putting our money where our heart is

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The Rare Gift of Seeing Donations Received


It looks like everyone wants that dress! I hope this girl got to keep it.

Last January, some friends and I contributed the remains of our New Year’s clothing swap to a shipment of donated goods that were travelling to the Philippines. My friend Tara sends things there twice a year by freighter. This shipment was heading to one of the areas that had been affected by Typhoon Haiyan. Sending by water vs. air is more affordable but it takes a couple of months. Tara just recently received photos from the day our donations arrived.

What a wonderful and rare gift, to see the people who have received our donations. These photos really capture the spirit of the moment – the excitement of the unpacking and the moments when someone found something just for them.

I recognize many of the articles of clothing in these photos. Some were my own and some were things I tried on but decided not to keep. I’m so glad I didn’t take them now because seeing how happy they’ve made someone else is so much better!


This photo shows the conditions people are living in.


This is in the same area where our donations were dropped off.


This top was once mine!


It looks like there was something for everyone.

DSCN2079 Black Blouse   DSCN2519 DSCN2568

I remember trying this on and believe me, she looks 100x better in it than I did!

I remember trying this on and believe me, she looks 100x better in it than I did!

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Happy Holidays!

Snow CatIt’s Christmas eve. There are holiday lights up everywhere in my apartment. I’m on a little break from work for the holidays. I’m in a new job at a new organization, and new beginnings, like new projects and a New Year approaching, are making me feel full of possibility!

I’ve been neglecting Pink Monday and now is the time, as with a few other passions, to fire it back up again!

I’m all for New Year’s resolutions. I’m generally the kind of person who always wants to be aware of the state of things and be on a track to improving my situation. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’m always successful! I find New Year’s is a good time to kick start things that I’ve been having trouble getting a handle on throughout the year.

Goals for 2015:

  • Continue combining writing and philanthropy through this blog.
  • I’ve booked an art show so I have to complete 3 paintings/mth till May to be ready!
  • Getting back on track with a healthier diet and working my way back up to a lost fitness level.

I’m lucky to enjoy a life rich with wonderful family and friends so I’d be remiss not to include them in my resolutions – to continue to love them and show appreciation whenever possible!

Wishing a wonderful holiday season and a New Year full of promise to everyone!


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Thank you.

thanksIt’s my birthday and I just want to say thanks. It’s a great day for thinking about all the things that are good in your life, and I have many to count. Today my husband was extra sweet to me, as he has been all “birth-month” actually. My co-workers made me feel extra special with hugs, birthday wishes, a cute little birthday-girl ribbon I was made to wear all day and some special treats on my coffee break. I received thoughtful messages from friends through every sort of communications format you can think of. My family acknowledged this day through the mail and phone calls and heart-felt, loving words. My E.P.P. (girlfriends) took me out for dinner and absolutely spoiled me with all manner of thoughtfulness and nourishment and booziness and chocolate goodness.

What does this have to do with charity?  Well only EVERYTHING of course!  At least in the way that all the things the people in my life did today to make me feel special is an important and wonderful thing to do and to give and shows how unselfish they all are – so many people who took time away from their own lives, needs wants and desires to benefit another person – me!  And so appreciated.  Thank you!!!

And thank you to everyone out there who is sweet to their loved ones on their birthday.

Happy Pink Monday – Except it’s Wednesday so …  Happy Birthday to me!



Nigerian Girls, The Bechdel Test and Mother’s Day

At one of the protests held daily in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital,  Charles Ambowei, chair of Ijaw National Congress came with his last daughter to show solidarity.

At one of the protests held daily in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, Charles Ambowei, chair of Ijaw National Congress came with his last daughter to show solidarity.

How often have I looked to Africa and thanked my lucky stars that I was born Canadian? 300 kidnapped girls in Nigeria, already facing unimaginable terrors, are being threatened with being sold into sexual slavery and even if rescued, will face a social stigma that could prescribe marriage to their captors.

A few days ago I was outraged that Canada had yet to make a move to help Nigeria try and save these girls. This morning I started to feel like there is nothing more useless than a middle-class Canadian woman feeling outrage over crimes across the globe which she can have absolutely no effect on. And so I did what I do when I feel helpless about things that preoccupy my otherwise first-world-problems occupied mind – read as much as I could about it.

Where has that left me? With a bit more understanding about how militarized reactions from world super-powers do more to destabilize the democratic process in the countries they are trying to help than actually make a difference with the scenario at hand. It’s also left me with the realization that there is no charity I can donate money to that will ensure the safe return of those girls. It’s left me further jaded that social media response such as #bringbackourgirls has no positive effect at all other than possibly for the PR campaigns of celebrities.

