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Community rich with opportunity

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
“Wow!” That is what I thought when I learned that there would be over sixty presenters at Registration Night, Thursday, Sept. 5, at the Camrose Field House, 4516 54 Avenue. Truly, there will be opportunities for students, young adults, and older folks, too, to “sign up” for participation in a wide array of interests including a variety of the arts, numerous sports activities, crafts, writing, public speaking, astronomy, genealogy, youth organizations, and much, much more – as well as many openings for volunteer service in charitable and community service organizations. We are fortunate to have a community event such as Registration Night, in which families can make ‘one call do it all’ for each of the children and for parents as well.

A whole community benefits when a family participates in activities outside their own private little circle.

Students who are involved in team sports learn to think beyond themselves, to be team players in the whole game of life. The ripple effect has the potential to extend into their social relationships as they work and play with those who live in circumstances and perhaps cultures different than their own. It tends to enhance their sense of well-being. Students who do volunteer work become more motivated because it helps them to see the relevance of their classroom education in addressing the many needs in their own community and injustices in the world around them. As their social network expands, even youth who previously displayed antisocial tendencies begin to care more about the welfare of others and have an increased desire to give something back to the places in which they live.

People of any age who participate in groups of common interest and objectives, benefit from the camaraderie. Being included tends to dispel feelings of loneliness and isolation; they are less likely to be involved in drug abuse, violence of any kind, or suffer from mental illness. They tend to develop a greater sense of social responsibility and take a greater interest in civic affairs. They tend to become more aware of the effect of political decisions on community life; they tend to see more clearly that rights and privileges of citizenship come with a price – responsibility to maintain the freedoms which our ancestors won and which we enjoy today.

May we take advantage of the many varied ways in which each of us has the opportunity to be included in community affairs, then enjoy the direct benefits to ourselves, and reap the rewards of ‘giving back’ according to our ability. Registration Night, Sept. 5, facilitates getting involved.

Long may we live and learn!

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013
Because of my age, I am one of few local residents who knew almost all of the persons who have been honoured as founders of Camrose when they were still alive - persons such as the first teacher, Signi Spokkeli, who lived next door to us; Frank Layton, who lived across the street; Francois Adam, who, in horse and buggy days, had the foresight to plan a main street for Camrose that would be 100 feet wide, and whose 94th birthday party I attended. But, of all former honourees selected, it was Dr. Chester Ronning, this year's honouree, that I knew best and who had a good influence on my life.

I took a post-secondary business course at Camrose Lutheran College (now Augustana) in 1938-39 when Chester Ronning was principal. I was an extremely shy girl even though I had already completed high school (not at CLC). I clearly remember my fears as I climbed the steps of Old Main to register for a business course offered there. Because it was such a small college with small staff, Mr. Ronning was also the registrar that day. Although he was already a well-known public figure, I had never seen the man before. When he stood to greet me, I noted that he was very tall and looked like a man in command - I believe youth today would use the word ‘awesome'. Despite my shyness, his warm smile, cordial handshake and kindly manner dissipated my uneasiness within a moment. His voice was mellow and easygoing as he completed the procedure and, when I left, I descended the steps of Old Main with brand new self-confidence and optimism for the future.

When I graduated, with typing, stenographic and bookkeeping skills and some knowledge of commercial law, I was offered employment in the CLC office which meant working directly with principal Ronning part of the time. By example, he inspired one to pursue excellence, to think beyond one's self, and to care about others. He had a profound influence for good on my life.

In conclusion, I thank all those involved in bringing us the annual Founders Days celebration. Knowledge of history, and especially the men and women who played a role in the development of the great community in which we live today, is helpful to those whose actions now will determine our future.

In his sunset years, Chester Ronning, the educator and world respected diplomat, said, "Live until you are old; learn until you are old, and still there is so much left to learn."

Long may we live and learn!

Preparing for Electronic Voting

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
Interest in the upcoming civic election is perking and the aroma of electioneering coffee is in the air. Imminent is the declaration of another candidate running for a seat on Camrose council and also a Dan Jensen story, (in this issue of The Booster) which outlines some significant changes regarding the voting process.

In previous civic elections in Camrose, counting the votes has taken many hours, thus making results unavailable to the electorate until the next morning. This fall's election is expected to be different. Because of plans to replace pencils and paper ballots with electronic voting machines, the results should be known in about an hour after polls close.

