Photo by Kyle West

By: Natalie Clark

In 2017, McMaster partnered with the My Lil’ HealthBot startup to provide students on campus with all of their various drugstore needs.

Stocked with Advil, shampoo and various other drugstore essentials, McMaster’s own personal care product vending machine, My Lil’ HealthBot “Marie,” located in Mary Keyes Residence, achieves a solid seven to 10 sales a week.

Two years later, My Lil’ HealthBot has expanded their market, grown their e-commerce capability, streamlined their product mix and improved their brand positioning and message.

“We have provided relief to over 10,000 university students across Canada and soon we will be launching in the United States,” said My My Lil’ HealthBot co-founder Tim Decker.

Aside from the obvious improvements that the company has accomplished, they also hope to introduce a new program to their roster.

“The only other place to obtain items sold by the vending machine are in the drugstore in [McMaster University Student Centre], which is closed in the evenings and on weekends, and the closest Shoppers for McMaster students is in Westdale or on Main Street West,” said Raj Vansia, a McMaster student who represents the company on campus.

“We hope to increase the availability of necessary products for McMaster students while still being able to provide great service,” said Vansia. “This is the main reason for us to try out the dorm room delivery pilot at McMaster, which would allow for delivery anywhere on campus within 20 minutes of any products in our HealthBots bought online.”

The My Lil’ HealthBot dorm room delivery program will be test launching on March 16 and will last 24 hours. The program is slated to gauge the demand from students to have products delivered to them for an extra fee.

“One of the benefits of our HealthBots being on campus is we provide a 24/7 solution to life’s headaches. However, what if you could have our products delivered to you in 20 mins or less for only an extra $3.99 on your order,” said Decker.

The company will be experimenting with this idea to see if there is demand to provide extra convenience to students.

“To use dorm room delivery, a student simply visits our website and ‘checks out’ normally, and for a delivery option they choose ‘Dorm Room Delivery,” explained Decker.

Due to dorm room security restrictions, products will be delivered to the lobby of McMaster residences.

The program’s trial test will allow the company to grasp how many students are interested in this new service.

“We have heard lots of great feedback from students. We are passionate about the way we have provided an option for easier access to very important products,” said Decker, who is confident about the positive impact that My Lil’ Heathbots have had on campus.

According to Decker and Vansia, My Lil’ HealthBot makes it easier for students on campus to access their drugstore needs.

“We strive to ensure that students should only have to focus on school while they are at school, rather than on how they will go about buying the necessities they need,” said Vansia.

With the vending machines already making their mark on the McMaster campus, Decker and Vansia are hopeful that the dorm room delivery program will be successful.


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Photo from Silhouette Photo Archives

By: Rob Hardy

Eight years ago, as a rookie contributor to The Silhouette, I wrote one of my very first pieces on the sorry state of the Hamilton Street Railway. It still survives online under the title of “Public Transit Blues”. So what's changed since for McMaster University students and the city itself? Not much.

Some things are a bit better and some have gotten worse, but overall I would say the HSR is the same miserable experience it's always been.

There do seem to be more student buses during peak times on campus so it's not as packed as it used to be. We also have been able to negotiate year-round bus passes for Mac students, which previously only gave us an eight-month deal.

While I believe the HSR functions as best as it can within its limitations, the truth is that this is often not even remotely good enough.

In my case, coming in from Stoney Creek, the time spent commuting is brutal. If I take the B-Line, it still takes roughly 50 minutes. Trapped in a compartment full of stale air, at times too overheated, and shaking like hell as it travels our streets, the experience can be uncomfortable.

What's worse is that unlike previously, where the B-Line used to come right onto campus, it now stops on Main Street. Having to then walk all the way down to Togo Salmon Hall, in often unpleasant conditions, is ridiculous.

Moreover, the B-Line still ends around 7:00 p.m. This results in having to make two connections, which significantly adds to the trials of an already long day. While I can understand that express buses may terminate service at night, it would greatly help if a consecutive route ran from at least University Plaza to Eastgate, even with regular stops.

