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:

Leave a comment

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 🙂

Leave a comment

Helping with Housing Half a World Away

The Bai Z Group:  Daniel, Issa Mallah, Mohamed Osman, Safie Josephine, Hassan and Kemoh in Sierra Leone

The Bai Z Group: Daniel, Issa Mallah, Mohamed Osman, Safie Josephine, Hassan and Kemoh in Sierra Leone

It’s been harder than I thought it would be to find a few minutes when my husband and I could spend our Kiva gift card together. My sister Jennifer and her fiancee Curtis gave it to us for Christmas this year.

I really wanted Carlo to be a part of the process because he’s never used Kiva before and I so I wanted to guide him through their website and how the lending process works.

I received notice of the gift via email so I started there and just clicked on the link to redeem our balance. I showed Carlo how we could choose from the list of countries or filter by types of projects to give to. He was hoping to find a borrower in Brazil as that’s where he was born but Brazil is not yet on the list of countries to lend to.

His next choice was housing. He quickly found a group that is looking for $2,775 to buy housing materials like corrugated iron sheets, sand, nails and cement. They had only raised 16% of their goal. The group is called Bai Z.  They are all teachers from primary schools in Makeni city in Sierra Leone and they have successfully repaid past loans. They’re also a pretty handsome bunch.

One of the reasons we picked them was because another Kiva lender signed up to match all loans made to this group. What a generous offer and an easy thing to sign up for if you choose a project that falls within your budget. The group will end up reaching their goal twice as fast.

A group I loaned to previously is already having some success with their venture and they have made a partial repayment to me.  This is becoming a fun hobby. As the money comes back into my Kiva account, I can choose another recipient to lend to.

I’ve talked a lot about Kiva in Pink Monday. If by chance I’ve convinced you to give it a try, check out their website and do a little browsing on your own. You’re bound to find someone you’d like to help and you can start with as little as $25.

They also have a promotion where if you invite someone and they sign up for Kiva, you’ll get an addtional $25 credit to use for a future loan.  I’ve invited Carlo. He better sign up!

Happy Pink Monday!


Leave a comment

You can never unclutter enough!

Some tiny size 5 shoes

Some tiny size 5 shoes

When Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines last November it left a wake of destruction the country is still recovering from and will be for a long time.  One of my co-workers, Tara, is from the Philippines and still has many family members there. I heard about the typhoon on the weekend and when I saw her again on Monday at work I asked about her family.  She said that they were all very lucky that they were in areas that were not that affected – all except for an aunt and uncle.

Her aunt and uncle were separated for five whole days without any contact, not knowing how to find each other, not knowing if the other survived. I can’t imagine how awful that would be. They did find one another eventually, to everyone’s relief including mine!

... and some giant size 10 shoes!

… and some giant size 10 shoes!

I made a small cash donation to the relief efforts at that time and recently Tara asked me if I could add to a box of donated items she was planning to send over for her family to distribute to people in need. I wanted to help but I had just recently gone through my apartment and closets and already donated extra things to a thrift store in an attempt to unclutter a little bit.

Around the same time I was invited to a clothes swap and had the inspiration to ask my friends if they would be ok with me scooping up all of the leftover clothes to give to Tara for her shipment. My friends agreed and so this weekend I collected all of the leftover clothing, shoes, handbags and many reusable shopping bags (an item high on Tara’s list of things to donate).

Lots of carry-alls and handbags

Lots of carry-alls and handbags

I brought everything home where I sorted, folded and packed it all up. I went through my own closets again and miraculously found about 4 more bags of stuff I really didn’t need!

The next day I dropped everything off with Tara who combined it with her own boxes and today they were sent away. Tara and her family send things over twice a year and they send things by boat because you can fill a large box with as much stuff as you want and the weight does not affect the price – unlike when you send by air. It takes a couple of months to get there but it always gets there safely.

This embellished dress

This embellished dress

Tara’s family distributes the items in various communities – where ever they think there is a need including at orphanages. Usually my friends and I donate our clothes swap leftovers to local thrift stores – and all the winter coats and flannel pj’s will stay local – but it was interesting to know our things will be half a world away this time! Tara mentioned that sometimes her family takes photos of the places they visit with the donations so if I hear news of how it went or receive any photos later this spring, I’ll be sure to post them.

Thank you Tara for doing this!  Thank you Carlo for helping with the heavy lifting!  Thank you to all my friends who donated!

Happy Pink Monday!


A few brand new things too

A few brand new things too

An entire carful of donations was tightly tetris-packed into these 3 large and heavyboxes!

An entire carful of donations was tightly tetris-packed into these 3 large and heavyboxes!

My wonderful husband helped me with pick-up and delivery

My wonderful husband helped me with pick-up and delivery

Leave a comment

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!

Leave a comment

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!