Flying Eye Lands In Toronto

By Nicholas M. Pescod
November 21st 2011
File From

The World's Only Flying Eye Hospital, the ORBIS DC-10, sits on the tarmac at Toronto's Pearson International Airport. The ORBIS Project offered tours of the plane to the general public between November 18 and 20.

Providing eye care for underprivileged patients around the world is one organization’s specialty, and they do it on board an airplane.

The ORBIS Project is a unique nonprofit organization that aims to prevent and treat blindness by offering eye care to patients and education to foreign doctors, all on board a specially outfitted jetliner.

Between November 18-20 OBRIS opened their McDonnell-Douglas DC-10 aircraft to the public at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

President of ORBIS Canada, Dr. Brian Leonard, said the flying eye hospital provides an opportunity for foreign doctors and medical staff to get a hands on experience in a first-world setting without having to leave their country.

“What has been so successful for ORBIS is that it is a developmental organization. We teach surgical techniques and we are very fussy about who we teach,” Leonard said.

“We are extending the time of the operation to enhance the teaching opportunities and to allow for translations, questions and answers to those questions.”

According to ORBIS, 80 per cent of the world’s blind population could have their vision restored. Furthermore, 90 per cent of the visually impaired live in developing countries where quality eye care is severely lacking.

The airplane is equipped with state of the art optical equipment, an operating room, an audiovisual studio, communications centre, designated area for laser eye surgery and a three-bed recovery room. The DC-10 also includes eight microphones, 17 cameras and 54 video monitors.

“We could have a thousand of airplanes working worldwide and it would not make a dent in the 39 million blind people,” Leonard said. “We teach the best people from the developing country we are in, the people who are most likely to use those techniques and who will teach other people.”

Pilots from FedEx and United Airlines volunteer their time to fly the plane. FedEx also provides recruitment training for the pilots, full aircraft maintenance and ships urgently needed medical supplies to the ORBIS program for free.

Manager of global operations control for FedEx Canada, Jim Browne, says FedEx is strongly committed to ORBIS Project. “Part of the FedEx commitment is to keep the pilots active with their flight training,” Browne said. “Volunteers do it out of… personal commitment and the company supports it.”

ORBIS has a very simple mission, to teach and train doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff from developing countries. According to a press release from ORBIS, 45 of the over 500 volunteer ophthalmologists, biomedical engineers, doctors, surgeons and nurses at ORBIS are Canadian. “Many of the volunteers have come from Toronto,” said Leonard. “Everyone who is working with ORBIS is making very real sacrifices in their personal lives.”

ORBIS Volunteer and a Medical Director at the Kensington Eye Institute in Toronto, Dr. Shaun Singer has been to Ethiopia and Laos with ORBIS. Speaking through an Orbis press release, Singer said: “continuing medical education is an uncommon privilege in developing countries. Volunteering with ORBIS has been one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life.”

Dr. David Paton of Houston, Texas, founded the project in 1973. According to Leonard, Paton had worked on board a ship that was a mobile hospital that performed service work and later became the inspiration for ORBIS.

In 1980 United Airlines decided to donate an old DC-8 to Patron and in 1982 the airplane took off from Texas to Panama for its first mission. In 1992 the DC-8 was replaced with the current DC-10 and in 2012 the DC-10 will be replaced with a MD-10 donated by FedEx.

The DC-10 plane has a maximum flying time of six hours and cannot make trans-continental flights, requiring them to regularly stop and refuel. The new MD-10 will reduce the time and cost for ORBIS. “What they get is a much larger aircraft that can go from point A to point B a lot faster and a lot simpler,” Browne said. “The MD-10 will give ORBIS much more flexibility than they have right now.”

Since the organization began 29 years ago ORBIS has been in 89 countries, trained 88,000 doctors and 200,000 nurses and other medical professionals. They have treated over 4.5 million children and an overall total of 17 million people.

More Photos of the ORBIS DC-10


TTC Shows off its New Wheels

By Nicholas M. Pescod
November 16th 2011
File From

Toronto's new streetcars will offer riders more room, air conditioning, low floor access and boarding from all doors. They are due to come into service in 2014.