I use the B-Line as merely one example. Anyone living on the mountain, who also has to first get downtown before progressing into Westdale, suffers similarly.

Part of this dilemma is that Hamilton has unique geography to contend with. Our city layout is not a simple grid like you would find in Edmonton, for example, with nothing other than a river to divide us.

But much of the fault lies with the HSR itself. My biggest issue is with buses that arrive early, causing them to leave many people behind. Sometimes I have been able to trace this to drivers who began their route early, because there is no other way, logistically-speaking, they could have already arrived at that stop.

This is notable given that the HSR has been trying very hard to rebuild ridership — somewhat of a fool's errand considering their target market is people who take the bus out of necessity.

What's more striking is that even intra-city travel within Hamilton becomes “a commute” if one were to cross the length of the city twice a day. The current system as it stands is simply too broken and not meant for people in Stoney Creek to travel by bus all the way to Ancaster mountain.

During this decade, the light rail transit promised to offer innovation, as we moved from the planning stages to acquired funding to implementation. After all, Canadian cities of comparable size can now reasonably be expected to have an alternative public transit option on their most travelled route.

But as things stand, the latest news is that certain council members are now weary of paying additional costs should the project go over-budget, a reasonable possibility considering its timeline has been continually delayed due to endless council motions on the subject.  But why should the province keep footing the entire bill anyway, especially for a city whose factions are still so divided on this issue?

While the HSR is a crucial part of Hamilton, their monopoly on public transit leaves bewildered riders powerless to really express their concerns. When we are caused to be late for school or work, an apology is pretty useless, and most people don't even bother to complain.

What some have done is stop riding. Yes, the HSR wants to regain their numbers. But many previous and potential transit users are waiting for more than a hollow marketing campaign to be convinced.


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Photo by Kyle West

By: Bridgette Walker

There have been and will continue to be various types of service and working dogs in educational environments like McMaster University and out in the world at large. I’m Bridgette and I have a dog guide named Estelle.

Please don’t freak out! Properly trained dogs are more effective, efficient and reliable than technology for a lot of physical and mental health conditions. These dogs truly do save lives.

Estelle plays many important roles in my life including going to McMaster University with me. She does many things including listening for certain sounds — especially my snack alarms — and knows where all the really important places are. Aside from deafness, I have anxiety, autism and chronic migraines. Estelle keeps me in check mentally and emotionally.

When meeting service dogs, there are some ground rules: ask first, establish what’s helpful and what are the limits. There are some things Estelle really shouldn’t do for her own sake, and a few things that would actually cause problems for me. Meeting other service dogs is cool too, as long as they're all well-behaved and ready to get right back to work.

Anyway, I don’t appreciate people randomly trying to pet or play with Estelle while I’m walking between classes. In general, all dog guides need to pay attention to where they’re going, and to their person.  We're on the move, but she’s still listening for what sounds are in the area, how I am doing and so forth.  

Please respect my space. I don’t like being “crowded in” and neither does Estelle.  She may be a dog, but she’s also regarded as a medical device — same as a wheelchair or other medical apparatus.

And yes, you can take a picture of us as part of the scenery going by, but don’t stop us to pose for snaps; if we did this every time, I'd be late for everything.

Enough with distracting the dogs themselves! This can be dangerous for other people with more serious conditions when their service dogs are being distracted and hindered from alerting them to potentially harmful or even fatal issues that can crop up at any time. I’m blessed that this isn’t the case for me, so far.

Then there are people with phobias. I don’t know whatever trauma you have endured in the past but we really don’t mean you any harm! Please, stop screaming and whining. It’s not good for Estelle's ears, not good for my anxiety and certainly not good for your throat or mental health.

