Those who Promote Peace Through the Rupert Report

From our Community Kitchen Coordinator, Simeon:

Each week, over the sounds and smells of an active kitchen, I hear the stories – stories whose affects last long after the food is gone. They are stories of life, living closely together, the struggles of keeping health or the fight against isolation, and the bountiful opportunities for care and support that seem so attractive, and all too common, if we just had the time…

Over the past 12 months, I have been lucky to have the time to hear these stories of peace and those who promote it and I have grown to admire the “news roundups” – something that I have affectionately come to call “The Rupert Report.”

The Rupert Report comes together with the preparation of lunch from the trickle of Beulah Garden residents that attend this senior’s Community Kitchen (CK), which is hosted in the Rupert Residence. Every other week, when the CK convenes, participants share news of those who are currently too frail to attend appointments or catch the bus by themselves to get groceries. Solutions are offered, right there and then, to these common problems that beset the elderly who live alone.

As we chop vegetables and stir broth, I hear exclamations of delight, as neighbours report the delivery of food to neighbours returning from family travels weary and yet to fill the pantry. I hear the list of who is in or out of hospital and where and when visiting times are scheduled. The Rupert Community Kitchen in reality, is hub of sharing – a time, not just for eating, but for meeting and organising around the needs and wants of fellow residents – whether they come to the CK or not.

Each and every one of these Rupert Residents are seasoned individuals from a diversity of family backgrounds and rich life histories who come together out of the shared need for one another and for the camaraderie and social interaction that we all seek with our neighbours and those in need around us (in this case around the dining table!)

Whether they realise it or not, the members of the CK have formed deeper relationships over the year, that reach back into their shared place of residence. Not only is food brought forth from these stories, but reflection of the shalom we seek when two or three gather together and I am blessed and reminded of this peace every time I attend and listen to the Rupert Report. The hope is that this kind of interpersonal love and care spreads throughout the Beulah Gardens community and beyond!

“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’” – The Message

Rupert’s Community Kitchen was established in the Summer of 2014 as a social initiative in partnership with Beulah Garden Homes Chaplain, Mary Dickau. Under the continuing mentorship of our Community Kitchen Coordinator, Simeon Pang, a group of residents from the Rupert Building have grown in confidence as they share the responsibility of suggesting menu ideas, selecting recipes, prepping and cooking with one another, accompanying one another to and from the kitchen, as well as developing more stable relationships outside of the CK, within their own building complex. The CK is part of a raft of community-building activities organised around the Rupert Building to encourage and build social interaction and strength through relationships.

First Taste of Food Security

Written by Planted Volunteer, Angelina Lam

Food security is an issue for people living in poverty. Having adequate foods and a safe place to eat can be difficult. However, a quaint community café at a little corner of West 10th Ave makes dining possible even for vulnerable individuals.

This summer through a UBC course on HIV Prevention & Care, I was given an opportunity to volunteer at the Oasis Community Café. I quickly learned that Oasis is unlike other community kitchens and hot meal programs. Instead of serving foods in an assembly line fashion, Oasis has shifted into a full dining service where guests can enjoy their meals and socialize with their friends without being rushed out the door.

The purpose of Oasis is to bring together individuals and build a stronger community. Although there is a small dining fee of $1, it is flexible for those who cannot afford it. Individuals are welcome to volunteer and in return meal coupons would be given as a honourium. There are currently volunteers and staff who were past participants and were hired to help run the café. Not only does Oasis provide means to food security but also opportunities for individuals to develop working experiences.

Oasis Community Café goes beyond just providing nutritious meals for their guests; they also provide extra food to take away to help with food insecurity when able. The importance of community engagement is also highlighted through their community garden in which herbs and vegetables are grown and picked in season as ingredients for their meals.

Increasing dining experience for guests is important. Dining tables are decorated with colourful tablecloths and flowers are used as centerpieces for the coffee table. Guests are greeted as customers and waited on to eliminate any power imbalance between guests and volunteers. This welcoming environment encourages guests to visit again so continued access to healthy, safe and nutritious foods is possible.