The next generation of commuting in Toronto is almost here.

The Toronto Transit Commission showed off a mock version of its brand new Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) between November 11-15 and the public was invited to take a look at the new machine and give feedback.

The LRV’s will have more seats, wider doors, air conditioning, and bicycle accommodation. Each streetcar will have 70 seats and can hold over 251 people. Passengers will be allowed board from all four doors and will collect transfers through an automated proof of purchase system onboard the new cars.

TTC user Josh Skinner, a daily rider, says the new LRV’s are a big step in the right direction and a major improvement.

“They will begin to solve some of the many problems on Toronto’s streetcar lines,” Skinner said. “One of the best things about them is that they are significantly longer.”

One of the more popular new features on the LRV’s is four doors opening instead two.

“I have definitely have been crushed at the front door on the Spadina line,” frequent rider Mark Jackson-Brown said. “The new design will be so much better.”

The LRV’s will all be low floor and will have a ramp which will allow those with strollers or wheelchairs to ride the streetcar, a new feature.

“Low floor should be mandatory on all transit vehicles,” Skinner said. “It makes transit accessible for those who need it. Since we all pay for transit it should be accessible for everyone.”

The current streetcars were built between 1977 and 1989. They are only 15-metres long while the new ones are 30-metres.

The TTC has ordered 204 LRV’s from Bombardier, which are being assembled in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

According to TTC engineer Steve Lam, each individual car costs about $5 million, including spare parts and labour. The TTC estimates the overall cost of the upgrades to be approximately $1 billion.

The LRV’s are expected to begin service in 2014 and the current fleet to be completely replaced by 2018. The mock LRV on display showed the first three cars and is not the final version.

“The basic design is all there,” Lam said. “We are still gathering information, but we are not looking at any more drastic changes.”

“It provides convenience and comfort,” Lam said. “It’s going to be great for the public.”

According to the TTC’s website the current streetcar network has 11 routes and carries roughly 285,000 people per day.

Some of the small complaints about the LRV’s were focused at the front of vehicle.

“There is a small section at the front where there is a single seat and it doesn’t extend,” Jackson-Brown said. “So now there is just this little extra space that they could have used.”

Skinner is looking forward to seeing the TTC’s newest ride roam through the streets of Toronto.

“I believe this is the right step for the TTC. It will help alleviate overcrowding on the streetcars,” he said.

Frustrated Customer Opens Her Own Auto Shop

By Nicholas M. Pescod
October 17th 2011
File From

Emily Chung owner and founder of AutoNiche in Markham, Ontario


Fed up and tired of being ripped off when she took her car to be serviced, Emily Chung decided to do something about it.

A Centennial College and University of Waterloo graduate, she opened her own garage catering to women.

“I wasn’t in the trade at all,” she said. “I got really frustrated.”The idea was sparked while Chung was attending Centennial College’s Automotive Service Technician course.

“At the time I wasn’t thinking about opening anything,” she said. “I just wanted to learn more about my car.”

After speaking to friends and people in the industry, she learned that a lot of people felt frustrated trying to find a reputable mechanic.

“I didn’t want to open up just another auto repair shop,” Chung said.

Finally in the spring of 2009, Chung opened up AutoNiche in Markham.

“I wanted the location to be in Markham because that’s where I’m from,” she said. “I wanted something in my community.”

While her shop caters to women, she admits most of her clients are men; but women are regular customers too.

“Women are not blindly trusting us because we were founded by a women,” Chung said, “but because we do well with the big and small repairs.”

For regular customer, Cindy Chow said that AutoNiche is a refreshing change from other automotive shops in the area.

After experiencing problems at her previous garage, three years ago she switched to AutoNiche.

According to AutoNiche’s website,its goal is to empower people and inform them that an automobile is not a “big scary hunk of metal.”

“It’s not about gender,” Chung said. “We don’t stereotype men just because they are a guy so they should know everything about a car.”

AutoNiche also puts on a clinic once every month called Girls Night at the Garage, a program that teaches women the basics of car care.

