Rooting Out Racism —

                      A Family Affair

As an activist in Toronto, Daniel Braithwaite made sure the book Little Black Sambo was banned in Toronto schools in the 1950s ; his daughter, Jane, continues to spread his social justice legacy in Peterborough area schools.

By Melodie McCullough

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Jane Braithwaite

Jane Braithwaite is lucky.

By the time she was old enough to start kindergarten in Toronto in 1956, the children’s story book Little Black Sambo  — considered to be racist by the Black community and many others  — had been banned from all public schools in the city.  She did not have to endure the taunts, racial slurs, insults and humiliation that so many other African Canadian children, including her father and older brother, had suffered, prompted by the story.

That’s because her father, Daniel Braithwaite, was responsible for seeing the book banned. Social justice was his passion. He ate, slept and breathed fairness.

Today, as an occasional teacher with the local separate school board in Peterborough, Ontario and area, Jane teaches new generations of children about social justice and carries on her father’s legacy.  Continue reading

Forty-Three Years Sheltering Women:

Lynn Zimmer Still Leads the Way 


By Melodie McCullough

Do you know Lynn Zimmer?

Maybe you have met her through the Women’s Business Network of Peterborough, or perhaps through her volunteer work with the United Way of Peterborough and District, or the Community Foundation of Greater Peterborough, or as chair of the local police board for four years.

Then again, maybe you are one of the thousands of women she has helped over the more than 40 years she has acted on behalf of women fleeing violence and abuse.

Zimmer, as a founding member of the first women’s shelter in Canada in Toronto in 1973, has led the way. She’s been executive director of the YWCA Peterborough Haliburton for 33 years now, and she isn’t ready to stop any time soon.

She oversees a staff of 76 at four locations: the administrative, counselling and advocacy site on Simcoe Street, the Crossroads Women’s Shelter, and a 40-unit housing complex for women who have escaped violence, all in Peterborough; and the HERS women’s shelter and counselling centre in Minden in Haliburton County.

The shelters are two of over 600 shelters in Canada, with over 12,000 beds serving around 60,000 women and children a year – providing emergency shelter, transition housing, and safe home networks in private homes in remote rural areas, funded by all levels of government, and recognised as a vital service to women everywhere.

But, of course, it wasn’t always that way.

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Music to Soothe the Soul

Hospice Peterborough’s Bedside Singers Reach Out to Palliative Patients  

By Melodie McCullough 


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Singers left to right: Martha Comfort, Anne Campbell, Julie Stoneberg, Judy Foster

It is a gift for both the ones receiving and the ones giving. 

For the past seven years, a group of Hospice Peterborough, Ontario, volunteers have been singing at bedsides in the palliative care unit at Peterborough Regional Health Centre or in people’s homes to bring comfort and solace to the dying. 

“It’s not something everyone can do, and it’s not always easy,” said volunteer Kate Jarrett, who has been with the Bedside Singers since the program began. “But it is an honour for us to go in and be present and surround that bedside.” 

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Compassion, Commitment and Guts:

Meet Kathy Hardill, Street Nurse

“All diseases have two causes: one pathological, the other political.”: Rudolf Virchow, 19th Century German pathologist.

By Melodie McCullough

Every week, street nurse Kathy Hardill roams the streets of downtown Peterborough with her backpack of condoms, socks, mittens, band-aids, dressing supplies – and her business card; wandering into drop-in centres or where free meals are served, reaching out to the homeless, the sex workers, the mentally ill, the drug-addicted, and anyone else she finds in need of health care.

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Kathy Hardill

It’s perverse, she says. That the nursing specialty of “street nurse” — something that has grown exponentially since the late 1980s — exists in a rich country like Canada is something Hardill finds hard to fathom.

But she knows, because it’s so desperately needed, that it’s not going to disappear any time soon. She also knows it doesn’t happen in a sparkling clean hospital or a nine-to-five doctor’s office. It deals with lonely people on the margins of society — and it can be messy.

It requires compassion, commitment and fortitude.

But there’s one more thing Hardill knows — it just might be the best job on the planet. Continue reading