‘‘For four years, Nigerians have tried to understand these homicidal monsters. Your new interest (thanks) simplifies nothing, solves nothing.’’ – Nigerian-American author Teju Cole on the Twitter campaign against Boko Haram (article in The Guardian).

Yet, I turn to my Pink Monday wordpress blog to say something.  What?

Well, I guess it’s this: that being afraid to put girls in schools for fear that they will be targeted by Islamic extremists or whomever is no reason to keep girls out of schools. If any good can come of a social media campaign on the topic, perhaps it could be to encourage people to continue supporting organizations like Because I Am A Girl, CAMFED (Campaign for Female Education), Action Aid, Save the Children, War Child and FAWE (Forum for African Women Educationalists), just to name a few.

Completely shifting topics now, although still along the theme of women’s issues, I wanted to mention The Bechdel Test. Yesterday, while describing a movie I recently watched, and joking that it didn’t exactly pass the Bechdel Test (Wolf of Wall Street), my office-mate, Anita, had no idea what I was talking about. Anita is an extraordinary woman which only tells me that the Bechdel Test isn’t as widely known as I thought!  For a movie to pass the Bechdel Test it has to have a) two women who b) talk to each other about c) something other than a man.

“When I call it a systemic problem, what I mean by this is that it’s not just a few people here and there that don’t like women or don’t want women’s stories told, but that rather the entire industry is build upon creating films and movies that cater to and are about men.” Maria Aliyah, Feminist Frequency

Though many movies may technically pass, the test doesn’t ensure promotion of positive images for women but I find that it’s a brilliantly simple way to assess movies and encourage discussions about portrayals of women. Think about it – what was the last movie you watched? Did it pass? No? What about the movie before that? And if it did pass, what were those women talking about? You may find yourself surprised to discover that often their discussions are about about some aspect of female life that still doesn’t necessarily portray us on an equal level with men in society or show us in positions of power or influence.

Perhaps for Mother’s Day you’re considering a movie date or gift for your mom. There’s a great list of 2013 movies that passed the Bechdel Test with flying colors here. If you’re in Vancouver, check out Finding Vivian Maier on Monday at 7pm at the Rio Theatre. Myself, I have to settle for a phone call with mom tomorrow as we are a province away. My sisters and I went in on a laptop for her which they will take care of presenting at Sunday brunch. I wish I could be there. In honour of women, mothers and daughters everywhere, I’m donating to CAMFED today and I’m going to see Divergent (a movie which my husband deliberately picked out for me using the Bechdel Test because he is amazing) and I can’t wait.

Happy Pink Monday!

…or in this case, Pink Saturday as I’m posting a bit early this week – partly due to the fact that I felt a need to strike while the iron is hot as I haven’t written a post in several weeks, partly to promote an upcoming movie and partly to get this out there in time for Mother’s Day tomorrow.

Til next time,

P.S. Special thanks to my friend Angela whose email this morning helped inspire me to write this post.

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Isn’t Everyone Already “Aware” of Cancer?

cancer_more-than-ribbonA good friend of mine posted, “Everyone is aware of cancer!” She was reacting, as were countless people, to trends that have been proliferating through social media under the guise of cancer awareness. In the case of the No Make-Up Selfie, even the guise was lost as the campaign morphed from cancer awareness to a celebration of natural beauty. Are people getting so caught up in acts of “awareness” that they are ignoring the reasons behind it all?

Have you ever wondered what percentage of men who grow facial hair for Movember have actually contributed to any funds raised for the cause or to an increase of men going in for prostate exams? Or should we move our scrutinizing eyes over to that other now famous campaign involving such clever placement of men’s socks? And as entertaining as that is, there are so many more campaigns and fundraisers vying for our attention through their swag and humour. The “sexy” cancers are perhaps the biggest examples of this – anything involving a taboo area is bound to be treated with irreverence. Have you heard these clever taglines, “Save a life, grope your wife,” “Save Second Base” or “Save the Ta Ta’s?”

With so many attention-getting gimmicks, clever word plays and excuses to see men and women in and out of their underwear, I can see how these campaigns would not only get a giggle but raise a lot of money too. So what happens in September during Children’s Cancer Awareness Month? I bet the laughing stops there.

In fairness to the North Americans who confused the trend, the No Make-up Selfie originated in Europe benefiting Cancer Research UK. There are many different months in the Cancer Calendar and they vary around the globe. As campaigns go viral and international, it makes sense that something might be lost in translation.