Small Army Mobilized to Ensure a fair Ontario Vote

By Nicholas M. Pescod
October 5th 2011
File From

Jennifer Neal

By the time the very first ballot is cast on Ontario’s Oct. 6. election, a small army of workers will have spent thousands of hours and millions dollars working to ensure all goes well.

At a warehouse and office for the riding of Oakville, roughly 30 employees work day and night, seven days a week preparing and assembling everything that is needed for the big day.

Elections clerk for Oakville, Jennifer Neal, says planning for this year’s election began in the spring of 2010. “There is a lot of work that goes into an election that people don’t realize,” she said.

There are over 257 ballot boxes, with each requiring everything from poll records, signs, posters, documents, forms and other supplies to ensure that the voting experience is efficient.

The cost that goes into a provincial election is enormous; according to Neal the budget for Oakville alone is estimated at over $350,000 dollars.

Province wide it runs to the millions of dollars,” Neal said. “There are 107 ridings in Ontario and each district has its own budget. My budget says that I have 2,570 hours to work with.”

One of the main challenges is finding and hiring enough staff to work before, during and after the election.

According to Donna Goodfellow, recruiting officer for Oakville, approximately 700 people were needed to work for the upcoming election.

Since hiring and training began in early September, Goodfellow and her team of recruiters have filled most of the 700 jobs available.

“The majority of people that have worked in past elections have volunteered to work again,” Goodfellow said. “There is however a lot of interest from students.”

There are various positions that are needed in each riding for an election, such as a poll clerk, Deputy Returning Officer (DRO), Supervising Deputy Returning Officer (SDRO), and an area manager.

Elections Ontario pays each position differently on Election Day. Poll clerks receive $157 for the day, DRO’s are paid $196, while SDRO’s and area managers receive over $200 for the day.  Besides being paid for the day, workers are also paid for the required training shift.

Goodfellow believes that there are three groups of people who want to work on the day of the election, retired people, students, and those who are out of work and just need a job.

“The first wave of people is the ones who are truly interested in serving the country,” she said. “They feel like they are doing something useful for the country.”

The retired and older workers are typically the ones who feel that they are serving their country but some of the students feel the same way, Goodfellow added.

“The students, I think sort of feel that way,” she said. “They want to get that experience, but they are also looking for money.”

Election worker and post-secondary student Matthew Lam worked in the previous election in 2007 and is thrilled to be working again this year.

“The way the management treats their employees is quite favourable,” he said. “They trust that the tasks are completed and that trust goes a long way.”

Veteran Fought Home-front Battle

Lt.-Col. Susan Beharriell

By Nicholas M. Pescod
October 4th 2011
File From

Imagine coming to work every day and being discriminated against based on your gender or what you looked like. Many women entering the workforce 30 years ago, including retired veteran and Queens University graduate Lt.-Col. Susan Beharriell, faced exactly that.

Beharriell spoke to a group of women from the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) at the Leaside-East York branch on Sept. 15. The discussion ranged from women in the military to her experiences during her 35-year career and the struggles and challenges she faced.

“I was the first and only woman almost everywhere I went,” Beharriell said. “They told me I couldn’t complete the same basic training as the men, because women couldn’t do that.”

Besides being told she couldn’t do something because of her gender, Beharriell faced sexual assault, verbal harassment, physical assault and other forms of discrimination.

“When I joined the forces in 1973 they told me that I could not become an intelligence officer because it said on page 42 of the manual that only men were permitted,” she said.

After years of persisting, the Canadian military finally allowed Beharriell to join the staff, but she still faced discrimination.

In her speech, Beharriell recalled the pressures she faced after being accepted into the security branch.

“You better measure up or we will never let another woman in,” she said.

In 1982, Beharriell was sent to Cold Lake, AB, where she was an intelligence officer and the only female on the base. During her time there, she discovered how difficult it could be handling intolerance.

“No teacher or student would talk to me,” Beharriell said. “Try a three-month course where your career is hanging in the balance… and no one will speak to you.”

