her true calling. "That summer propelled me in to what has since then and will continue to be my life's work," she mentioned. Zsuzsi started as a volunteer for one of OPIRG's former working groups called NonViolenceNow. Later on, she did a summer research for OPIRG that turned to her undergarduate thesis on the alternative/local food system in Hamilton. From there, she founded and coordinated a working group called PEAS: Promoting Eating Alternatively and Sustainably which initiated From Seed to Scrap food system bus tour of Hamilton and has been adopted in part by HSR and Environment Hamilton Eat Local's Rural Routes bus tours. She and other members of PEAS working group have started a community kitchen in partnership with St. Paul's church in Westdale for students and community members. "OPIRG gave me the chance to be self-directed and explore how the food movement and alternative food landscape was coming alive in Hamilton," she added. Aside


from her experiences, Zsuzsi also remembered all the people she worked with by telling stories of how they are a family in OPIRG. She says that their tiny space of an ofmce is "a place where best of intentions and expressions for the city of Hamilton" were born out. As of present time, Zsuzsi is mnishing up a Master's Degree in Planning at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and is doing a research on community development, social planning, food systems planning, and the intersection of these areas within the city. She is still connected to a Public Research Interest Group through SFPIRG (at Simon Fraser University in the Greater Vancouver area). Truly, Rabea, Scott and Zsuzsi had contributed a lot to the community since their humble beginnings with OPIRG but upon hearing their stories, it also became clear that OPIRG did not just touch the lives of the people of the community through them. OPIRG has also made a signimcant contribution to the lives of these alumni who worked behind every cause; contributions that made them continue their work and still devote their time and effort to make the world a better place. With all negativity, war, and violence happening around us, isn't that nice to know? Dig The Community Gardens! by Meghan Dertinger A city-run community garden established in 1997 (the community garden was established by the RBG before 1997. In 1997 the city took over the management) has passed to the management of a group of OPIRG volunteers this year. The garden, consisting of seventy-mve individual plots, is located at Churchill Park. City gardeners, usually with little or no gardening space of their own, pay a small fee to use a piece of this tilled and fertilized land. The fenced-in space is host to water spigots, gardening tools, and most importantly a community of individuals connecting with the earth, their food, and each other. When the city announced that they would defer responsibility of all three of its community gardens in Dundas, Victoria Park and Churchill Park to (community collectives or) non-promt groups, OPIRG McMaster advertized the opportunity.


However, when no one stepped forward, OPIRG’s own Cecilia Irazuzta decided to spearhead the project. Together with a group of OPIRG Board Members, (gardeners), and community enthusiasts, Cecilia oversaw the transition of legal and logistic responsibilities from City to volunteer hands. In a decision passed by the OPIRG Board of Directors in March, OPIRG McMaster became the licensees of the Churchill Park garden. Cecilia clarimed OPIRG’s role in an interview, saying that OPIRG McMaster would oversee the formation of volunteer committees rather than actively running the garden. This way the stability of OPIRG as an organization could ensure the continuity of the project, while each year a separate group of volunteers would manage the garden. Over half of last year’s participants are returning to garden this year, some of whom have been working the soil at Churchill Park for over mve years. Community gardens are growing in popularity, and appearing all over Hamilton.

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