putting our money where our heart is

Leave a comment

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!



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.

Additional Links:

1 Comment

Impressive Teens Pitch Environmental Business Ideas

Students formed teams with different schools to network and learn team-building skills - like building the highest tower using only spaghetti and marshmallows!!!

Students formed teams with different schools to network and learn team-building skills – like building the highest tower using only spaghetti and marshmallows!!!

It’s JA day on Pink Monday! How could it not be? I’m back home after two days of incredible events hosted by Junior Achievement of British Columbia. It took nearly every live body at our organization to pull this off!  I was the manager of registration (aka The Pentagon).

It’s our biggest annual student event – The JA Innovation Jam (formerly the BC Business Challenge).  Students from all over BC came to Vancouver to compete for the best business pitch with an environmental innovation theme. Last night we had a reception for all the out-of-town kids who were staying at the Coast Coal Harbour Hotel. Many of them had never been to Vancouver before.  Some of them from remote communities had never flown on a plane before!  What an amazing opportunity for these kids to come downtown and be part of what turned out to be two pretty amazing days.

Sam Thiara was our guest speaker at the reception and he was truly so inspirational that he was surrounded by a mob of kids after the event. Like a rock-star, they all wanted photos with Sam.

A highlight for me was a group of three teen girls who fearlessly approached me, hands extended, formally and confidently introduced themselves and told me about their school and their team and asked me what I do at JA. Networking is a big part of what we’re encouraging them to do at events like these. If you’re like me, you know it takes guts to go up to strangers at networking events and start conversations.  These girls are already pros at it.  I was so impressed!

My alarm went off at 5:00 am today as the event began for me just before 7 – getting ready for 123 students to mob my registration desk at 7:30 am.  It’s been a long day but I have that wonderful feeling you get after a well-run event – pride mixed with relief that it’s all done!!!  

During the day the students were led through workshops, a lightening round of presentations, breakout groups and filming of their pitch.  They were judged by panels of JA sponsors and a dozen members of the Top Forty Under 40. The top four teams were chosen and presented to the group.  Tomorrow morning there will be links on Youtube where everyone (even you!) can vote for the best pitch for a kind of “people’s choice” award. I love that the theme was environmental innovation and they came up with some incredible original ideas!  I’ll all a link to this post tomorrow.

So, I’m tired, I’m happy, I’m behind on my database entries back at the office.  Tomorrow will be filled with unpacking and catching up on all that was neglected in the last day or two before the event.  Like processing some of our most recent donations!  Speaking of which – if you like the idea of preparing youth for the world of work through business education and financial literacy, you might like to support Junior Achievement.

Happy Pink Monday!


Leave a comment

Consider The Gift of Encouragement


One of the many ways supporting the Daffodil Campaign makes a difference – summer camp for kids with cancer – Camp Goodtimes!

I’ve started Telerecruiting for the Canadian Cancer Society and have decided never to hang up on a telemarketer/recruiter ever again! It’s true, I’ve just dropped the receiver many times as soon as I realized the person calling me in the safe haven of my home was not a friend or family member. I feel no guilt when I hear the pause-click of an automated dialing system which is a recording anyway half the time, but hanging up on a real, live, actual person – that’s cold isn’t it?

We’re calling people who have fundraised in the past for the Daffodil Campaign – raising money that will go towards research and support services to people fighting cancer and to their families as well. There are some pretty amazing programs like –

  • the Peer Support Service where you can connect with someone over the phone and talk about what you’re going through. This service is available online as well.
  • There’s a wig bank – and if you have 8″ of hair to donate, imagine what a treasure that would be to someone who’s gone through chemo and lost their hair.
  • Patients who must travel to receive treatment can apply for financial help for travel and accommodations.
  • There are volunteer drivers who can take you to appointments if you don’t have someone else available to help.
  • There’s the Jean C. Barber Lodge offering accommodation for patients and family at a reduced rate compared to hotels – it includes nursing supervision, 3 meals a day and is walking distance to treatment.
  • Imagine if your child had cancer? There’s a safe summer camp with medical supervision where kids and teens can enjoy some summer fun.