The returning officer and her assistant have become familiar with the operation of the electronic equipment and have reported that it is very user-friendly; they both agreed that it is very simple to use. During the month of September, voters will have the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the machines if they wish to do so. Electronic voting has been successfully used by other jurisdictions in previous civic elections.

There will be other changes in this fall's civic election. It is important to pay early attention to the requirements for personal identification for two reasons: some of them may take a while to get; and, most importantly, if you arrive at the polling station without them, you will not be able to vote. How disappointing would that be?

Nomination Day for civic elections in Alberta will be held on the third Monday in September for mayor and councillors of cities, towns and villages, county councillors, and school board trustees. Election Day will follow on the third Monday of October.

We can't repeat too often that our participation in elections is vitally important to each of us, Why? Because the decisions made by those elected will affect every one of us - for better or for worse.

To have your voice represented on council or school board, offer yourself as a candidate, nominate someone that you think would make thoughtful decisions on the basis of reliable information, and by casting a vote yourself on election day.

“Mom, let me read to you!”

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013
Imagine you are lost and standing alone on a street corner in a country in which you could not speak the language spoken there nor recognize the symbols of their writing. You have no guide but there are dozens of written signs all around you. They are intended to tell you where you are, where to find the services you want, and how to get there, but they are of no help because you cannot read them. This could happen to a Canadian who has travelled to an Asian country or one in the Middle East.

Actually, it could, and in fact does happen to Canadians right here at home - both immigrants and Canadian-born adults. Impossible, you say, because everyone in our country goes to school. Be that as it may, statistics tell us that over forty percent of adult Canadians are not able to read at a level that enables them to function fully in community life in our own country. They may have some literacy skills but are still unable to read street signs; menus at a restaurant; instructions on medicine labels, recipes, manuals describing the assembly, installation and use of machines, furniture, toys, computers, whatever. Even today's sophisticated computers, with much faster than human mind capabilities, have not eliminated the need for reading ability. One cannot use the internet, or communicate via facebook or twitter if unable to read.

Lack of literacy skills is one of the major causes of a lifetime of low income. A literacy-deficient adult may have promising potential as a tradesperson but is unable to pass a written exam, unable to fill out an application form, or, if employed, be unable to advance to higher levels because of inability to handle the ‘bookwork'.

Educators and statisticians have found that the ability to read is an essential foundational pillar to all other academic learning. If a youngster falls behind grade level in reading skills early in his or her school years, he or she will slip farther and farther behind in subsequent years and will often become a school drop-out. If so, he or she is likely to face a future of under-employment or permanent unemployment and even poverty.

Knowing this has made my attendance at the annual graduation ceremonies of Reading University a very satisfying and even emotional experience. Reading University is a four-week summer program to help grades one and two students reach their grade level of skill in reading before the beginning of the next school year and also help them develop a life-long love of readng. The program was initiated by the Battle River Community Foundation and implemented in partnership with the Battle River School Division and the Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta. A generous portion of the funding comes from community donors. At the program-culminating exercises, I find it indeed inspiring to hear each teacher's report on the progress of each student, and fun to see the child graduands eagerly climb the podium steps to receive their completion certificates from a fully-robed University dean (or vice dean). The emotional involvement happens when a parent describes, with the deepest gratitude, her child who would previously listen to a story but never try to read it, change to a youngster who says, "Mom, let me read to you."

Reading University holds the promise to make every day a success for every student and, eventually, adults who are able to participate fully in community life - also, lessen poverty.

Challenge: Prevent Poverty

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013
I have just read a Dan Jensen report about poverty in Camrose. It is based on information provided from Cody McCarroll, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Camrose; Margaret Holliston, director of Camrose and District Support Services; Elaine Hook, interim coordinator of Camrose NeighborAid; Randal Nickel, executive director of Camrose Open Door; and Statistics Canada.

It is appalling to learn that an estimated one hundred families in our city live on incomes below what is called the poverty level of income in Canada. It is shocking to learn that Alberta, a wealthy Canadian province, has the highest rate of income disparity, and that one-third of female-headed lone parent families live in conditions of poverty.

Because poverty is a self-perpetuating cycle, we must aim to stomp it out. Children who grow up in disadvantaged circumstances do not have equal opportunities which enable them to break out of the cycle. They are often undernourished which causes illness, absenteeism at school, poorer grades which diminishes hope and may lead to inadequate schooling and, as adults, unemployment, underemployment, and very limited choice of employment of any kind. Statistics tell us that many homeless or poorly housed persons are physically or mentally disabled, conditions that may have caused the poverty but, on the other hand, might have also been the outcome of childhood poverty.

