putting our money where our heart is

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You May Say I’m A Dreamer

“A measure of society is how we treat our weakest members.”

This has been said by many different people over time – Gandhi, Jimmy Carter, Churchill, Pope John Paul II, Dostoyevsky, Truman, to name just a few.

At first I avoided reading the articles in circulation about Vince Li. I kept seeing comments on facebook about his upcoming unsupervised day trips. I finally decided to dive into it this past weekend. First I read the article my friend had posted and then I read all 58 comments in the thread that followed about whether or not he should be allowed to walk free. Most of the people who commented did not think he should enjoy any freedom ever again. I went on to read more articles. I could only read some of the comments at the bottom of those articles. It’s difficult to read so many hateful remarks. Before I published this post, I also read the victim impact statements of Tim McLean’s mother, sister and father (bottom of linked page). Their pain and suffering will never be undone. Still, I wanted to know more about schizophrenia. I read through the pages on the website of the Schizophrenia Society of Canada. I decided to make a donation. Then I made a matching donation to the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime.

I can’t argue with Tim McLean’s family about Vince Li. This was a tragedy beyond measure. Who am I to say what decision should be made in this case? What prompted me to write this post was an interest in deepening understanding about schizophrenia. Further to that, I wanted to write about vengeance because I’ve been reading more opinions about vengeance than about justice.

I added my own comment to the facebook debate:

“Ok, been meaning to catch up on this for days! Read everything. Not an expert on mental illness by any means but I’m not much for the whole “an eye for an eye” philosophy. I personally believe that no matter what another person does, your response should be consistent with your personal values – and for me that means that I don’t believe in harming people, I believe in helping people. I believe Vince Li deserves to be helped. I believe that if all people held this philosophy, the world would be a better place. I truly deep down to my guts believe this. I think that as a society we should respond to “broken people” by fixing them. He has schizophrenia and he is a victim too. I wish him all the best in his recovery. I truly do. Not only does he have this illness to live with, he will be in his own kind of hell every day of his life for what he has done. I think he deserves kindness and I think that if people can be kind to those who have done the worst you can imagine, that our civilization will flourish.”

I was expecting to be attacked in the comments to follow mine but I was surprised to see comments made by people who seem to have an understanding of mental illness and was relieved to see that a link to another article expressing a similar opinion was also posted.

Do I think Vince Li will re-offend? I honestly don’t know. Do I think they are making the right decision to give him unsupervised day trips at this time? I’m really not sure about that either. But what I do think is that schizophrenia is real and treatable. I think that people who suffer from it can be helped and should be helped. He’s been in treatment since 2008. His care team trusts him. I know that for some, Vince Li could only pay the price for what he did through equally brutal loss of his own life. For someone suffering with schizophrenia, what right do they have to recover and return to a healthy life? I think that’s why this case is so intriguing – it’s so extreme that it tests our ideas of what is right, ethical and just.

When I made my donation online, I was able to add comments. I wrote this: “I don’t have a lot of money to give but have been involved in a debate about Vince Li. I wanted to make a gesture in support of what you are doing to help people with Schizophrenia.” There was also a field where you could make a dedication. I chose to make my donation in memory of Tim McLean. I also decided to do what I could to raise awareness about schizophrenia through this post.

I know a few people who suffer from mental illnesses. I know someone who has schizophrenia. Even though I won’t mention his name, I still won’t share any personal details of his life, but believe me when I tell you they would break your heart. I would encourage anyone who has been engaged in this debate to not only read the articles about Vince Li but to take this opportunity to learn more about Schizophrenia.

“Schizophrenia is an extremely complex mental illness: in fact it is probably many illnesses masquerading as one. A biochemical imbalance is believed to cause symptoms. There is as yet no cure, but there are good and effective schizophrenia treatment options, and recovery of a quality of life is possible.”

The FAQ on this website is an excellent place to start. The answer to question #10 really struck me:

Q: Why don’t people with schizophrenia seek help for themselves?
A: There may be a variety of reasons why a person with schizophrenia does not seek mental health help, including lack of insight due to the illness; the brain is not functioning as it should; it cannot “tell” the person what is wrong. Also, society’s prejudices about mental illness discourage people from disclosing their symptoms and seek schizophrenia treatment. There is fear of the mental disorders stigma and subsequent rejection and isolation.

Vince Li’s case is allowing for some very important conversations to happen. This story is bringing light to the greater issue of mental illness and as a result I hope it will bring society to a new level of awareness about people who suffer from mental illness. Perhaps some of us will realize that we are part of the problem – that our ignorance is actually a contributing factor to incidents like the one at the very heart of this debate. Perhaps if mental illness wasn’t so stigmatized, Vince Li could have asked for help and this tragedy wouldn’t have happened.

