I am reminded, as I approach my 48th birthday next month, how fortunate I am to live, work and serve as a politician in Canada. In the past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to mentor an elected member of the Sawla-Tuna-Kalba district assembly from Ghana.

Sarah Kunyangna is an elected assembly member who is well known across her district as someone with excellent communication skills, speaking nine languages. As the most active assembly member, she takes pride in working hard to improve her communities’ livelihoods. She has recently joined the Abantu Network for female assembly members to share experiences, which can enable her to support and encourage other female assembly members from other districts in the Northern Region. Sarah campaigned to be an elected assembly member to show young girls that they can do anything. From this, she’s been a strong advocate for the assembly supporting female education and health concerns.

Sarah was selected to be a delegate to the leadership program entitled Kumvana. The program was developed and organized by Engineers Without Boarders (EWB) a Canadian not-for-profit organization.  The Kumvana program brings change makers from counties in Africa to Canada for a month in January of each year. The primary objective of the Kumvana Program is for African change agents to have an increased capacity to create systemic changes that significantly benefit their communities. To achieve this, activities are aimed at strengthening leadership, strengthening profession-specific knowledge, facilitating reflection and comparison, and facilitating networking and collaboration. While in Canada, EWB seeks individual specific leadership opportunities for each delegate. Sarah is the only elected official attending Kumvana 2014 and I was asked if she could spend some time with me, observing political life in the City of Waterloo.

As always happens when you volunteer, I have received so much more than I have given. Sarah stayed with my family for five nights and during that time I marveled in viewing our beautiful country through her eyes. The following are some memories that I share with you:

  • Sarah shovelling snow with vigour and excitement. "Take my picture of me working", she said
  • Ice skating in the public square and watching someone put on skates for the first time ever on one of the coldest nights of the year
  • Walking my son Adam to the bus so Sarah can see how children are transported to school in Canada and having Sarah see the bus come through the snow and say, "wow you would never see that in Ghana; a woman driving a bus"
  • The joy on her face as she finished a very Canadian hamburger and fries luncheon at the first Canadian Restaurant she ever ate in
  • While watching me knit a baby gift, she said in Ghana a woman would put away their knitting after becoming a politician. Knitting work would be a job that I would hire someone else to do for me. She spoke in this conversation about how people once they succeed to higher office would discontinue any work seen to be "below" their station. I explained that in Canada we value the sharing of our time and talents and that many people are creative. Further, regardless of title or office of title it is ok to be seen working at things such as knitting, sewing or woodworking.
  • Sarah shared her stories of attending Budget day at Toronto City Council and was surprised that the Councillors called each other names. She also commented on seeing two men getting married at City Hall and how it would never be supported or accepted in Ghana.
  • I worry about managing a 100 million dollar operating budget with the goal of ensuring all citizens in Waterloo feel equally served and she worries about all of the women she represents dying of undiagnosed breast-cancer. She is working to raise $12,500 Canadian dollars to provide breast screening clinics for over 300 women per year
  • Sarah's is an unpaid position where she is provided with a motorcycle with no money for fuel. She uses the motorcycle to meet with her constituents, some of which are over 300 km away.
  • Sarah is one of only two women elected to her assembly and with four other appointed women she is one of 6 women out of 48 members of assembly.
  • The assembly is focused on issues of housing and building infrastructure associated with water supply.

While in Canada, Sarah had the chance to explore many levels of Government in Ontario having visited with several members of provincial parliament (MPPs) including Kitchener-Waterloo MPP Fife and several City Councillors including Councillor Stintz from the City of Toronto.

At the Waterloo Region Municipal Woman's Campaign School, Sarah provided an overview of her work as an elected official in Ghana, some of her many challenges and her passion to affect change for the people she represents. So while I hope that I have inspired Sarah, I know she has inspired me.

Waterloo Regional Police Services

The new north division of Waterloo Regional Police Services (WRPS) is now located in Ward 4 at the corner of Columbia Avenue and Weber Street. Since the official opening in the summer, I have had the chance to tour the facility a couple of times. The building provides a much needed home to officers that have been working in Waterloo for many years in the old Carnegie library building on Erb Street.

We often take community policing for granted. We all hate getting a speeding ticket, but when we see a speeder we wonder where the police are. If our neighbours children are having a wild party and we call for service we are frustrated by response times. Prioritizing limited police resources is a big challenge. They are needed to respond to crimes in progress and are required at all times to consider the priority of the many calls they are receiving. A 911 emergency will be responded before a noise concern. I thought you might be interested to know that the cost of service per household for WRPS was $531 in 2012.

If you are interested to learn more about WRPS please check out their annual report: www.atyourservice2012.ca

Upcoming Events:

  • Winterloo (Ice Dogs Festival) February 15-17 2014. Details at: winterloo.ca
  • Municipal Election Day: October 27, 2014
  • Upcoming registration dates for Community Activities:
  1. oSpring leisure/activity programs / camps / carl - March 5
  2. oSpring aquatics programs - March 11
  3. oMinor Soccer registrations open www.waterloominorsoccer.com
  • Uptown Waterloo Jazz Festival: July 18-20, 2014
  • Waterloo Buskers Festival: August 21-24, 2014
  • Open Streets will be happening in Uptown Waterloo this summer. For details check out: openstreetsutw.ca

I am going "squirrelly" being off of my bike. I look forward to clear roads and sunny days that I am confident will be arriving soon. Until then I will continue to ski as often as I can and be thankful for the wonder seasons we have here in Canada. I leave you will one last thought: imagine waking up tomorrow with only the things we are thankful for today.

I welcome your comments on my columns so please do not hesitate to contact me at: email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . twitter: @dianelfreeman

 
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