As a community, Camrose is making a conscientious effort to alleviate the poverty we have through the agencies mentioned above. These services also have a component that has the potential to break the poverty cycle; that is good, however, more preventive action is required.

Despite unemployment in Alberta and across Canada, employers report that there is a shortage of persons with the skills to fill the job opportunities. The Government of Canada has recently announced a Canada Job Grant program with the objective of developing a labour force with the skills to match the job openings. That is a preventive step that should help.

Family break-up is also a major cause of poverty. Even high income earners suddenly face poverty when parents split - instead of two incomes to support one household, the same total income has to support two households, often leaving both parties in financial predicaments and children bewildered, confused and innocent victims. What can we do to stabilize family relationships? In this age of knowledge explosion and intellectual sophistication, we must search for ways to live which do not hurt others, like living by the Golden Rule: love one another; treat others as you would have them treat you!

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) is also a cause of poverty. FASD is caused by expectant mothers who imbibe in alcohol consumption while pregnant. This may cause irreparable and incurable brain damage to the fetus; it is often a sentence to life-long dependency which usually means poverty with little or no hope of breaking the cycle. FASD is completely preventable so it is imperative that each of us, as a private citizen and/or as part of a society, spread the word that together, we can help wipe it out and, in that way, help reduce poverty.

May we care for the poor among us and make poverty awareness and prevention a top priority!

Need vision, wisdom and foresight

Tuesday, July 16th, 2013
"How would you like to go out for some maple walnut ice cream?" asked my visitor.

"Sounds good to me," I replied, and off we went.

We drove the short distance to Mirror Lake Park by the Bill Fowler Centre. It was a popular spot on this typical Alberta summer evening with sun still high in a clear blue sky.

We took the one parking space left which was within sight of the children's playground area with its colorful slides, ladders and other attractions which delight children. Caretakers watched from adjacent picnic tables.

The spot also overlooked the popular walking trail which circles the lake and is part of the network of walking trails following the Stoney Creek as it winds its way through our picturesque little city. Off to the right we could see the image of the sharp-steepled white church beautifully mirrored in the calm lake. Although not in view at the moment, we knew there were elegant white swans paddling silently within the spray of the Rotary Club fountain a short distance away.

As we savoured our ice cream, along came the popular little train which does the two-kilometre circuit around the lake. It stopped to let a full load disembark and another lot of eager passengers get on board. With a toot, laughter, and arms waving good-byes, the little train was off again - with three more youngsters happily chasing the caboose.

This enjoyable outing turned my thoughts back some fifty plus years when local citizens were mulling the concept of beautification of our community. Business owners were encouraged to have planters full of summer blooms, residential owners to have tidy lawns and beautiful flower beds.

They also talked of spending public money to develop Mirror Lake Park and a scenic walking trail following Stoney Creek. Enthusiasm oscillated for several decades. Some folks favoured the concept of such community enhancements; others argued that spending hard-working taxpayers' dollars on parks and trails would be wasteful and irresponsible. Now, fifty to sixty years later, we are grateful for the foresight, wisdom and tenacity of those who would not let the vision of the public parks system wilt and die.

There is no question that our parks and trails system has improved the health of our citizenry. For almost forty years I lived adjacent to the park and its paved all-season trails; I observed its constant use, free of charge, by people of all ages - from toddlers in prams or sleds to disabled persons in wheel chairs. Rich or poor, they all came for physical and mental renewal and often social as well, as they walked, jogged, and cycled, or stopped to chat or rest with others doing the same.

Is the park system of economic benefit? It certainly boosts the sales of the ice cream vendor! Likewise, it is a tourist trap providing a place for children of travelling families to play while adults get lure information at the Bill Fowler Centre that keeps them here longer. Life-enhancing amenities attract commercial and industrial enterprises to a community because they choose locations in which their employees would want to live and thrive. Amenities and services attract retirees, too, who later become clients of our health and long term care services - the industry which accounts for our largest employer of both professional and trades persons. There is a precise line on the scale that marks the balance point between what some call wasteful spending and others a responsible use of taxpayers' dollars. May we have the vision, wisdom and foresight to find that balance point - and then make wise choices.