No matter where she went, she was always told she couldn’t, but it never stopped her. Beharriell served with NATO in Germany as a Chief Intelligence Analyst and Briefer for the first Gulf War, and was also on duty at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) Centre in Colorado during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Beharriell ended her speech with words of advice for women in the room and received a standing ovation.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” Beharriell said.

The Canadian Federation of University Women Leaside-East York was formed in 1955 as a local branch of the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW), which is headquartered in Ottawa.

The Leaside-East York branch holds regular monthly meetings that include guest speakers.

Students, Instructors Differ on Budget’s Funding For Post-Secondary Education

By Nicholas M. Pescod
March 4th 2011
File From

Tim Hudak

A representative of Ontario’s post-secondary students says the provincial budget lets college and university learners down.

Today, the Liberal government of Premier Dalton McGuinty released its 2011 budget. In the Legislature, Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said the budget allocates $309 million over the next five years increasing the number of student spaces at colleges and universities. It also increases student loans and doubles the income exemption for students.

Nora Loreto, communications and government relations co-ordinator for the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), was not satisfied.

“There is no money in it for current students,” she said outs

Dwight Duncan

ide the Legislature. “Access isn’t just about creating space. It’s also about making sure that students can afford their post-secondary education.”

Duncan said the 2011 Ontario budget increases student loans to $360 per week for single students and doubles the income exemption; however, there is no immediate relief for students and families according to Loreto.

“It will do nothing to address the reality of the situation,” she said. “Students in Ontario are now paying the highest tuition in Canada.”

On the other hand, Tony Tilly, chair of Ontario Colleges, is thrilled by the announcement of the $309 million allocation.

“We are really pleased to see the commitments and growth not only in one year but on a multi-year basis,” he said. “We see that post-secondary education is the centerpiece to the budget,”

Tilly, a professor at Sandford Fleming College in Peterborough, Ont., believes that the 2011 Ontario budget provides the colleges and universities with enough funding in a reasonable time.

“It’s over a five year period and that allows us to approach that systematically over those five years,” Tilly said.

Sam Hammond, president of Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO), is also pleased to see the budget increases for post-secondary institutions. But the CFS’s Loreto isn’t convinced

“It’s frustrating,” she said. “We were really hoping that we would hear something that would be good news for students, especially around the cost of post-secondary education.”

Toronto Culinary Grad Finds Future in the North

By Nicholas M. Pescod
April 20th 2011

Melissa Davis

Since she was a little girl, Melissa Davis has always had a passion for baking. When she turned her passion into a career, she had no idea where it would take her.

“When I was young I loved to decorate cakes,” she said. “I wanted to become a pastry chef.”

Approximately 2,335 kilometres from Toronto is the city of Iqaluit, the capital of Nunavut and home to more than 7,000 people. That’s where Melissa Davis works 10 hours a day as a bakery supervisor for Tim Hortons.

While attending George Brown College’s two-year baking and pastry arts program, Davis lived in the Greenwood and Danforth area of Toronto; she graduated last year. She applied for a baker’s position with the North West Company and was offered a position in Fort Albany, Ont., but Davis wanted a truly unique experience and requested to work in the Arctic.

“After telling the company that, they offered me a spot in Iqaluit,” she said.

Davis worked for Northmart bakery in Iqaluit, but when the North West Company decided to open three small Tim Hortons franchises in the city, the company asked Davis if she wanted to take on supervisory duties.

Davis starts work at 5 a.m. and bakes the donuts and muffins that are to be delivered to the other Tim Hortons later in day.

In addition, she helps to manage her Tim’s outlet and drives to the two other stores to check them as well.

“Some days I get off at 2:30 or 3, but some days are much longer,” Davis said. “It’s a long and tiring day, but I really enjoy it.”

Katie Inukshuk manages the Nunavut Tim Hortons and is grateful to have such a committed employee.

“The bakery here in Iqaluit is her baby and her dedication and commitment to the success of this project always shows,” Inukshuk said.

Davis said that Tim Hortons has strong community involvement in Nunavut and hopes to bring Timbits soccer and hockey to Iqaluit. She said the work and experience in the North are unique.

“The experience has truly been life altering,” she said.