I too thought the No Make-up Selfie was just a new trend of women who were being dared to show their natural face, just for the sake of it. When I saw an article that urged women to “put their faces back on,” I had to find out why the author was discouraging women from showing their natural selves. When I learned the reason, I thought it was fantastic that someone went out of their way to remind us that the point had not only been lost but that an important cause was being forgotten along the way.

After reviewing a series of eye-opening reactions, enlightening images and informative websites, I did eventually learn that the No Make-Up Selfie was actually an incredibly successful campaign, having raised £8m in six days.

Obviously, it’s great that people participate in discussions, awareness campaigns, events and fundraisers – even if they are silly and saucy – just don’t forget to give if you can.

It’s not hard to find a cancer organization to support but in case you’re looking – I’d like to recommend two of them. I’m currently working as the Special Events Manager at InspireHealth – Integrative Cancer Care. In describing what we do, staff have talked about the difference between treating the cancer itself and treating the person’s whole health so that they are strong enough to support the process of fighting the cancer and healing from it. In addition to supporting whatever treatment the patient is going through, we have doctors, nurses, nutritionists, exercise therapists and counsellors who are able to offer a full compliment of care.

A story that helped me to understand how our centres (there are three) help people, was about a young couple that came in together for support. They were married and just had their first child. The young wife had received a terminal cancer diagnosis. She was facing the fear of her own death. He had to come to terms with raising their child without his beloved wife. Together they feared for their daughter who would grow up without her mother. Their experience, and understanding the many ways InspireHealth is meeting their needs, beyond the immediate medical concern of treatment, was what really brought it home for me.

Donations are very welcome and we have a lot of opportunities for you to have fun and help raise money at our events in the months to come – starting with Inspire Health in April on April 5th.  A percentage of sales from our “Inspired Shopping List” at seven Choices Market locations will go to InspireHealth.  I’ll continue to share news of our events as they happen.

Earlier this year I worked for the Canadian Cancer Society to help recruit volunteers for the April Daffodil Campaign. Volunteer canvassers will be hitting the pavement all over Canada collecting donations. You can give at your door or online. I’ve started my own virtual canvassing and you can even make a donation on my very own page.

Happy Pink Monday!

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Donate Your Voice

"One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn't exist... Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist." Stephen Hawking

“One of the basic rules of the universe is that nothing is perfect. Perfection simply doesn’t exist… Without imperfection, neither you nor I would exist.” Stephen Hawking

I’ve imagined what it would be like to lose a limb, not be able to walk or draw, or to lose my hearing or my sight. I’ve even imagined what it would be like to have cancer and lose my hair. Until a few weeks ago, I had never thought about what it would be like to lose my voice. I heard an interview on CBC radio with Dr. Rupal Patel and they were discussing the creation of prosthetic voices for people who have suffered from a severe and permanent speech or voice impairment.

You’ve probably heard the synthetic voice Stephen Hawking uses to communicate. He was approximately 38 years old when his speech began to deteriorate so badly that he could no longer be understood except by those who knew him closely. He has a motor neuron disease but this wasn’t entirely the cause of his voice loss. When he was 43 he nearly died from pneumonia and the experience resulted in a tracheotomy. What was left of his already impeded speech, was lost entirely. It was then that he began to use the computer program that produces his voice as we know it today.

I came to know of him in 1991 because of the documentary based on his book, A Brief History of Time. There’s also a 2013 documentary about his life, simply named Hawking which is on my to-watch list.

Did you know that he was born in England? What must it have been like for him never to have had the option to chose a voice with a British  accent, let alone one that might actually sound like him? At the time he didn’t have a choice and now that he does, he doesn’t want to change it. He’s used to it and relates to it now.

The voice he uses is no longer produced and thanks to voice donations, more options are now available. There’s still the trouble of getting it just right though. Variety is the key and some voices are needed more than others, particularly for children, elderly, and people with a variety of accents. In a way, a voice is like a fingerprint, as Dr. Patel puts it. You should really hear her explain the idea in her own voice and you can do so in this TED talk.

Imagine losing your voice. You could access a voice bank and speak again but it wouldn’t sound like you. How surreal would it be to try and express yourself with someone else’s voice? You can actually bank your own voice but if that’s not something you’re too worried about, you could still donate your voice to be used by someone like you who is searching through voice samples right now, trying to find the closest match to their own personality and how they speak. To create a customized voice for someone, a donor must speak approximately 3200 utterances, or record their voice for about four hours.

I actually signed up to do it myself, but at the moment, despite it being Dr. Patel’s dream that a voice bank be created with donors from all over the world, they don’t have the resources to respond to every donor just yet. You can learn more about the project at  VocalID, pronounced by Dr. Patel as “vocality.”