Good neighbours


Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

It is quite common to hear people say that we are not as neighbourly as we used to be, that we used to welcome new folks in our block but now we don't and, furthermore, some will confess that they don't really care. Those things may be true but there is evidence that people are as caring as they ever were - it may seem not to be so because the world has changed over a period of time and therefore people are expressing their concern for each other in ways that differ from ways of the past.

Let's look at changes in our own community in the last 100 years - we chose 100 years because it is a time span to which we can probably relate because Alberta, in 2005, celebrated its 100th anniversary as a province of the Dominion of Canada; Camrose celebrated its own 100th anniversary in 2005; and, in the last few years, Camrosians have been celebrating a number of 100-year anniversaries of establishments and organizations within its own boundaries - for example: Burgar Funeral Home, the opening of what is now Augustana Campus of the University of Alberta, the Camrose Board of Trade now known as Camrose Chamber of Commerce; the Camrose Ski Club.

Just over one hundred years ago, Camrose had a water well at the intersection of 50 Avenue and 50 Street for the purpose of sating the thirst of horses which brought mail to residents and customers to service providers open for business; outdoor toilets and oil lamps preceded the construction of sewer and power systems. There was no pavement and sidewalks were made of slats of wood. Almost all of Camrose, including business and residential areas, was contained within an eight-block area with numerous vacant spaces. It was easier to be neighbourly then, in fact, it was a necessity because people were more dependent on each other for care in times of emergency, and for socializing because of very limited mobility.

As is plain to see, Camrose is a different place and the world is a different place than it was a century ago, but disasters, like the recent flooding in southern Alberta, have provided plenty of evidence that people still care about the welfare of their neighbours. Because of growth and development, our neighbourhoods have expanded, too, far beyond the people next door or those in our own community. Folks from all over our province, indeed from all over our country, have shown their empathy by immediately offering assistance to those who have sustained great loss - in some cases everything they owned. Worthy of notice, too, is that people are not only rushing to aid family and friends but strangers as well; today neighbourliness extends to include all persons in need. Without such help, how could Calgary ever have been able to open its world-wide attraction of the year on schedule?

Other major disasters, anywhere in the world - the tsunamis, earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes, fires, drought - have brought out the best in compassionate human behaviour.

To be truly caring, we also must take seriously the warnings of the scientists who tell us that human activity is causing increasingly destructive weather. Let us heed and change our ways before there is no turning back!

One candidate for Mayor


Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

Interest in this fall's municipal elections is growing, especially in Camrose. It was sparked by the announcement that the sitting mayor, for health reasons, will not be running again. This was followed quickly by news that former mayor from 1989 to 2004, Norman Mayer, will again seek the mayor's chair. Electors now are wondering who challengers might be. At the present time, it also seems probable that some sitting councillors may not seek re-election, which also helps to stimulate interest in civic elections. Municipal elections will be held in counties and in all villages and towns therein. At the same time, elections for school board trustees will occur.

With the rights of citizenship goes the responsibility to vote in civic elections - and to be knowledgeable about public affairs. It is important that eligible voters prepare for these significant elections - significant because every decision made by the people we elect will affect us directly through the taxes we pay and the services that are rendered.

Battle River School Division is to be commended for holding an information session for prospective candidates for school board trustee positions. The attendees heard the president of the Alberta School Boards Association, Jacquie Hansen, describe the roles, responsibilities, rewards and challenges that come with serving as a trustee. It would be helpful if the general public also attended such a meeting so that everyone has a better understanding of the board's responsibilities and challenges, and the parameters of its limited power.

It would be most helpful if information sessions were also held for prospective municipal councillors. It would avoid the possible election of persons who thought a councillor's work consisted of attending two regular council meetings a month. The fact is that councillors also sit on several other committees which also have meetings and duties, plus there is a sheaf of reports to review in preparation for every regular meeting. In spite of the duties borne by councillors, it is also rewarding to serve the community in a position that has more clout than does the average citizen.

The more aware citizens are of the time involved in being an effective councillor, the more they will appreciate their efforts - perhaps realize, too, that it is impossible to please everyone because different people clamour for different things.

The time between now and nomination day (the third Monday in September) will slip by quickly. May all eligible voters play a part in the election process - a right for which our ancestors fought hard win.

There are several ways in which to participate: consider running for the office of mayor, councillor or school board trustee yourself; encourage someone else to do so; encourage a sitting member to seek re-election; become actively involved in supporting candidates of your choice; do whatever possible to stimulate public interest in public affairs; and encourage eligible voters to exercise their franchise rights.

