The humanist: Off the clock with Kim Peterson

Kim Peterson

Kim Peterson, Office Assistant,
Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape & Design

Kim has been with the University of Toronto (U of T) since February 2013.

Kim's partner Flor, with daughter delivering care packages over the holidaysWhat do you do off the clock?

I write spoken-word poetry and I try to give back to humanity through volunteering and general good deeds.

My partner and I recently came up with a plan to start a holiday outreach initiative called Better Together. We plan to collect, pack, and hand out goodies and necessities to people in need during the holidays.

This holiday season will be my first attempt to do this not affiliated with an organization, and I hope it will grow into something that will be carried on for years to come.

Is there a connection between your writing and your drive to live in service (i.e., doing good deeds)?

There is definitely a connection between both these passions of mine. My writing has given me a way to talk about experiences and feelings in a completely open and honest way and has been a sort of healing catharsis to my emotions, but for healing and growth to truly happen in one’s life, personally I find it is necessary to back up words with actions.

Helping people makes me feel like I am a part of something bigger — like I am fanning the fires of hope in a world that can sometimes make hope hard to see. At the end of it, the experiences that have helped me write have also helped me understand people and their needs a little better and made me feel like it was my responsibility to do what I can to make this world a better place — even if it’s in a small way.

What volunteer work have you done in the past?

I have been volunteering with a few different places since 2009.

My first volunteer experience was at the LGBTQ Youth Line. I was a peer support volunteer and it’s kind of funny because I was just finding my own footing stepping out of the closet, but here I was talking to all these kids who called, trying to help them deal with discrimination, self-sabotage, and self-love. It definitely brought a lot of things into perspective.

I’ve also volunteered at Ve’ahavta. We went around town delivering food and supplies to folks on the street and just talking and hanging out with them.

During the holidays, I have volunteered for Dixon Hall Neighbourhood Services‘ Meals on Wheels where we delivered hot food to elderly folks, as well as a Central Neighbourhood House program called the Friendly Holiday Visitor Gift Delivery where we visited with and delivered gift bags to seniors in support housing on Coxwell and Danforth.

How has this volunteer experience influenced your desire to start Better Together?

I have lived in this country for 12 years and don’t have family in Canada (my family lives in Australia and India) so the holidays always had a bittersweet feeling to it — that was in part why I started volunteering. I wanted to feel connected to something, and through it I got to see that so many people felt the same way.

I realized that there are so many out there who are less fortunate — that there are people that fall through the cracks and go unnoticed. This opened my mind and my heart.

Volunteering has shown me that you don’t need much to help make a difference and that there’s so much we can do together. This is where the idea of Better Together was born. It is a way to bring people together to help spread some love.

Kim Peterson (right) and her partner FlorThis year, who will be the recipients of your Better Together holiday drive?

This year, my partner Flor and I, along with her daughter and a few of our friends, are going to start in the downtown Toronto area, specifically Sherbourne and Carlton, Yonge and Bay, and College and Spadina.

Most of these areas have shelters, so we will be making our way west, reaching out to all of the homeless until we have no gift bags to give away.

We plan on giving away items that would be necessary and a few items that will be fun. So some of the stuff we have and are trying to get donated are toiletries, cookies, books, scarves, and hot meal vouchers to Tim’s and McDonald’s because everybody deserves a little happiness and something nice.

Photos: (second photo from the top) Kim’s partner — Flor and her daughter deliver care packages over the holidays, (bottom photo: right to left) Kim and her partner Flor / Submitted by Karen Augustine, web communications in the Division of HR & Equity