“In the United States alone, there are 2.5 Million Americans with severe speech impairments many of whom rely on computerized voices to express themselves. Yet many of them use the same voices as there are only a few options. That’s tens of millions of people world wide using generic voices. VocaliD (for vocal identity) aims to help children and adults with severe speech impairment find a voice of their own!”

If you’re interested in supporting the project, they are looking for voice donors, technical and business expertise, and of course, financial support.

Happy Pink Monday!


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Questioned Stats Encourage Positive Debate


While trying to verify these stats, I learned so much more about women working around the globe!

This past Saturday was International Women’s Day and so I dedicated some time to reading up on women’s issues around the globe and participating in a dialogue with friends on Facebook. I’ll blame starting a new job for not being more active this year. Last year I asked friends to vote on a woman’s organization to donate to and through the act of listing the worthy causes, I’d like to think my friends and I helped raise awareness of groups dedicated to helping women locally and internationally.  I donated to the most chosen organization (Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter) and some friends matched my donations as well. I was able to reference that list this year when a friend asked me for advice on women’s groups to give second-hand items to.  I’ll include the list at the end of this post.

While I wasn’t involved in a fundraiser or specific awareness campaign this year, I still found the time spent reading featured articles of the day very enlightening. Two things struck me, 1) that people still argue as to whether or not we need International Women’s Day, and 2) that in many countries and possibly on average around the globe, women are the majority sex in the work-force.

One of the articles I read was called “Why Do We Need International Women’s Day?” which I found on Linkedin. I really enjoyed the article. What I found disturbing were many of the comments. Why do I read comments? They always get my back up! One man wrote that advancement of women means that men will be displaced. Once again, I found myself wondering what planet I was born on and why now?  Why on earth couldn’t I have been born 300 years from now?  Assuming of course more time and evolution will solve all of our problems 😉

I believe the advancement of women will only benefit all of us, women AND men. And to the many people who are still asking why we need the day, I think the info-graphic at the top of this post goes a long way to answering that question. Well, that is of course, if it’s true!

I’d hate to be proliferating false statistics so I wanted to address the issue of verification.  I found it shared on many websites and on this one in particular,, the author had this to say, “I have copied it from others (we bildegooglet it and it has been used in many places, but none provide any real source) but the statistics are UN figures and are included here.” (Please note, the website had a lot of interesting and provocative articles and I encourage you to check it out – just know that you have to right click and translate to English as it’s a Norwegian site.)

The “here” in the link above is to UN Women where you can lose many hours, as I did, to their wealth of articles. While this article didn’t specifically defend the above info-graphic line by line, it did reveal statistics that I had never read before. I wanted more information about this line,

“Women are half the world’s
population, working two thirds
of the world’s working hours.”

I sought to find evidence of this and there were several references to this on UN Women.  These are some of the statistics I found that bolster that claim (all of which are credited on the site):

  • In some regions, women provide 70 percent of agricultural labour and produce more than 90 percent of the food
  • In Cambodia, more than 90 percent of garment workers are women
  • Women constitute 50 percent or more of migrant workers in Asia and Latin America
  • Women constitute around 60–80 percent of the export manufacturing workforce in the developing world
  • In export processing zones in the Philippines 80 percent of workers are women
  • In Nicaragua’s export processing zone, female labour is prevalent

Anecdotally, I can tell you that women were the majority by far in my last three workplaces (charitable sector) and I live in Canada so it’s not a huge stretch of the imagination to consider how this might be true in the developing world. Of course, on the other side of the dirham, in the Arab states, women constitute only 28% of the workforce.

Setting aside that debate for now – and if anyone can shed more light on this to either defend or dispute the stats in question, “I look forward to your letters,” as Craig Ferguson would say – I’d like to share a few more links I came across on March 8th:

And lastly, my list of organizations that support women locally in Vancouver’s lower mainland and internationally as well (some offer support to men AND women while others are dedicated to women only):

Happy Pink Monday!


P.S.  Another great stat from UN Women:

“If the average distance to the moon is 394,400 km,
South African women together walk the equivalent
of a trip to the moon and back 16 times a day
to supply their households with water.”

P.S.S.  That link to the YWCA article on Women Who Lead also has an amazing info-graphic with fantastic quotes, my favorite of which was:

“Work hard, step up and speak up, and speak out on things that matter.”
Janet Austin, CEO, YWCA Metro Vancouver

Ok, bye this time! Really, for real.
Theresa 🙂