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How a package to ‘a farm situated up a long drive with cows’ got to its destination





Like any dedicated mail carrier who slogs through inclement weather to deliver your Amazon order, Tammie McGrath will stop at nothing to get a parcel to its rightful owner.

But when a package came in addressed to “Kay and Philip” located “on a farm situated up a long drive with cows, opposite Cust pub or thereabouts,” the Cust, New Zealand, mail carrier was a bit stumped. 

“The usual protocol would be to return it,” McGrath who runs the Cust Service Centre, told As it Happens host Carol Off.

“I thought, ‘I’ll just hang on to it for a couple of days and see if I can track down the owner.'”

Tammie McGrath was determined to find the package’s rightful owner. (Submitted by Tammie McGrath)

While she knew it had to be for someone nearby, she couldn’t place the name.

“I know a lot of Phils and I know a lot of Kays, but I don’t know Phil and Kay, you know?” she said.

Mail missteps

It’s not the first time McGrath has had to sort out questionable co-ordinates.

Usually, it’s a letter from a grandchild to their grandparent, she said. In those cases, McGrath can glean the recipient from the last name in a return address.

But this parcel was different — it didn’t have a local sender.

“Obviously, an elderly person had written it and I didn’t feel that I just wanted to send it back without a bit of an effort,” she said.

So she turned to Facebook and posted a photo of the package with an appeal to the town.

Residents shared the post with friends. Town council spread the word. 

Within a few hours, she had a lead.

“A man called up and said, ‘I think this could be for us,'” said McGrath.

Finding home

When he arrived, McGrath wanted to be sure the package was going to the correct Philip.

He showed her a business card.

“On it is a picture of a green pasture with lots of cows and Phil and Kay and their last name on it,” McGrath said.

Philip said he knew the woman who sent the package, McGrath said.

She checked his information against the return address. He had it right.

“I said, ‘Well this parcel’s for you!'”

Cust Service Centre is one of three businesses in the small town of Cust, New Zealand, home to about 450 people. (Submitted by Tammie McGrath)

According to the Guardian, the package came from Irene Meekings, a woman in her 70s who stayed with Phil and Kay.

“She’d obviously been to see them and appreciated their New Zealand-ship, so to speak,” McGrath said. “They shared a lunch and what not and wanted to thank them.”

Inside the package were hand-sewn gifts for the couple: a clothes peg apron and a tablecloth.

“She made it herself,” McGrath said.

Carried by community

When Meekings addressed the package, she wasn’t sure where to send it — or even where Phil and Kay were.

“She doesn’t see very well,” McGrath said. “She had an idea of where she’d gone [to visit] … which is why [the package had] such an unusual description.”

It turned out that Phil and Kay’s actual address is 10 minutes outside of Cust and not in the town itself.


As luck would have it, it’s not the first time a community rallied for behind a parcel delivery.

One mail handler described in McGrath’s Facebook post a package that found itself quite far from home.

The package had been mailed to a recipient’s previous address after they moved.

“They’d lived like 400 kilometres away … and they still got it,” McGrath said. 

She credits local residents for happy endings just like these.

“It just shows that a little bit of help and a little bit of community … goes a long way.”

Written by Jason Vermes. Interview produced by Sarah Jackson.


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Ottawa families give mixed reviews for online schooling





So, how’s it going with online school? Families reached by CBC Ottawa seem to have mixed reviews. 

Masuma Khan is a mother of two. Her seven-year-old, Hana Wyndham in Grade 2, is attending French immersion virtual school. Masuma is grateful it’s an option, but can’t help notice a lot of down time.

“There’s a lot of, ‘are you on mute?’ In terms of the amount of learning that’s actually happening, it does seem to be not that high,” said Masuma.

Parents who kept their children at home this fall are in the minority, but they still form a significant chunk of families in Ottawa.

In the city’s largest school board, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), about 27 per cent of elementary students and 22 per cent of high school students chose online learning. The Ottawa Catholic School Board says roughly a quarter of its students are online.

For Masuma, the decision to keep her daughter home was complex: extended family members are immunocompromised and she worried the in-person learning environment would be unpleasant because of precautions. She also felt her daughter might benefit from being supported at home.

“She doesn’t necessarily enjoy school. I also found out during the pandemic that she was being bullied [last year],” said Masuma. “So I thought, why not try from home?”

To help her daughter socialize face-to-face with other kids, Masuma enrolled Hana in Baxter Forest School, an alternative education program where kids spend most of their time outside, one day a week. Hana also attends virtual Arabic classes two days a week after school. 

Masuma’s husband and Hana share the living room work space, and Masuma admits he does the lion’s share of helping their daughter stay on task. There is a possibility that he’ll be required to return to his office in the new year.

“When he goes back to work … it’s probably going to be a little bit more difficult.”

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No school closures after Christmas holiday break, says Ontario education minister





Ontario elementary and secondary schools will not close for an extended winter break, says Education Minister Stephen Lecce.

Closures aren’t needed given Ontario’s “strong safety protocols, low levels of (COVID-19) transmission and safety within our schools,” Lecce announced Wednesday afternoon. He said he had consulted with Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams and the province’s public health measures advisory table.

That ended speculation about school buildings remaining closed in January for a period of time after the Christmas break.

Earlier in the week, Lecce told reporters the government was considering having students spend “some period out of class” in January, perhaps switching to online learning.

In a statement, Lecce said that even though rates of community transmission of COVID-19 are increasing, “schools have been remarkably successful at minimizing outbreaks to ensure that our kids stay safe and learning in their classrooms.”

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Windy start to the week in Ottawa





OTTAWA — It’s a blustery Monday in the capital with wind gusts of up to 50 km/hour expected throughout the day.

Environment Canada is forecasting a high of 4 C with a 60 per cent chance of showers or flurries before the wind dies down later this evening.

There’s a chance of flurries on Tuesday as well with a high of -1 C. The overnight low will dip to an unseasonal -9 C.  

Wednesday’s high will be just -5 C with lots of sunshine.

Seasonal temperatures return for the rest of the week..

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