The Options Committee of Making Kenora Home is proposing the sixth poverty challenge, A Walk in Other’s Shoes. This year, we have asked our local business community to take the challenge.

Participants have been asked to attempt to stay within a social assistance benefits’ budget. A single person on Ontario Works would receive $305 per month, $10.00 per day, or $50.00 for the five-day period. A couple would receive $468 per month, allowing a daily budget of $15.60 or $78.00 for five days.

The budget includes all food and drink, entertainment, some personal supplies and transportation costs. Each participant will be given a daily challenge card, which will reveal an additional challenge to be completed before the end of each day.

The participants will experience some of the hurdles that people living on social assistance face. It is hoped that the event will raise awareness and break barriers for people living in poverty. The challenge takes place February 16th until February 21st, 2016.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

The End

Marion used a cloth and toothpaste to clean her teeth.
She made a delicious lunch with left over Spanish rice with tuna mixed in and added sautéed mushrooms and onions on the side with sweet potato fries.
Add to the inventory, three rolls of toilet paper, most of a tube of toothpaste and something else that I can't remember.
We made it! We are free to go back to our lives which now seem rather opulent after these five days. Thank to God for looking after us.

Day 5 begins

Breakfast of oatmeal complete. Looking forward to food security.
Daily challenge: The dog ate my toothbrush.
First of all, Zoey would not do that.
Secondly, we are too poor to have a dog.
Thirdly, I will go to Dr. Dean Kozak's office a ask them if they will give me two toothbrushes, assuming the dog ate both. Dean used to be our dentist before we were poor. He and his wife Melanie go to Haiti and provide dental work for the poor. His older brother went to school with my son.
If the above doesn't work, then I will try the dollar store or ask for one at one of the hotels or try the Minto Resource Centre or use my finger.
Off for Zoey's walk and then off to work, today for the church and an errand for Rotary. Just like the old days, only a half day on Saturday. We are not very good at retirement. By continuing to work at volunteer activities, we at least have not lost our holidays and weekends like fully retired people.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Day 4

A very busy day. I took my lunch with me: 1/4 of the second French bread loaf that Marion made, a carrot, some broccoli and half of a left over pancake that we made earlier.
Marion, the brains in this outfit, figured out that to deal with the medical appointment challenge in Winnipeg, per our daily challenge, we would call our Ontario Works case worker and they would provide a voucher for transportation and $100/night if we had to stay over. If we are not on Ontario Works and one of our much too large population of working poor, then it gets a lot trickier. We would ask a friend who has internet to post our need for a ride to and from Winnipeg and hope to catch a ride with someone. Failing this, Marion would ask her son who lives in Winnipeg to pick us up, a large cost for him.
Marion used up some left over rice,  beans and carrot, and mixed it with chopped onion and garlic and made it up like a stew for lunch.
We just finished supper and it was a pot of Spanish rice made like we did earlier in the week, except I forgot to add half a tin of tuna, and added sautéed mushrooms with onion and garlic. I used a half a cube of chicken bouillon in each of the rice and mushrooms for flavour.
Tomorrow is day five and we are sitting in good shape on food. Our inventory includes: 1/3 of our flour, 1/2 bag of rice, 1 tin tuna, 1/2 can of coffee, 1 packet of yeast, 5 1/2 packets of baking powder, 2/3 bag of oats, 7 eggs, 100 grams of mushrooms, 2/3 of our pinto beans (cooked), 3 onions, 1 crown of broccoli, 2/3 sweet potato, 3 cubes of chicken bouillon and almost a full bottle of oil. Total value of groceries left is $17. If we would have had to pay for bus fare this week to go back and forth to our volunteer "jobs" we would not have made it.
We are really looking forward to a real meal with real protein and not having to worry about whether we can afford it. How much would it suck to not have that to look forward to?
Our meals have been pretty decent, but we spent way too much energy and time dealing with food and food insecurity.
Now I want to read our poverty buddies' blogs and then finish up some homework left over from a busy day. Wouldn't mind sipping a libation while doing so. I guess that is still water for today. Again, we have something to look forward to and if we were in this for real, we wouldn't.