My experience at Oasis increased my understanding of how community services can help increase engagement to health care. Without meeting basic food requirements an individual will have to worry about hunger as well as health care concerns. We need more community services like Oasis to improve food security, decrease barriers to care and to empower individuals with skills through social support and volunteerism.

Angelina is studying to be a dietitian at UBC. She is interested in learning about the complex challenges of hunger and health. In the future, Angelina wishes to work in the community and develop programs and resources that are accessible to everyone.

Everybody Copes: Understanding Addiction

Written by: Cristel Moubarak, RD

There are various explanations for addiction, and many degrading descriptions for those suffering from it. But are addicts really that different from the average Joe?

Well… not really. The primary difference is the coping mechanism. Can any of us go through life without coping?

The Union Gospel Mission counselors and the Planted Network put together an engaging workshop to explain the make-up of addictions and the science surrounding it. It turns out that the line between addict and not is pretty thin.

Everyone goes through traumatic, tragic or emotionally unbearable and overwhelming experiences. Many feel better by making impulsive purchases, eating chocolate, taking long baths and watching their favorite shows. Others numb the pain with some alcohol, cigarettes or any drugs that may be within their reach. You would not shame someone for having a few too many shopping sprees, but you would if they had a few too many drinks. So, in this sense, everyone is an addict, in one way or another.

There are three aspects, and contributing factors, to understanding addiction:

Relationships & Environment

All addictions have a direct correlation to the environment and relationships of the addict. The type of connections you have with the people around you – healthy, abusive or otherwise – have a profound effect on how you see the world around you, and how you learn to cope with the traumas of life. This is true of all addicts, regardless of other factors involved.

The impact we can have on those around us, by reinforcing stereotypes or lifting someone above them, is tremendous. Shame has never elevated someone above his or her circumstances, nor inspired greatness. Addiction is a vicious cycle that cannot, and will not, be broken through shame, disgust or anger.

Brain Function, Genetics & Psychology

While your personality, your life experiences and relationships have a definitive say in developing addictions, your genetics could be a contributing factor. This is a fact one must be aware of, that predispositions can, and do, make it harder for some to make healthy choices.

But, perhaps more compelling is the reality that our physiology makes it harder for any of us to make good decisions when in emotionally trying circumstances.

In simplistic terms, we have two parts to our brain, each responsible for something a little different. When working in tandem, we have a healthy balance. When unbalanced, it is reflected in the quality of our lives, and our choices. The Prefrontal Cortex is the ‘logic’ centre of our brains. It allows us to weigh pros and cons, facts, and consequences. The Limbic System is responsible for our emotions and much of our ‘autopilot’ behaviours; the things we do when we react, when we aren’t really ‘aware’ of what we’re doing. When we are emotionally aroused, when we are upset or angry, ashamed or embarrassed, our Limbic System is running the ship and we are incapable of making truly rational or logical decisions. We will make our choices based on what ‘feels’ good, or right. We will choose what is easy, convenient or immediate.

Food & Nutrition

Just as potent is our hunger. When we are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired (HALT) we are more prone to making poor decisions, as we begin to slip into the Limbic System. We know that emotions can be a trigger to poor judgement, and most can admit to making more than one bad decision due to a lack of sleep.

Commercials abound, making light of the reality that low blood-sugars, poor diet, and a basic lack of food make you not you. When we have a healthy relationship with food, we fuel our bodies in the way needed to make good, positive decisions. But food and eating are also a bonding exercise. A good meal can heal emotional wounds, form new relationships or rekindle old ones. Sharing a meal can be a source of great comfort, and serve as a balancing agent for our hearts and minds.

If you or someone you know is going through adversities and in need of help to cope with the overwhelming influx of emotions, it is better to act sooner than later. Get professional help from those who are able to help you through your recovery process wherever it may be at.

We all cope; some of us just need help finding healthier alternatives. You may feel lonely, but you are definitely not alone. Here is a helpful resource list by the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.