Days to Celebrate Change


Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

On June 21 we will celebrate Aboriginal Day; on June 27 we will mark Multicultural Day; and on July 1 - our country's birthday - we plan to pop the fireworks to observe Canada Day.

Since its formation as the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1967, our country has expanded from four provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Upper Canada and Lower Canada) to ten provinces and three Territories stretching from Atlantic to Pacific to Arctic coasts.

During that time Canada has also changed culturally. Originally it was populated by Aboriginal people, then by mostly British and French explorers who were followed by immigrants, the majority of whom were from Britain and France first, then later from other European countries. Out of this mix came two official languages: English and French, enforced by a law which is in effect to this day. Since confederation in 1867, Canada has experienced influences of Aboriginal culture, a period of bilingualism and biculturalism and, more recently, multiculturalism.

Today, encouraged by Canada's immigration policies, our nation is comprised of people from around the world with many different historical, racial, religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. In 2010, 45% of immigrants to Canada came from the Philippines, India and People's Republic of China. Others came from other parts of the world including the Middle East and Africa. The majority of Canada's population is now of neither British nor French origin.

Canada's Multiculturalism Act and parts of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms were not "shoved down our throats" as some would have us believe; their enactment followed a shift in public opinion regarding immigration - not surprising when Canada from its very beginning has been populated by immigrants and we saw that it was good.

In my humble opinion, Canada stands as an exemplary model of how peoples of such vast diversity can live together amicably, with commitment to democracy, equality and mutual respect. Our own lives are richly enhanced when we befriend those who are in some ways different - the greatest revelation is the discovery that we are all very much alike, with similar hopes and aspirations for peaceful co-existence and a fulfilling life.

Let's think on these things on Aboriginal Day, Multiculturalism Day and July 1, and, if possible, participate in the special festivities that mark the occasions!

Proceed with prudence!


Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

"Let us proceed with prudence," I thought as I read several recent articles about trends in the delivery of higher education in Alberta, Canada and the USA.

When post secondary education first became available via internet, it was hailed as a great opportunity for those who had no other access to continued learning - and it was. Students could sit face-to-face with a computer in their own homes and complete learning that would earn credits for a university degree. Technology has brought us education by internet, at less cost, and now it threatens to replace the classroom experience, perhaps within the next five or ten years. It's time for second thoughts on the subject. Is it really wise to totally replace the classroom experience?

Dr. Allen Berger, dean of the University of Alberta Augustana Campus here in Camrose, addressed the issue in a recent "Second Thought" column in The Booster (Apr. 30/13). With technology making available "massive open on-line courses and free on-line educational materials ... " he asks "why will students in the future - perhaps as soon as 2020 - even need to come or want to come to a brick and mortar campus?"

He warns that university campuses will have to have a "compelling answer" and he believes that "it is human-scale, residential campuses like Augustana that are best positioned to provide a persuasive response." He explains, "Our advantage is that we already offer what the internet cannot and will likely never be good at providing: one-on-one relationships with caring faculty mentors; learning through in-depth discussion and problem-solving with peers; rich opportunities to apply and test learning in community settings or through guided undergraduate research; well-designed and diverse programs to help young people navigate a pathway to responsible adulthood and citizenship, etc."

Further education is more than simply learning and accepting without question what has been passed down to us. If we did that, we would still think Earth was flat. Questioning and research leads to discovery but discovery needs questioning and testing, too, before tossing out old ways which accomplished outstanding expansion of knowledge and once-believed-to-be impossible achievements - like putting a man on the moon.

Dean Allen Berger hopes we will learn from observing the negative effects of massive open on-line courses that enable students in USA to "collect certificates like Easter eggs in a basket."

This thought is echoed by associate professor of physics Michael Pravica, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, writing in the Edmonton Journal, (May 24/13). He says "Beyond instilling core knowledge in students, universities teach them how to think, solve problems and interact with the world." He adds that "This education is seriously hampered when the only means of learning is via a one-dimensional computer and the opportunities for getting questions answered ... are seriously hampered when one professor teaches thousands of students at a time." He also notes that for science and engineering-based students there is no substitute for hands-on lab experiments which the internet cannot provide.

Based on my own classroom experience, I know that my learning would have been seriously restricted without the mentoring of instructors, discussion of subject matter, and how the knowledge might be used to make our community and the world a better place. I think that you would probably say the same. Let us use teaching via internet with prudence!