Don’t project your personal problem onto us like that. You are an adult in university and entering the working world. If you’re going to be like that every time you see Estelle or another kind of service dog on campus or out in the world, you’re not going to live as good a quality life as you deserve. Everyone should be able to enjoy or at least tolerate seeing these dogs on duty — they’re really good at heart!

The secret is that if she weren’t on duty, she'd like to try being your friend! Estelle also likes visiting babies, kittens and even pet chickens. Anyway, since she can’t try comforting you in her doggy-way, try refocusing your perspective of the dog with: “It’s a special animal. It’s somebody’s lifeline.”  

From Estelle and me, see you around campus!


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Photo by Kyle West, Graphic C/O Mohawk sharps containers online petition

Students at Mohawk College are campaigning for the school to introduce sharps disposal containers in washrooms.

The petition campaign, being led by a group of six Mohawk students in their final year of the social service workers program, currently has over 100 signatures.

Vince Soliveri, a campaign organizer, said the petition is driven by safety concerns and a desire to de-stigmatize the use of needles.

Currently, Mohawk College does not have sharps disposals in washrooms.

Instead, there are signs asking students not to flush needles down the toilet or put them in the garbage.

“Because it is so stigmatized, people do not want to have that conversation,” Soliveri said. “Telling people to cap needles and take them home is a pretty harmful way to go about the situation.”

Soliveri first started thinking about the subject when a harm reduction worker from the AIDS Network came in to speak to the crisis intervention class in November.

“[The harm reduction worker] brought up that Mohawk College is branding itself as a safe and inclusive space for anybody and having a sticker like that on the wall is stigmatizing for those that use needles and do not really to create a safe and inclusive environment for people who do use needles for any reason,” Soliveri said.

The project team members began serious work on the project in January.

Soliveri has a particular connection to the issue as well, being a placement student with the AIDS Network in downtown Hamilton.

These experiences make him confident about the feasibility of installing sharps disposals.

“It does not really come at an expense other than a little bit of labor screwing the sharps container and mounting it on the wall. That is really the hardest part of it because everything else is provided by other agencies in the city,” Soliveri said.

The AIDS Network currently runs a “Community Points” program in collaboration with Hamilton Public Health Services, where the organization picks up needles and drops off sharps disposal containers around the city by request.

For the rest of the semester, the team will be working out the exact details of a potential sharps disposal program. They are also planning a public outreach phase.

After that, they will bring their plans to the college administration.  

“This is probably a project that will go beyond our time as students,” Soliveri said. “We finish school in April, and we are hoping by then, we can at least have a pretty good set of signatures in our petition that we are circulating around members of the Mohawk community.”

Soliveri is hopeful that the petition could have lasting effects beyond Mohawk.

“We are hoping if this project is successful and people are into it and understand the value, that it can be used as a framework for other places in the city,” Soliveri said. “And that could be as big as a university or that could be as small as your local café, just letting people understand that the process is not as daunting as people think it is.”

A sharps disposal system at Mohawk would not be the first of its kind.

Ryerson University is planning to install sharps containers in over 500 washrooms in university-owned buildings following a successful pilot project last January.

McMaster lacks sharps disposal containers in its washrooms. McMaster Associate Director Health Safety and Risk Management Lisa Morine said the university regularly inspects the campus and sees no present need to implement sharps disposals in washrooms.

The Mohawk College online petition can be found at To contact the Community Points program for disposal of sharps or for harm reduction supplies, call 905-546-2489.


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Photo by Kyle West

Following recent snowstorms that deposited as much as 40 cm onto Hamilton streets, some Hamilton residents are using social media to bring attention to the issue of snow-covered residential sidewalks.

Currently, residents are expected to clear snow from their sidewalks within 24 hours of a “snow event.” If residents fail to comply, the city will issue a 24-hour “Notice to Comply,” followed by possible inspection and a contracting fee for the homeowner.

However, residents say both residential and city sidewalks are still not being cleared, either by residents or by the city.