Day 4

Good Morning All. Well have the elation of a FREE breakfast yesterday, we are back down to earth with a solid crunch this morning. Our daily challenge is that we have a doctor's appointment in Winnipeg and must assume we don't have a car. Greyhound is $44.70. It costs more than that to drive anyway. We just cannot come up with $45for a trip to Winnipeg, so we must:
  1. Find out if there is any assistance for this.
  2. Post on social media to see if someone is going to Winnipeg and the work on a ride back. I can stay with the kids in Winnipeg if I have to stay over. Lucky for that.
  3. Marion hasn't had her coffee yet, so I won't ask her until later. She is the brains in this outfit.
I have to go to work for Rotary now, so will get back to this later. BIG Challenge!!
Being poor can be depressing. Thank goodness we had some joy yesterday. We must find a way to spread joy after we get to walk out of poverty on the weekend.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Free Breakfast

What an interesting start to Day 3! This morning was our Rotary Club's monthly Fellowship Breakfast. I had told our president, Patty McLeod, that I could not attend due to the poverty challenge. She insisted that I come and share our experiences in the challenge with our members and that she would buy me breakfast. This was a generous offer and a great opportunity to share the challenges. I decided on the way to breakfast that I would share the information, but decline breakfast, as it was really against the rules. Our group were quite interested in the challenge and had good questions.
When I was done my presentation and ready to leave, I received a text from Marion letting me know that our daily challenge was in fact a bonus: FREE BREAKFAST. We could have breakfast outside of our daily allowance. We decided to cook breakfast from our larder that is outside of our five day supply of food, rather than go out for breakfast.
We have spent two days watching every morsel of food for cost and making sure that we could make it through the week and passing on many of the foods we enjoy because they are outside of our budget. What excitement to make a breakfast without regard for budget nor quantity! We indulged in an omelet made with FOUR eggs, CHEESE and onion; toast and jam, sautéed broccoli, orange juice and yogurt with blueberries and cinnamon. What a feast! This event brought such elation into our budget stressed lives. We must find a way to share this sort of bonus in order to bring elation to others.
Some further observations:
I keep saying that I do not know how someone on Ontario Works could purchase all the basic supplies needed such as dish soap, laundry soap, personal soap, shampoo, conditioner, shaving supplies, deodorant, Kleenex, etc. Well I do know and I was reminded of it by one of the Rotarians: we would have to go for meals at the different shelters until we saved enough to buy this stuff.
We could go to the Minto Resource Centre and purchase some of our basic groceries at their discounted prices.
We could try cheating the system and claiming to be single. That would increase our allowance for basic needs to $610/month from $468/month and it would increase our accommodation allowance to $762/month from $609/month.
Living in poverty sure encourages one to think about bending or breaking the rules.
The allowances sound so much better when expressed in monthly amounts. $610/month is $10/day/person. Now it doesn't look like so much.
So we are off and running into day 3 and what a wonderful start it is. We have soup and bread for lunch that we made last night. Supper will be another culinary delight created from beans, mushrooms and sweet potato.
We have two unknown challenges to meet and only $4 in the kitty.
Many people are not this fortunate.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Weekly Specials

Now that hurts a little. I just received the weekly specials flyer from Consumers Frosted Foods.

Day 2 Continued

We just enjoyed a very good meal. We used up almost one third of the pinto beans that we soaked overnight and cooked today. Marion mashed some up in the late afternoon and mixed them with 1/3 of a chopped onion. We scooped this mixture onto a couple of slices of the flatbread that we made last night and this was our late afternoon snack. Marion usually has tea in the afternoon and she is getting by without it by either drinking hot water or watered down espresso coffee.
Back to dinner. I mixed the crushed beans with chopped onion, chopped garlic and the other half of the canned tuna from last night. This was then fried and turned out a little like fish cakes. Add to this some white rice cooked with a chicken cube, chopped carrot and chopped onion and some steamed broccoli. Marion made French Bread (2 loaves) this afternoon using the whole wheat flour and yeast, so we had half a loaf with dinner, froze a loaf and have some bread to go with the soup that is cooking for lunch tomorrow. We still have about 1/3 of our flour left.
We saved all of the peels from the vegetables, including the sweet potato which will be made into fries for supper tomorrow. The peels are cooking in water on the stove. In about an hour or so, I will take out the peels, add some chicken cubes, a chopped onion, garlic and two carrots and that will be soup for the next couple of days.
We are comfortable that we have enough food to make it through and we will have some left over. What we are concerned about is the challenges, because we only have $4 left. We are encouraged because supper was pretty good, tasty even and we are feeling full.