putting our money where our heart is

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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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Where is your heart today?


My dad, who we lost to Cancer on November 27, 2001.

Since I started this blog I have been keeping notes on news and information about various charities and this week there were so many things to make note of!

Just now, I read that the remaining members of the band Pussy Riot, Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, were released from jail.  They weren’t due out till March so it is possible this is being done to improve Russia’s public profile in advance of the Winter Olympics in February.  I’m happy for them and I can’t help but wonder, will they continue to express their political views?  Will they stay in Russia?  This article on CBC’s website said that, ”Tolokonnikova said that she and Alekhina will set up a human rights group to help prisoners.”  I am looking forward to hearing more about them in the future. What does this have to do with Pink Monday?  Well, I was thinking about Amnesty International and all the work they have been doing to help political prisoners including Pussy Riot.  Quite worthy if you are looking for a charity to support this Christmas.

Yesterday I volunteered at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre with my friend Angela.  We set up a Christmas crafts table and were there for 2 hours.  About 7 women came and went from our table.  Some sat wordlessly and colored.  Some didn’t stop talking!  I helped one woman make a Christmas card.  I helped her to spell “Year” and “Daughter”.  She broke my heart a little.  While I was there, a woman came into the centre wailing and needing comfort from the staff.  From what we could glean, she had been threatened by a dealer who was going to cut off all her hair as punishment and to send a message to others about not paying back your drug debts. The workers there really are on the “front lines”.  The centre has a shelter and showers.  I saw meals handed out.  I saw a mountain of gifts in the office downstairs, and was told another truck-load was coming for the women on Christmas day.  I saw a table full of loaves of bread for the taking and another full of scarves and hats.  A truck came by and gave out winter coats to anyone who needed them.  I had to tiptoe down one hallway because there was a room where a yoga class was in session. At our crafts table, I made origami Christmas boxes and Angela colored a mandala.  I thought about how the crafts were meditative and calming and how maybe just a few minutes of that could be enough to offer a bit of peace to someone who was having a bad day. If you’re interested in supporting them, check out their website. They may still need food items for the holidays and you can call them at 604-681-8480 x 226 to find out what hasn’t been donated yet.  If you keep receipts, you’ll get a tax receipt for spending over $20.  They are also trying to build up contacts in the food industry who might be willing to donate so if you know anyone, ask them if they’d be interested in connecting with the centre.

Perhaps you heard a news story last week about Tom Christ?  He’s from Calgary and he won $40 Million dollars last May and he’s donating every penny! He’s kept it quiet till now, he didn’t even tell his kids, but Lotto Max wanted their publicity so the news is out. He was golfing when he heard the news and he said he knew immediately where the money was going. Two years ago, he lost his wife to cancer.  She was young and fought cancer for 6 years but in the end it took her from Tom and their children. It was difficult listening to the emotion in Tom’s voice as he talked about losing his wife. He never wanted all this media attention.  He said there were a lot of charities he wants to give to and get his kids involved with. He plans to give most of the money to the Cancer Society because of how close he is to the cause.

It’s a cause I’m rather close to myself. I’ve lost many family members and friends to cancer so I guess it’s appropriate that I’ve recently signed on to a new temporary part-time job at the Canadian Cancer Society.  I’ll be telerecruiting volunteers for the Daffodil Campaign in April. I’ll also be supporting them with a donation at that time.

Today’s post is dedicated to the loved ones I’ve lost: My dad, Willard Olson, my Grandma, Dagmar Hermanutz, my Auntie, Phyllis Dzus, friends, Tim King and Rona Castagnier, and to all the wonderful survivors I have in my life who might not be here today if it weren’t for the research dollars donated by people all over the world. Thank you!

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Micro-Lending with Kiva

This is the Bethleem 2.1 Group I chose for my 2nd Kiva loan:  Edoxie, Ida, Eléonore, Marie Noëlle, Bricia, Isabelle, Chouchouna, Valerie and  Carlène

This year I wanted to celebrate Christmas in my family a little differently.  I asked for donations made in my name instead of gifts.  I also decided to give back something that would promote philanthropy and further involvement in charity with my family members.  I sent them Kiva gift cards. Through Kiva, they can provide a micro-loan, providing opportunities that alleviate poverty to people all over the world.  

You can choose any date you want them to receive the gift confirmation so I chose Christmas eve, because in my family, that’s when we have always opened our gifts. I was able to do four gifts in one transaction and they will each receive their own separate email and Kiva Card. I chose the same amount for all so that made it easy. If you are giving different amounts, you will need to do separate transactions.

Now each of them can browse through all the different individuals and groups who are asking for micro-loans, and they can choose who to give to.  If the lendee they chose is successful with their venture, the loan will be paid back and they can re-lend to someone else in the future.  It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

I’ve given my own micro-loan too.  It’s my second one.  The first one I gave to a woman in Tanzania who was using it to buy cattle. This time I’m giving a little more and lending to a group from Brazzaville, Congo.  One of the leaders of the group, Edoxie, is the leader of this nine member micro-entrepreneur group. She sells fish and her goal is to diversify the quality and variety of fish to attract more customers and grow her business. Her future plans are to become a wholesaler and save money for her children.

I found this group by using the Kiva filters – I chose to give to women, then a group, then to those in an area of conflict. Their are many attributes to help narrow down your lending interests such as youth, water and sanitation, job creation or fair trade.  You can also chose a sector such as agriculture, construction, retail or health (among others).

“Knowing that someone out there wishes the best for you is enough to give you drive to achieve your dream.” – Sammy, a Kiva borrower in Kenya.

Sammy’s sentiments are reflected in the repayment rate – an astounding 99.01%  Here’s a cute little animated video that explains how micro-lending works:

Try it!  – browse through the available loans and read some of the success stories.  Maybe there’s still someone on your Christmas list who would be the perfect recipient for a Kiva gift card.

Happy Holidays!


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My Favourite Charity Hubs

Support charity in honour of a loved one this Christmas and don't leave the comfort of your own home!

Support charity in honour of a loved one this Christmas and don’t leave the comfort of your own home!

The greatest thing about giving to a charity in honour of a loved one is you can wait till the last minute!  I’m doing a bit of both this year for my family but to send the real presents on time out of province, I had to finish all my shopping, wrapping and parcelling this weekend.  I did it!  I’m ready!  It’s going to the post office today.  Whew!

So if you ask someone else to give to charity in your name, you’re giving them a gift too – the gift of time!!!  The gift of not having to compete with the other holiday shoppers and stand in long lines!  The gift of never even having to step foot in a post office!  The gift of not driving around for 28 minutes just looking for parking!

But where to start?  I wanted my family to choose a charity on their own so I didn’t give too much direction.  I thought it might be helpful though if I posted links to a few websites that are charity hubs – that represent a variety of causes where you can browse, as if in a virtual charity mall, to find the cause that you think will be the best fit.  This list includes Canadian specific sites and some from other countries as well. I’ve used many of these sites and some were referred.  None are from a random google search.  Though you can try that too!

I know there are more than these so if you know of some great ones, please let me know! Like this page sent to me by my friend Rayna.  It’s an article in Best Health Magazine about gifts that help others.

Happy Shopping!