The Disability Justice Network of Ontario has encouraged residents to participate in the “Snow and Tell” campaign by tweeting out pictures of snow or ice-covered roads and sidewalks using the hashtag #AODAfail, referring to the Accessibility for Ontarians for Disabilities Act.

McMaster student and local community organizer Sophie Geffros supports the campaigns and says it a serious issue of accessibility and justice.

Geffros uses a wheelchair and knows how especially difficult it can be for those who use mobility devices to navigate through snow-covered streets.

“It's people who use mobility devices. It's people with strollers. And it's older folks. People end up on the street. If you go on any street after a major storm, you'll see people in wheelchairs and with buggies on the street with cars because the sidewalks just aren't clear,” Geffros said.

Snow-covered sidewalks also affect the ability for people, especially those who use mobility devices, to access public transit.

“Even when snow has been cleared, often times when it gets cleared, it gets piled on curb cuts and piled near bus stops and all these places that are that are vital to people with disabilities,” Geffros said.

Geffros sees the need for clearing sidewalks as non-negotiable.

“By treating our sidewalk network as not a network but hundreds of individual tiny chunks of sidewalk, it means that if there's a breakdown at any point in that network, I can't get around,” Geffros said. “If every single sidewalk on my street is shoveled but one isn't, I can't use that entire sidewalk. We need to think of it as a vital service in the same way that we think of road snow clearance as a vital service.”

Public awareness about the issue may push city council.

Some councillors have expressed support for a city-run snow clearing service, including Ward 1 councillor Maureen Wilson and Ward 3 councillor Nrinder Nann.

I just don’t find it all that complicated. Cities are for people. It is in our best interest, financial and otherwise, to plow sidewalks. It’s also a matter of justice. I await the city manager’s report and ensuing debate

— Maureen Wilson (She / Her) (@ward1wilson) January 29, 2019

A city council report issued in 2014 stated that a 34 dollar annual increase in tax for each homeowner would be enough to fund sidewalk snow-clearing.

Recently, Wilson requested the city council to issue a new report on the potential costs of funding snow-clearing service.

Geffros sees potential for the current discourse to open up to further discussions on other issues of accessibility and social justice.

Hamilton’s operating budget will likely be finalized around April. Until then, Geffros and other Hamilton residents will continue to speak out on the issue.


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Photo by Aaron de Jesus

By: Elliot Fung

In January 2019, McMaster Security Services announced an update to their mobile safety app, allowing students to receive safety alert notifications and information about campus safety resources.

The app, which was developed in partnership with both McMaster and the McMaster Students Union, provides a centralised location for contact information for a multitude of emergency and non-emergency safety services.

In 2013, McMaster Security Services released an application that included the capacity to easily contact emergency services, the MSU Emergency First Response Team and request the MSU Student Walk Home Attendant Team.

In addition, users could access transit information, the university’s emergency protocols and live alerts.

The 2019 update includes many of the previous features and adds new ones.

However, the new app has omitted information about EFRT and transit.

Among the app’s new noteworthy features includes a “Friend Walk” option that allows students to watch their friends as they travel home.

Friend Walk allows a user to send their real-time location to a friend. The user picks a friend to send their location to via SMS or email and then initiates a walk and chooses a destination.

If the user is under duress, they have to option to notify their friend and start an emergency call. If either the user or the friend disconnects from the walk, an option to contact emergency services will appear on the screen.

According to a McMaster Daily News article about the app update, “Friend Walk” serves to enhance the on-campus SWHAT service, which provides students with the ability to walk to a destination with the company of two attendants.

Another notable feature of the app is a crime map.

The map displays the location and dates of recent crimes in Hamilton and the area surrounding McMaster.

Crimes displayed include categories like auto-theft, car burglary and residential burglary.

The app also features a section about student support services, where users can access information about various student supports on-campus including the McMaster Equity and Inclusion Office, sexual violence support, and McMaster Wellness Centre.

