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The Homeless Guy’s Daughter: How Vulnerability Can Lead Social Change



Kala Ortwein, University of Calgary Alumna & Connections Mentee

“A hobo, a schizo, a junkie, a whackjob. He was called all kinds of names. Me, I called him ‘dad’.”


A fter seven years of living on the street, Kala Ortwein’s dad passed away at age 44. Since then, Kala has attempted to honour his legacy, while also trying to understand homelessness as a phenomenon. For her Master’s thesis, Kala spoke to other women who witnessed their dad’s life on the street. Their stories are of struggle, heartbreak and kindness, and they are unimaginably powerful. Our final Calgary session of 2017 explored a rarely discussed perspective, and included a participatory exercise to guide an empathetic response to homelessness. This season was meant to empower those interested in learning more about homelessness and how to be a more effective philanthropist.


Thank you to everyone who was able to join us for our final Calgary session of 2017 ft. speaker Kala Ortwein. Kala becomes our first Mentee to be a Key Note Speaker at Connections. Kala did an incredible job and shared with us her powerful story of having a homeless father. We left the session feeling inspired and honoured to have been able to hear Kala’s story.


Another big success of the evening was that Mentee Dominique Calvert facilitated the entire evening on her own. Over the past year, Dominique challenged herself to overcome her fear of public speaking and has worked hard at running a session with the help of Mentor Donna Finley. We are so proud of you, Dom! We would like to encourage all Mentees to take the opportunity to learn how to run a session.


Special thanks to the following volunteers for helping cook such a delicious dinner: Riana Downs, Isabel Ciok, Brittany Gadzosa, and Caitlin Karpetz! Thank you to Beth O’Connor for the photos and to Donna Finley for hosting the session in her home.