Impossible mission


Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Bullying has been the topic in major news stories recently, usually when the extreme consequence of unkind words and/or gossip have led to the victim's suicide. Sometimes the words or stories that hurt are uttered by persons who intend to hurt; sometimes the originators thoughtlessly believe they are just "poking a little harmless fun," supported by the old saying, "Sticks and stones may hurt my bones but names will never harm me." Some names can boost one's morale and self-esteem but others can destroy it completely and change the course of a life - sometimes end it!

This has caused me to recall ‘the feather story' which has been in circulation for several hundred years. It's a story that we cannot hear too many times. There are several versions from different sources but the basic story in all goes something like this:

There was a man in a small town somewhere who liked to talk. His work gave him the chance to get all kinds of news about other people. In an unconstrained way, he passed them all along to others whether true, false or groundless rumour. He was a good story-teller and sometimes embellished them at bit to get a laugh. His stories may not have stopped there; his listeners may also have passed them on to their families and others.

One day he was told that his stories had hurt some folks and he felt deep remorse. He went to his clergyman to ask what he could do to make amends. His spiritual advisor told him to bring a knife and a pillow stuffed with feathers. The man was bewildered but left and quickly returned with the pillow and knife. The clergyman then told the man to slash the pillow and scatter all the feathers in the wind, which he did - erroneously thinking that his penance had been paid. But there was one more thing to do. "Now," said the clergyman, "pick up every single one of the feathers and put them back into the pillow." That, of course, was impossible to do - and that's the point of the story.

Once a word is spoken it can never be retrieved, no matter how great the remorse. Even a bullet is not totally gone when the weapon has been fired; often it can be traced and retrieved. The physical damage it may have caused will often heal although a scar will always remain. Not so with words; like feathers in the wind, it is impossible to find and put back every last one into the pillow.

Words are very, very powerful - they can heal or hurt - so it's wise to think before we speak. All of us at some time have offended with words that came out of our mouths, even if no malice was intended. Feeling sorry cannot bring them back although an apology might lessen the hurt. Kind and compassionate words, that are sincere and honest, can brighten another's day and be an incentive for that person to try even harder to justify the compliment.

Some words can boost one's morale and self-esteem but others can destroy it completely and change the course of a life - sometimes end it! Before we speak, write, or communicate by Internet or body language, let us remember that words cannot be retrieved, ever, no matter how great our remorse. May our words always do good, not harm!

Need to recognize, understand and prevent FASD


Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

I was greatly pleased to hear that a presentation on the topic of Understanding FASD (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder) will be held at the Camrose Community Centre on Thursday, May 30, from 7 to 9 p.m. The objective is to provide information that will help parents and caregivers understand FASD and, from that, learn how to better help the afflicted.

There is a very great need to better understand those who have FASD. It is caused by mothers who consume alcohol during pregnancy and is entirely preventable. Unfortunately, FASD is difficult to identify because the disability of those afflicted is not always plainly visible. Even those closest to them, like parents and teachers, are often slow to realize, if ever, that the youngster they don't understand has a disability. This can cause years of frustration and worry and, too often, doing all the wrong things with bad effects.

Children and adults afflicted with FASD have many common characteristics. They don't pay attention; have memory problems; are easily distracted; they talk the talk but don't walk the walk; don't see the connection between act and consequence; have difficulty managing money, math and time; don't work independently but need constant prodding and supervision therefore, as adults, are very often unreliable and unemployable; they act impulsively and often socially inappropriately.

Too often parents, teachers and the public at large will interpret this behavior as willful disobedience, not caring, not trying, should know better. In fact, studies in the last two decades have found that it's not that the child (or adult) won't, it's a matter of can't because of brain damage.

Christian Beaulieu, an associate professor of biomedical engineering in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, U of A, said (University of Alberta Folio, June 11, 2011) that children and youth with FASD have less deep-gray matter in their brains than those who don't have the condition, this the findings of a multidisciplinary team of researchers at the U of A. "Our previous studies showed that the brain white-matter wiring was affected by FASD. And now we show that the deep-gray matter relay stations that integrate and convey information to the cortex are also different in FASD." This results in difficulties sending messages back and forth related to memory, emotions, cognition and motor function.

