Canadian Mennonite
Volume 14, No. 17
Sept. 6, 2010

God at Work in the World

Where will the children play?

Plans by Bethany Manor seniors complex to expand on city parkland has some community members worried

by Karin Fehderau

Saskatchewan Correspondent

Saskatoon, Sask.

Anne Driediger, a resident at Bethany Manor, speaks with a Saskatoon, Sask., city planner about the seniors complex expansion.

It’s a warm summer evening on the north side of Saskatoon and residents in this busy neighbourhood are enjoying the opportunity to cycle, walk, play tennis or rip up the tarmac at the nearby skateboard park.

The focal point for many of these activities is the park across the street from Bethany Manor, a large centre for retirees and seniors run by 12 different Mennonite churches. Tennis courts, a skateboard park and a grassy area are all sandwiched neatly into the park space and are widely used by the community.

It’s also the same space that Bethany’s administrators have their eyes on as they seek a viable spot to expand.

All of this came into sharp focus at a public meeting this summer between Bethany Manor, city planners and area residents that took place at Bethany Manor.

Bethany Manor administrator Teresa Isaac presented statistics defining the needs of the retirement community in the city. “By 2026, it is projected there will be 60,000 seniors [in Saskatoon],” she said, calling it a “demographic tsunami” that will increase already-lengthy waiting lists for Bethany apartments.

She also presented future health care concerns of Bethany residents if the seniors complex cannot expand nearby. “There is programming, family and friends . . . that require a connection with our facility,” Isaac said. Residents are worried that they will be separated from loved ones as their healthcare needs change, she explained, citing meetings held last year where such concerns were highlighted.

Chrissy Bergen, 31, has lived in the area for four years. She attended the meeting because of a concern that the neighbourhood teens wouldn’t have a place to hang out if the skateboard park gets taken away because of Bethany’s expansion.

Plans for the expansion will take into account the community’s need for green space, promised the architect hired to oversee the expansion. “The park doesn’t disappear; it simply moves to the roof,” said Alvin Fritz, calling it a “community-accessible rooftop garden.”

And city planners have promised to move the tennis courts and skateboard park to a new location nearby.

A worker for the city admitted that it is unusual to sell park space. “But park redevelopment does happen,” said Roxane Melnyk, a consultant for Saskatoon’s parks department, who called the expansion a “good project.”

Comments from citizens who attended the meeting asked why the city was “selling green space for a project” and some were worried that the intersection would look too crowded with the added building.

Strong emotions on the proposed changes came out during the meeting when the city refused to make time for an open forum. One man was angry; others disappointed.

“It was the only chance for the community to ask questions,” said Ruth Martens, who lives at Bethany Manor.

Bergen, too, was disappointed that there wasn’t more discussion. Instead, people were invited to ask questions in a one-on-one format after the meeting.

While empathizing with area residents, Arnie Fehderau, pastor of First Mennonite, places the blame on the shoulders of the provincial government for the problems. “Bethany Manor has been asking permission for years to build a long-term-care home,” he said, wondering if this could have been avoided with better management.

Isaac agrees. “In 2004, when we were planning Bethany Place [a four-storey independent living complex], the health region told us there was no more capital funding for long-term care,” she pointed out, but it now has changed its mind and sees the need for such facilities.

Before expansion plans of any kind can move forward at Bethany Manor, they must be approved by Saskatoon city council.

Seeking higher ground

MCC, Foodgrains Bank respond to Pakistan’s worst flooding in 80 years

By Ross W. Muir

Managing Editor

Pakistan’s worst floods in eight decades have killed more than 1,600 people and disrupted the lives of more than 14 million—about 8 percent of the population. With hundreds of thousands of homes already destroyed in what the National Management Authority is calling “the worst disaster in Pakistan’s history,” people there are in immediate need of basic necessities. About two million people are homeless and there are fears that outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as cholera could create a health crisis.

The floods, which began in late July after heavy monsoon rain deluged the upper reaches of the Indus River basin, have ploughed a swathe of destruction more than 1,000 kilometres long.

“The floods have destroyed homes, farms, factories and the livelihoods of millions of people,” says Willie Reimer, director of the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Food, Disaster and Material Resources program. “Many people have lost everything and are in desperate need of assistance.”

According to Jim Cornelius, executive director of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a coalition of 15 church-based agencies, “Agricultural and crop lands have been severely damaged as a result of flooding, particularly in Punjab Province, where much of the country’s grain is grown. This damage will negatively impact food security in the area, especially for families directly affected by the floods”.

Food prices have significantly increased due to both flooding and the coming of Ramadan. It is expected that the price for green vegetables will double. These price hikes will put vulnerable households in increased danger of hunger and malnutrition.

Although MCC does not have an office or staff in Pakistan, it has a history of relief and development efforts there, says Joe Manickam, director of MCC programs in Asia. Most recently, following the 2005 earthquake, MCC supported a large relief and housing reconstruction project implemented by Church World Service-Pakistan/Afghanistan. “This is a major disaster of enormous magnitude and we want to walk alongside the people of Pakistan during this time of great devastation,” says Manickam.

In partnership with members of the Foodgrains Bank, MCC is supporting projects undertaken by two member agencies—Christian Reformed World Relief Committee and Presbyterian World Service and Development—to distribute food kits.

MCC is contributing $20,000 towards the distribution of food kits to 11,000 vulnerable households in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces, some of the worst-affected areas. For its part, the Foodgrains Bank, with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency, is responding with $2 million in food aid—rice, lentils, flour, oil, sugar, salt, tea and spices—towards this effort.

MCC is also sending a container of 2,000 relief kits to support the emergency response efforts undertaken by Christian Reformed World Relief Committee.

In partnership with members of Canadian Churches in Action, a coalition of 10 church-based development agencies, MCC is contributing $2,000 for the purchase of tents. This is part of the coalition’s matching funds towards a $68,000-project supported by the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation.

“Working in partnerships with church agencies allows us to combine our gifts, contacts and resources as we respond to this serious humanitarian crisis,” says Reimer.

From reports by Gladys Terichow, MCC, and Heather Plett, Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

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