What We Learned From the Poverty Insights Workshop

Last week, we were invited to join other leaders from the city in the Poverty Insights Workshop hosted by The Scott Mission. Over the course of the day, we heard about the different aspects of poverty from experts in the field of Refugees Arrivals (Anne Woolger, Matthew House Toronto), Human Trafficking (Malcolm Wilson, Durham Police), and Child Poverty (David Rivard, Children's Aid Society of Toronto). During their talks, they were given the opportunity to share their successes, challenges, and their dream on how we can all play a part together. 

A small Player on a LARGE Team

What “ignites” your passion? Is it friends, family, Sydney Crosby or Pinterest?

It seems that everywhere I turn, there is bad news. Refugee crisis, ISIS attacks, oil downturns, uncertain global market conditions, starving children, and the list only goes on.

My human nature desires to help, but I end up grieving these tragedies, feeling helpless. Everything seems so far away and my ability to help doesn’t really seem to be a reality, and would I really make a difference?

A good friend of mine, Houston Cheung has been involved with an organization helping families in our backyard, Toronto. I had no idea of the extent of the very real needs within our own city that were being met. So, when Houston asked me to consider becoming a member of Toronto City Mission board of directors I was excited for the opportunity to serve God in a new and fresh way.

At the time, I couldn’t anticipate the impact that TCM would have on me in a such a short time. The very committed staff went to great lengths to not only make me feel welcome, but to explain in detail the needs of their communities in which they serve. In addition, our volunteers throughout the organization were equally enthusiastic and clearly indicated the need to back fill positions as we continue to grow. Their passion was a true inspiration for me to get involved and to invest in building relationships as they do, into the people that we serve.

As a Christian in the workplace it can be a challenge to put others first and serve my team members, however, just like our kids that come from struggling financial situations I must lean on others to help me through this process.

Here is what has ignited my passion for TCM:

Watching the smiling faces of kids and families impacted by poverty, who attend our programs like Kids in Community and Sonshine Day Camp. These programs are not only a gift to the kids, but is a way to communicate our love to the parents, most of who are struggling to make ends meet with 2 jobs, and a full family. As a recent parent, nothing speaks louder, than someone loving and taking extra care with my child. What a gift to be able to offer this joy to others.

Speaking of “ignite”, on April 19th, I would love for you to join me at IGNITE 2016: Sparking Hope in Our City. This event will showcase our programs and staff and the impact on the various communities we serve. There is no cost to attend, we look forward to seeing you on April 19th.

Kyle at SpikeBack 2016

Kyle at SpikeBack 2016

Kyle Peterson grew up in Thunder Bay, played Hockey at Michigan Tech and spent 2 years in the Edmonton Oilers organization. He works for Hewitt Equipment in Sales. He is an active member of The Meeting House Downtown, where he and his wife host a home church.

Why I Support Toronto City Mission

By Grace Boneschansker

 It all started in 1982 when George, my husband, was first hired by the Toronto City Mission  (TCM )  as a summer intern and then full time as a boy's director, in the fall. He led after-school Bible clubs in various parts of the city, a floor hockey program in the evening, canoe trips in the summer, and generally drove Don Patterson, the executive director at the time, crazy throughout the year.  George's fondest memories occurred during his first summer there, when he learned the joy of performing puppet shows. There are still about 70 puppets in the house and about 40 original puppet scripts.  He says, "The spirit is still willing but the arms are weak".     

To this day, George is involved in children's ministry such as directing our church's plays and still loves interacting with the Sunday School kids in our church.

For me, it’s all about relationship building.  Once you develop a relationship with someone, you have the opportunity to speak into that person's life. I love that philosophy that Toronto City Mission (TCM) lives by. Both of our daughters had the opportunity to work with TCM and develop those types of relationships.

Shannon, our eldest, was a summer intern in 2002.  She shares with me a story of tutoring a young boy named Robbie*. "Robbie was smart but not always keen on schoolwork, and I suppose the rote nature of spelling may not have been his cup of tea.  But over time, it was a joy to watch Robbie steadily improve and get better grades... as well as find out more about his world. The last I heard he was completing an aerospace engineering program at university."

Jennifer with TCM kids, 2010

Jennifer with TCM kids, 2010

Lastly our youngest, Jennifer describes her most memorable moment.  As a summer intern in 2009 and Outreach Worker from 2010 - 2012, she led a lively after school program for children. One individual proved to be quite the handful.  She recalls, "Despite the challenges of working with Stan*, I began to develop a close relationship with him.  I discovered that he felt trapped in his perceived identity as the 'bad kid.'   He really just wanted to be loved."

In a creative object lesson, she illustrated God's grace by taping pieces of paper with different sins written on them to an intern.   She then explained to the children how we have all done wrong.  Sometimes we feel like we are trapped and even though we want to do good things, we just can't. She starts to take off all of those labels that were taped to the intern and explains that because of the cross, God can take all those sins away from us. The only thing we need to do is be willing to let him.

"I remember Stan's face light up as I said the words.  'So, you don't have to do good things on your own?',  he asked me, in complete surprise. "  He continued,  'I don't need to keep on doing bad things?"  For the first time in his life, Stan understood what God's grace really means.

The impact that TCM has on children will then influence their families, their communities, and perhaps the entire city and beyond. That's why I support TCM, where the dividends are far greater than financial.  It's an investment in transformed lives.

There's an old African proverb that says, "It takes a village to raise a child”, this exemplifies TCM's outreach to children and families.  I think of all the parents, TCM staff, volunteers, and supporters (both financially and prayerfully) that are all involved in some way to build into these children's lives positive and biblical values that will serve them well in the years to come.  With this support, I believe we can break the cycle of poverty by engaging our communities impacted by poverty through programs that educate, support and encourage them to do their best, where God is at the centre.

*Names have been changed to protect their identity.