As of now, we don't know if any consumption of alcoholic beverages at any time during pregnancy is safe, therefore complete abstinence is recommended; this includes the use of wines in cooking. Estimates of the number of persons among us who have FASD vary widely - from one in 1,000 to one in 100 - because research has not had time to be conclusive. FASD includes categories called FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome), pFAS (partial fetal alcohol syndrome), ARND (alcohol related neuro-developmental disorders) and ARBD (alcohol related birth defects.) What we do know is that there is a great need for increased public awareness and understanding of the causes and effects of FASD; ways to help the afflicted; and the knowledge that FASD is entirely preventable if no alcohol is consumed at any time during pregnancy.

A small step in the right direction


Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

The announcement by Alberta Hockey last week that body checking would be banned in the Peewee division was great news. For many long-time advocates, it had been too long coming but, on matters that are as divisive as this one has been, nothing changes until public opinion eventually swings enough to change the balance. That has finally happened.

Leading to the change was the dissemination of the results of a seven-year study led by Dr. Carolyn Emery of the University of Calgary. A comparison of injury among Peewee players in Quebec, where body-checking had been banned, and in Alberta where it was allowed, showed that removing body checking at Peewee level would reduce the risk of injury and concussion by more than three-fold. There was no significant difference in the type of injury in the two provinces.

Also contributing to the swing in public opinion was the fact that participation in minor hockey had been diminishing during recent years with the reason given by 65% was fear of concussion and other injury.

Players in the 11- and 12-year-old age range are especially vulnerable to concussion and other injury because of the variation in their physical and brain development; it is greater than in other age categories.

Beginning in the 2013-14 season, Alberta Hockey has ruled that there will be no body checking in all categories of Peewee hockey and penalties will be assessed for players who do body check.

Alberta Liberal health critic, Dr. David Swann, expressed satisfaction with the decision made by Alberta Hockey saying, “By banning body checking for players under 13, we can prevent at least 1,500 injuries per year including 400 concussions.” He added that this has the potential to save Alberta more than $210,000 annually in direct public health care.

There is risk in whatever activity youngsters engage; there is risk in inactivity, too, of poor health and perhaps isolation as well. It is a public obligation to provide opportunities for physical development in a safe environment;

Kudos to Alberta Hockey for banning body checking at the Peewee level. It is my hope that the trend to reduce risk of concussion and other types of injury in hockey, or any other activity, will extend to the professional level. The life and well-being of older players is no less important; too many of them pay the price of concussion with years of depression, even suicide.

Objective: equal opportunity to help themselves


Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Last week we were shocked by the Bangladesh tragedy in which over 600 garment factory workers were killed and many more injured when the building in which they worked collapsed. It was appalling to learn that the factory owner knew the building had been condemned because it was structurally unsafe and yet he ordered his employees to continue to work in it. People around the world, including we in Canada, were quick to judge the factory owner guilty of the most heinous crime and punish him with maximum penalty.

We also know that Bangladeshi employees work for wages that are only a small fraction of what is paid in Canada or other developed nations. We know, too, that the products they manufacture are made for and sold by retail outlets in Canada and other wealthy nations. One might wonder why men and women will work for such low wages but, if the choice is a little income versus no income, they do in a country that provides no social assistance.

While the factory owner is surely guilty of inhumane disregard for the welfare of his fellow human beings, it becomes more and more evident that many others have actually been partners in the crime - some knowingly, others totally unaware of the fact.

The retail industry, whether it is services or product being provided, is extremely competitive. Entrepreneurs go where production costs are least, whether at home or abroad, so they can sell for less than competitors. Consumers buy where the price of goods or service is lowest. It is likely that few buyers are aware of the poor working conditions in hundreds of factories in Third World countries; even if they did, they wouldn't know what they could do to change the situation. To varying degrees, we all share in the guilt for the appalling treatment of factory workers in Third World countries.

How can the situation be changed? Not easily because the problem is so complex. Boycotting our Canadian retailers who sell sweatshop goods won't help the Bangladeshi workers; it would simply leave them unemployed and with no income instead of some. If Canadians have to pay more for foreign-made goods, they will have less to spend on other goods and services which may increase unemployment both at home and abroad.

Alleviating the problem of maltreatment of Third World workers is a huge assignment because it will require the collaborative involvement of many nations to set international standards of remuneration and safety. It will also require international trade negotiations regarding agreement on such matters as tariffs and other barriers. Posing a huge hurdle is the fact that so many foreign governments with disparate values and resources must reach some common objective.