Can anyone really argue that these services aren’t worth funding? I don’t really think so. But I too have felt invaded when someone calls my home and don’t even get me going on someone who knocks on my door, but at the same time, I feel pretty strongly that there’s a difference between selling products and fundraising.

Besides the feeling of invasion, sometimes it’s just about dollars and cents. For me personally, I really do wish I could give every time I am asked, but I just can’t. We’re only 12 days into the new year and I’ve already been asked to support 5 charities. I want to give to each and every one of them! Instead, I will pick and choose as I have a budget to adhere to, not to mention I think I have SAD and really need to save up for a sunny vacation!

So today, besides my usual recommendation that you donate to or volunteer for worthy organizations, I’d like to suggest another way to contribute – by boosting the morale of those tele-recruiters out there! I called about 100 people on my first 4-hour evening shift and most either weren’t home or said they couldn’t help but I did reconfirm two past volunteers and signed up three brand new ones who had never done it before. I sincerely feel it was worth my time to accomplish that. So next time someone calls you at home, consider this – we don’t mind if you interrupt us to say “no thank you” but wish us luck and tell us if you appreciate the work we do. It puts a smile on our face and gives us that little extra boost of encouragement for the next call we’re about to make. In this small way, you can still make a difference! Believe me!!!

Happy Pink Monday 🙂


1 Comment

Do You Know A Classroom In Need?

Help students learn drawing and anatomy with a disarticulated skeleton

Help students learn drawing and anatomy with a disarticulated skeleton

Just before Christmas, I included information on a project in the US where a teacher needed funds to help with books for her classroom. My friend Yvonne thought it was a great idea and wondered if there were similar projects in Canada. I promised her I would find out and today I began a google search. My first attempt yielded no results and I started to think that this would be the perfect new charity to start up because everyone knows a teacher whose classroom is underfunded! I tried again, and this time I found exactly what I was looking for right away. Guess I’ll have to wait for the next great idea to start a charity of my own.

My Class Needs Foundation is a registered Canadian charity that lets teachers all across Canada submit project ideas for various needs in their classroom. This crowdfunding platform was launched in 2012 and so far only 4 provinces are involved and the majority of projects are in Surrey, BC.  Projects have to meet a list of criteria for approval and must be reported on by the teachers afterwards. If you donate to a project that doesn’t reach it’s goal, your donation is refunded in the form of a credit and you can choose a new project to fund.

Teachers submitting a project for the first time are limited to $1,000 and unfortunately, my teacher friend Catherine will be disappointed by this, you can’t ask for cash or perishable items like food.  Catherine is always fundraising for her school’s lunch program.

I saw a lot of requests for iPads which put me off a bit.  I’d rather donate towards books.  I’m not sure why I have this bias as I do 99% of my reading on a Sony E-Reader.  I’ll have to get over that perhaps.  Also, in some provinces (Ontario) you can’t fundraise for textbooks anyway (it’s against their school board fundraising policies), so why not fund some iPads? I saw projects for kids with disabilities, literacy barriers and sensory processing issues.  I learned a thing or two about what techniques are being used in the classroom to help kids learn. For example, I did not know that shape puzzles and toys used in math are called manipulatives!

My favorite pitch was by Mrs. Johnson from Frank Hurt Secondary in Surrey.  She’s raising funds to purchase a disarticulated skeleton to guide observation in anatomy drawing.

“Natural curiosity and engagement with the human body teaches a keen sense of observation and attention to detail, allowing students to wonder where these bones belong and how the body fits together,” says Mrs. Johnson in her project description.

If you know a teacher, or have kids and are familiar with the challenges teachers face meeting their classroom needs, this kind of giving might be for you.  Browse their projects and I’d love to hear if you found one worthy of your support. If you’re a teacher – I bet you have a need you could start crowdfunding for!

Good luck and Happy Pink Monday!