Users can also email facility services to report an issue.

However, according to the “On-Campus Infrastructure Policy Paper” passed by the MSU Student Representative Assembly in Nov. 2018, the process of submitting a work order for a repair of infrastructure is still meticulous and unavailable to off-campus students.

The safety app is an improvement to the outdated safety app that was implemented in 2013.

The McMaster Security Services website characterizes the app as a ‘must have’ that contains valuable features and information.

However, it appears the app may not do a great deal to improve students’ experiences.

During the 2017-2018 academic year, the MSU proposed a variety of suggestions for increasing student safety on and off campus and improving the university’s response via the university’s sexual violence prevention and response policy.

As it stands, the university has yet to implement these recommendations and make improvements to these resources.

Among the recommendations relating to infrastructure in the policy paper were increasing the number of red assistance phones and improving lighting on campus and in the surrounding housing areas.

The newly updated safety app does not ensure these larger recommendations are implemented, only consolidating information that is already available online.

In addition, while students can use the app to access information about sexual violence support at McMaster, they also cannot do much beyond that to improve their experience and safety.

More information about the safety app can be found at


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We sat down with Maccess to talk about how the McMaster Students Union service helps build a community to help those with disabilities on campus and the bonds shared with one another in the space.

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When I’m not busy being your friendly neighborhood opinions editor, I work retail. I adore my job. I work at a little independent clothing store selling dresses I love, and working for employers that I respect. As far as sales work goes, it is the best case scenario. However, even in the best of retail environments, there is always one problem: the customers.

Despite what you may think, retail and food service jobs are difficult. At best you are physically exhausted from standing all day; at worst, you are emotionally defeated by the time you clock out. Even just your environment can make your job nigh impossible. Did you know that the United Nations has banned “music torture” — the repetitive playing of songs — as an interrogation technique? It is safe to say that my human rights were violated during the 2011 holiday season. Even the best job can be horrific when you have to listen to the same 30 songs again and again. To this day I break out in a cold sweat when I hear a hint of Mariah Carey. Even with pleasant music, the tedium will get to you if you put in enough hours, which you are most likely going to have to do, because for the most part, food service and retail do not pay well.

I digress. The point of this article is not to ask for your sympathy, but for your respect. I’ve had people yell at me because they locked their keys in their car, I’ve had customers blame me for clothing not fitting properly, or because other customers are taking too long in the change room. I have come to the conclusion that people forget that when they act like unruly children they are having an impact on a real human being, not a retail robot.

Many — though certainly not all — of us at university live in a comfortable academic bubble. Many will go directly from degree to career without experiencing a minimum wage service job. When we are lucky enough to be removed from underpaid and overworked sectors of the workforce, it becomes easy to forget that the only reason our university functions is because of the people serving us our meals, tidying our classrooms, or moping our floors.

If you would like your karma to remain intact, you can start with the three golden rules of how to treat a retail or foodservice worker: respect our time, respect our abilities and respect our limitations. Do not expect someone to serve you a full meal three minutes before the restaurant closes; cleaning up after you is going to push them into (most often unpaid) overtime. Respect the fact that many of these jobs are harder than they look. Retail and food service is designed to seem effortless and comfortable to the customer — case and point, the drive through — but what is often overlooked is the sweat that goes into making the job seem easy.  Doing many of these jobs well takes experience and hard work.

Did you know that the United Nations has banned “music torture” — the repetitive playing of songs — as an interrogation technique? It is safe to say that my human rights were violated during the holiday season of 2011.

Despite being capable, recognize that working a minimum wage job does not grant you much sway in your place of employment. Yelling at someone working the floor at Urban Outfitters is not going to help you get the discount you think you deserve. Cursing at a McDonalds employee will not make your fries fry any faster. Be reasonable and polite in your requests, because you may not only ruining another human’s day, you are also impairing an employee’s ability to do their job effectively. So thank your bus drivers, be nice to your cashier, and tip your barista. Accept the fact that you may be the customer, but you are not always right.

