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Kashmir’s ‘Wall of Kindness’ brings warmth during harsh winter | Poverty

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Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – A sweater hanging on a fence in Indian-administered Kashmir’s Srinagar caught Ali Mohammad’s attention.

It was a cold day, the start of Kashmir’s harsh winter, and most people were bundled in a traditional Pheran, a thick cloak worn by Kashmiris to stay warm.

Mohammad, who was in his 60s, walked up to those standing nearby.

“Son, how much for this sweater,” Mohammad said.

“Uncle, these are not for sale, but they are free for anyone in need,” a young man replied.

Mohammed, surprised, said: “Who can be needier than me?”

His eyes began to water. “I have three daughters with no source of income at all, I am very poor.”

Mohammad then picked out a jacket, other sweaters and shoes before leaving with a smile.

“It is really good to have clothes here,” he said. “People like me [now] don’t need to buy the clothes this winter. May God bless those who contribute these items.”





In Srinagar, a young Kashmiri man hangs clothes for people in need [Sameer Mushtaq/Al Jazeera]

The wall of clothes is part of a new initiative called the “Wall of Kindness”, started by a group of young people who took inspiration from similar experiments in Iran and Turkey.

“There are many needy people who don’t have warm clothes to wear as there is the sub-zero temperature in Kashmir these days,” said Abrar Ali, one of the organisers.

“After this wall got fame over social media we have witnessed many people contributing wholeheartedly,” he told Al Jazeera. “We wanted the message to spread across the Kashmiri society and young boys to come forward and establish more walls like this in their localities and I think we are successful.”

Harsh winter

The “Wall of Kindness” initiative is particularly well timed. Kashmir’s harshest winter period, known as Chilai Kalan, began on December 21 and will last through the end of January. Temperatures can dip as low as minus eight degrees and heavy snow is common.

According to the 2014-2015 economic report by the government of Jammu & Kashmir, about 21.6 percent of Kashmiris live below the poverty line. Many simply cannot afford the clothes needed for the winter.

The success of the wall in Srinagar has inspired young people in other parts of the Kashmir Valley to undertake similar experiments. Places like Budgam in central Kashmir, Baramulla in the north and Anantnag in the south now have similar walls.

“We felt this is a good move to serve the humanity,” Jasif Mir, one of the volunteers in Anantang told Al Jazeera.





Inspired by the Srinagar’s Wall of Kindness, young boys established similar wall in Anantnag, South Kashmir [Sameer Mushtaq/Al Jazeera]

Some hope to see the initiative expand even further

“These units should be established in educational institutions like colleges and universities, where students or outsiders can contribute books or electronic items like used laptops and mobile phones for students who come from low-income groups,” said Zareef Ahmad Zareef, a famous poet and social activist.

Ali, the volunteer in Srinagar, said the group plans to set up more walls throughout the city.

Ali, like many of those who have supported the wall, has been inspired by the number of people who have turned out to donate.

Among them is Fida Hussain who contributed jackers and footwear.

“I felt satisfied to see that people are coming to taking the clothes from the wall,” he said, adding “it is the best way to help needy people who suffer due to the cold.”

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When Ontario declared a COVID-19 health emergency last spring, the first instinct of Ottawa entrepreneur Peter O’Blenis was to preserve cash.

“We basically stopped our discretionary spending,” said O’Blenis, the co-founder and CEO of Evidence Partners, which makes software for accelerating the review of scientific and medical literature, using artificial intelligence. “We cut investments in things meant to help us grow.”

It was a defensive posture born of experience. O’Blenis had 12 years earlier nearly been crushed by the global financial crisis. Another looked to be on the way.

In 2008, O’Blenis and his colleagues, Jonathan Barker and Ian Stefanison, hit a brick wall with their first venture, TrialStat, which helped hospitals manage patients’ electronic data. While TrialStat had secured $5.5 million in venture financing just a couple of years earlier, the founders had burned through most of it during a rapid expansion. When the financial world collapsed, so did their firm.

The trio played things far more conservatively with Evidence Partners, which has relied almost exclusively on customer revenues to finance expansion.

The caution proved unnecessary. Like so many other businesses, O’Blenis underestimated the government’s willingness to keep the economy afloat with easy money. Nor did he anticipate that COVID-19 would prove a significant catalyst for the firm’s revenues so soon.

Evidence Partners is hardly the only local firm with technology particularly suited for the war against COVID-19. Spartan Bioscience and DNA Genotek adapted existing products to create technology for identifying the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Ottawa-based units of Abbott Laboratories and Siemens Healthineers make portable blood analyzers that diagnose patients afflicted by the virus.

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Shepherds of Good Hope wants to expand ByWard Market operation with eight-storey housing complex

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The Shepherds of Good Hope plans to build an eight-storey building near its current shelter for the homeless in the ByWard Market that would include supportive housing for up to 48 people, a soup kitchen and a drop-in centre.

The organization says it wants to be part of the solution to the housing crisis that has fuelled a rise in homelessness in Ottawa.

People would be moved out of the emergency shelters and into their own tiny apartments in the complex, which would include a communal dining hall and staff available to help with mental health, addiction and medical problems, said Caroline Cox, senior manager of communications for the Shepherds.

Some residents in the neighbourhood are opposed, saying services for the homeless and vulnerable should not be concentrated in one area of the city.

“I was flabbergasted,” said homeowner Brian Nolan, who lives one block from the development proposed for 216 Murray St., where currently a one-story building houses offices for the Shepherds of Good Hope.

Nolan said that, in the 15 years he’s lived in the area, it has become increasingly unsafe, with home and car thefts, drug dealing, loitering, aggressive and erratic behaviour, urinating, defecating and vomiting on sidewalks and yards and sexual acts conducted in public on his dead-end street. Before he lets his son play basketball in the yard, he checks the ground for needles and his home security camera to see who is nearby.

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Carleton University Hosts the Forum Lecture: Towards a Feminist Post-COVID City

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evehe Carleton University Forum Lecture: Towards a Feminist Post-COVID City given by Leslie Kern launches Ottawa Architecture Week. Urban geographer, author and academic, Kern will discuss how the pandemic has highlighted long-standing inequalities in the design, use and inclusivity of urban spaces. The talk will share some of the core principles behind a feminist urban vision to inform a wider vision of justice, equity and sustainability.

When
: Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021 at 6:30 p.m.
Registration: https://alumni.carleton.ca/event-registration-architecture-forum-series-with-leslie-kern-2/.

About the Speaker

Kern holds a PhD in Women’s Studies from York University. She is currently an associate professor of Geography and Environment and director of Women’s and Gender Studies at Mount Allison University.

Kern is the author of two books on gender and cities, including Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-Made World (Verso). The book discusses how our cities have failed in terms of fear, motherhood, friendship, activism, the joy and perils of being alone, and also imagines what they could become.

Kern argues, “The pandemic has shown us that society can be radically reorganized if necessary. Let’s carry that lesson into creating the non-sexist city.”

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