“Stigma leads others to avoid living, socializing, or working with, renting to, or employing people with mental disorders – especially severe disorders, such as schizophrenia. It leads to low self-esteem, isolation, and hopelessness. It deters the public from seeking and wanting to pay for care. Responding to stigma, people with mental health problems internalize public attitudes and become so embarrassed or ashamed that they often conceal symptoms and fail to seek treatment.” Facts About Mental Illness and Violence

Many of the comments I read made me sad. Many people think Vince Li should get the death penalty. Someone even wrote that they thought that people on his side should experience what it’s like to raise a child and have him brutally murdered before they decide whether or not Vince Li should be free. Some don’t believe that his mental illness was the reason he did what he did. I believe it was and I can’t imagine what life must be like for him now. What happened to Vince Li could happen to anyone with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is not something only “bad” people get. It’s a disease and it doesn’t discriminate. Can you imagine what it would be like to recover from a schizophrenia induced psychotic state and have to deal with the fact that you brutally murdered someone? Is Vince Li not also a victim?

“A measure of society is how we treat our weakest members.” This has been said by many different people over time – Gandhi, Jimmy Carter, Churchill, Pope John Paul II, Dostoyevsky, Truman, to name just a few.

While commenting on that thread, trying to communicate the idea that as a society we have a responsibility to care for people with mental illness and that in doing so, we are stronger for it, the words to John Lennon’s Imagine came to mind – in particular, this line, “You may say I’m a dreamer.” It’s such a beautiful song:


Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

John Lennon

Resources for this post:

Thank you to everyone who reads this post. Please forward it or share it if you liked it and please comment. Keep the discussion going.



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Farewells and New Beginnings

My crew at JA at the 2013 Business Laureates Hall of Fame Gala, Fairmont Hotel.

The staff of JABC  at the 2013 Business Laureates Hall of Fame Gala, Fairmont Hotel.

Today I’ll say “see you again soon” to my co-workers of 2 years at Junior Achievement of British Columbia. It can’t be goodbye yet because there are so many people here I want to see again! I’ve loved my job and this has been a great organization to work for. I hope I’m not kicking myself a lot as I leave to begin a new adventure working as the Manager of Special Events at Inspire Health.

The last couple of weeks have been a roller coaster as I’ve been thinking about my new job but preparing to leave this one. Goodbyes are hard but I’ve been lucky to have had so many great co-workers and I’m looking forward to keeping in touch.

So stay tuned friends, because you know how I’m always trying to sell you a ticket to a fundraiser or tell you where to buy your Christmas Tree? Well, how do you feel about kayaking? It’s going to be a fun summer.

Happy Pink Monday!

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Yellow Monday in Honour of the Daffodil Campaign

online picI’ve been making calls for the past month to recruit canvassers for the Canadian Cancer Society’s annual Daffodil Campaign in April. I decided to sign up as an Online Canvasser and encourage my friends to make donations. If you sign up in a hurry, you’ll see your name as the top online canvasser!!!  Mine was the only name in the list when I signed up. I think it’s because I was the first person to make a donation.  🙂 Pretty cool.

One of the things I love about not just having one cause to support is that you just never know what your friends will respond to.  One of my friends has signed up to take a kit to work to collect donations from her co-workers (Thanks Tracy ;). One of my co-workers has pledged a donation already. I have a third friend who I forgot to call back (and I’m going to do that tomorrow!) because she indicated she would also be interested in supporting the campaign.  Cancer is just one of those things I guess. It’s touched all of us and many of us know cancer survivors.

I live in a condo and I’m not super keen to knock on doors myself (I know, how can I talk other people into it???) so I decided to become an online canvasser instead.  It’s great that the campaign has all these options and that some are less pressure. I mean, not everyone is up to it but I’ve talked to people who really like going door to door every year and they enjoy connecting with their neighbours.  I talked to a woman last week who doesn’t want to fundraise but she said she really hopes her neighbour Mike is going to do it again because she really looks forward to his visits!  I haven’t successfully signed Mike up yet but I left him a voice-mail to let him know Margaret said to tell him she is really proud of him. It’s moments like those that makes all the hang-ups worthwhile!

But if you’re not like Margaret or Mike and maybe you’re a little more like me, check out my page for starters and maybe make a donation while you’re there or get yourself registered and start inviting friends and family.  My goal is $100.  Care for a little friendly challenge?  Think you can raise more than me?  I’d love to see you try. Sincerely!

Happy Pink Monday!


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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!


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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

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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!


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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 🙂