Photo Credit: 60Page

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A new bistro at the St. Joseph’s Hospital is hoping to bring some colour to the monotony of hospital life. The bistro is an expansion of the services of Colours Café which has been serving St Joe’s for two and a half years. The café, located on the second floor of the West Fifth campus of the hospital, is a brightly lit space surrounded by artwork and high tables. In-patients say that café is a haven. In the early morning, the steaming coffee pot and the sunlight filtering in through the large windows provides a warm wake up call to patients and visitors alike.

The café is administered by Rainbow’s End, a social enterprise looking to provide employment opportunities for people who have struggled with mental health issues and addiction. When St. Joe’s approached Rainbow’s End to see if they would run a store out of their building, Rainbow’s End saw it as the perfect opportunity to open up jobs and train employees. At first, the café opened with just coffee and cold counters, but it didn’t take long for sales to pick up.

“It’s gone from success to success,” said David Williams, the Executive Director of Rainbow’s End.



The café currently employs 11 people and is also open on weekends, when most places have closed their doors.

As of early February, Rainbow’s End was able to expand into a full kitchen in the first floor cafeteria, made possible by donations from the recent MSU Charity Ball. Workers at the new bistro have access to full commercial equipment that allows for expanded food prep training. Costumers are lining up for the hot breakfast and lunch plates, capitalizing on the opportunity for warm food in a building that serves most food in cold counters.

Williams hopes that the great food and service produced by his employees will contribute towards breaking the stigma of mental health.

Maribeth Chabot, the food services and manager chef for Rainbow’s End, said that she hopes Colours Café will provide the employees with skills to succeed in other jobs as well.

“Hopefully when I am done, these guys can move on and be a line cook in someone else’s restaurant. They will know all the things that a line cook needs to know, and the procedures of how a restaurant is run. You get a crowd of 50 people lining up for lunch. That kind of demand is reality. It gives them really good exposure to that and good skills in today’s market. And we laugh, we have too much fun.”



Williams hopes that the great food and service produced by his employees will contribute towards breaking the stigma of mental health.

“What excites me most is really the opportunity to offer training and a real job to people that would like to get back to work and have to face certain hurdles such as mental health and addiction. The most important thing for us was to get it open, employ the right people and establish the business and credibility. I think we have done that,” says Williams.

Expectations for people working at the café or bistro are no different from other restaurants. In fact, employees are expected to already have or be planning to get their food handling certification.

As for the physical layout of the space, the bistro has a similarly airy feel as the café. The food is prepared right in front of the customers, with the stoves in plain sight of the cash register. The employees are not only learning to prepare food, but they are doing so in an environment where the people they are hoping to please are watching them work. So far the challenge has been met with enthusiasm.


Williams knows this may not be the most comfortable of situations for staff. “It’s challenging. It would be challenging for anybody to prepare food that way.”

He also recognizes that perhaps his employees also have an edge others may not.

“We actually like to think that many of our team members, because they have experienced mental health challenges, have a lot of empathy with people who do have the same conditions. We feel that there is a degree of communication there that they can establish with other team members, with patients in hospital, with friends of patients who are coming to visit them.”

“I have a brother who has problems; I have a nephew I lost to suicide. I have been a chef all my life, I have made good money. I owned a restaurant. At this point in my life it’s time to give back.”

Chabot has nothing but praise for Rainbow’s End and their work at St. Joe’s. “I can tell you that working for Rainbows End has been one of the most rewarding jobs of my career. I mean, we can’t have a meeting where I don’t cry. They are a fabulous organization with people who care and with huge hearts. I am privileged to be a part of it and I get choked up. I have a brother who has problems; I have a nephew I lost to suicide. I have been a chef all my life, I have made good money. I owned a restaurant. At this point in my life it’s time to give back.”

Photo Credit: Alex Florescu

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