Public opinion does have the power to change minds and there are signs that the tragedy in Bangladesh is having a positive effect. Let's not let it die. Let's continue to pressure our international negotiators to strive diligently for fair labour practices that give Third World workers equal opportunity to help themselves.

Thanks to a thoughtful lady


Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

It is common for any of us to get messages on our telephones from people we do not know. They are often from telemarketers and we tend to regard them as irritating nuisance calls.

I checked my telephone messages recently and got one that made me feel like I had a brand new friend. It made me feel good and I really did appreciate the call - much more than the caller realized, I am sure.

I had earlier called my dentist. His receptionist had been away from her phone at the time so I had left a message to say that, because of illness, I would be unable to keep my appointment on that day. The person who had left the message on my phone had called to tell me that she had received the message intended for my dentist. Not only that but she, a person unknown to me, in a vibrant cheery voice, went on to say that her phone number was very similar to that of my dentist then added her hope that I would soon be feeling better.

The kindness of her act was indeed appreciated by me. My dental appointment had been made with my convenience having been considered as far as was possible. What an ingrate I would have appeared to be if my dentist had never got my message of cancellation. I shudder to think of the possibility of never having known that my first call had never been received at his office. Thank you, new friend, for making a call from which you had nothing to gain and I had much. The world is a kinder, gentler place because of you. Your call did, indeed, brighten my day and save me from appearing to be inconsiderate of my dentist's time..

Not everyone does thoughtful things without promise of personal reward. Some time ago I sent money by mail in the form of a bank draft. It so happened that the recipient had not notified me of a change of address so she did not get the letter. When we discovered why, she went to her previous address to inquire if the letter might be there. The present residents told her they threw away any mail that was not addressed to them. They never bothered to return to sender or drop it back into the mail with the note: not at this address.

By contrast, the kind people who currently live at my previous address have forwarded the few pieces of mail that still turn up occasionally. They could simply pitch it, too, but don't.

We are blessed to have people in the world who think beyond themselves in consideration of benefits for others.

Find yourself in serving others!


Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

We find it almost meaningless to be told that in Canada there are 13.3 million people engaged in volunteering their time and talents - with no promise of personal gain - for the good of their neighbours, their communities, and even strangers that may live close to home or anywhere in the world. It's hard to comprehend because we can't imagine such a large number of people, nor can we imagine the collective impact of the work they do.

To better visualize the effect of volunteerism, it helps to look at its impact on the quality of life in our own city and neighbouring Camrose County, both of which are paying tribute to volunteers during this week, National Volunteer Week, April 21 to 27.

Let us take a moment to contemplate what we would not have if volunteers quit volunteering. Gone would be delivery of meals on wheels to persons who are unable to cook for themselves; gone would be volunteer coaches for minor sports; gone would be dozens of boards that provide cultural, social, and spiritual enhancements; gone would be service clubs and charitable societies whose efforts involve hard labour and monetary contributions to build playgrounds, parks and, for example, the youth centre that is now under construction by Camrose Rotary Club volunteers; without volunteers, we wouldn't have Habitat for Humanity homes or ReStore. These examples are but a very few to illustrate what our community would lack were it not for volunteerism.

Perhaps most underestimated and unrecognized is the value of the effort of many seniors who provide caregiving - often to both parents and grandchildren. This saves incalculable amounts of private and public dollars and is too often not fully appreciated.

In the March 22 issue of the Edmonton Journal I read an article written by Bauni Mackay, president of the Seniors' Association of Greater Edmonton (SAGE). She wrote that SAGE is "initiating a research project that will document the balance between the cost of aging and the financial and social contributions made by seniors. The project will be done in collaboration with University of Alberta researchers ... ." SAGE wants to know if seniors are giving back more than they take, contributing more than they receive, and instead of being a (perceived) generational liability are they in fact a significant economic and social asset that benefits all generations?"

One thing we can see for ourselves is that volunteers seem to get much satisfaction from helping others and also tend to feel that they are simply doing what needs doing - nothing special.

This week we toss the Booster Bouquet to the many, many folks who enhance our well-being by the willing performance of voluntary acts of kindness.

We quote from James Cash Penny, (of J.C. Penny Corp.), to help us inspire our children to be volunteers. Penny asks, "How can we expect our children to know and experience the joy of giving unless we teach them that the greater pleasure in life lies in the art of giving rather than receiving?"

To those in search of fulfillment: Mahandas Gandhi (former political leader in India) found that, "The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."