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Giving to the David Suzuki Foundation

charity, FAM By April 29, 2014 Tags: , , , , , , , , , No Comments

David Suzuki FoundationI remember as a little girl being excited for ‘The Nature of Things’ to come onto the TV. As the host, David Suzuki has been an environmental visionary for many years. The David Suzuki foundation began in 1990 with a mission ‘to protect the diversity of nature and our quality of life, now and for the future’.

One of the most exciting parts of the #30Greendays challenge with SC Johnson Green Choices is that by along with having me and my family participate in the challenge, they have also agreed to donate $10,000 to a charity of our choice on behalf of UrbanMommies and SavvyMom. Seeing my boys thrive in taking care of the planet and remembering my experience as a girl watching David Suzuki, we opted for the David Suzuki Foundation. With programs in climate change, creating livable communities, the establishment of environmental rights and justice, building community and helping citizens to connect with nature, this charity speaks to all of us in some way.

We are thrilled to be given the chance to support the Foundation, and also further the UrbanMommies mission to teach and nurture children through family activities. We have chosen to designate the funds to the youth education branch of the Foundation with the following mission:

“Connect with nature — assist Canadians, especially youth, to learn about their dependence on a healthy environment and the benefits of time in nature through outdoor education and opportunities.“

As part of the UrbanMommies commitment to the environment, we will do a regular feature on activities for the whole family that will benefit nature.

Our experiences from the challenge were in recycling, reuse, water and energy. The image above is one of the four Mother’s Day e-cards available to send in support of the David Suzuki Foundation.


MATCH International

charity, FAM By April 2, 2014 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

MATCH International Womens Fund.jpgMATCH International is a grant-making agency that raises Canadian dollars (non-government) that are put directly in the hands of the communities who are fighting against female injustice.  Is invests in social innovation by providing agency of change to those who need it most. MATCH believes that the ability for social change comes from within the community itself.  They believe that it is the people who live within these communities who are most capable of identifying what needs to be changed in order to create gender equality, and creative ways to do it. So to them, and to me, it makes sense that they directly support the people and the projects that are most affected by the struggle.

For example, in Malawi, young women were missing 3-5 school days a month when menstruating until MATCH funded a local program that allowed mothers to develop and produce locally-sourced cotton pads which were provided free to the students and sold within the community.  This project provided a source of income for the mothers and markedly reduced the numbers of school days the young women were absent.  On a larger scale, two years ago MATCH provided seed funding to the African Women’s Development Fund (AWDF) to foster programs working for social justice, equity and peace; today the AWDF supports 90 projects in 29 African countries.

I had the honour of speaking with Jess Tomlin today, the Executive Director of MATCH International Women’s Fund.  Jess was in Toronto this week promoting their newest grantee partner and project:  Boxgirls Kenya. This organization provides sport, leadership, and mentoring to over 800 Kenyan girls.  It gives the girls a feeling of empowerment.  It encourages them, their families, and the entire community to challenge the common perception of what girls can do, to see the world in a new light, and it allows them to think about how else their lives can be. This program yielded the first woman in Kenya to represent boxing for the Olympics games in 2012. This is the foundation of change that MATCH whole-heartedly strives to support.

Companies like MATCH and stories like these are the ones that inspire me to believe that we can change the world, that we can do more than just survive but thrive in bad situations.  However, for every project that MATCH was able to fund this year, 80 projects had to be turned down due to lack of funding.  MATCH was able to provide for 15 of the 1200 recent round of applications.  That leaves hundreds of communities who have created goal-directed projects still in desperate need.  Today I learned that of the money that Canadians spend on charity only 8% goes toward international causes: of that 8%, ½-¾ of this money is in response to a natural disaster – leaving 2% of Canadian donations going to all other international causes.

Jess Tomlin goes back to Ottawa today, in time to participate in the International Women’s Day on Saturday March 8th.  This venue provides an opportunity to raise awareness and increase donations to MATCH so that this organization can continue to grow and advance the rights and equality of women around the globe by providing agency of change to those who need it the most.


– Colleen Docksteader


Climbing Kilimanjaro for a Canadian Blood Cord Bank

charity, FAM By August 10, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , 2 Comments

climbing kilimanjaroWhen my second son was born, we paid to have his cord blood banked and frozen in case anyone in the family became ill and in need of stem cells.  Most families don’t have the luxury of this high-priced service and without a donor, Canadians can lose their lives.  Science has come so far, but Canada is the only G8 country that doesn’t have a national public cord blood program.  Currently there are 1000 people awaiting a stem cell match.  Canadian Blood Services has launched the Climb4Cord to help change that. At a pricetag of $48 million, it is no small undertaking.  As I write, my husband Derek Amery is representing UrbanDaddies by climbing Kilimanjaro for a Canadian blood cord bank.  The 25 climbers had a goal of raising $500,000 and they have thankfully surpassed their goal.

Tusker KilimanjaroCorporate sponsorship has been another huge component of the undertaking.  The title sponsor, ING DIRECT provided a $100,000 donation and in-kind sponsorship. B.C. native and ING DIRECT’s Head of Social Media, Jaime Stein, is also on the 19,000-foot climb and has been sharing the team’s experiences on social media via satellite tools.  I am thankful that Jaime is a social media nut like me, as I’m getting information on UrbanDaddies from the mountain via satellite phone! Dr. Graham Sher, CEO of Canadian Blood Services has also been tweeting from the mountain and supporting the climbers.  His passion and commitment to the cause is astonishing.

Tanya PetraskoIn order to train for the climb, Derek did 2 x 4-6 hour hikes weekly over several months and will be in Tanzania and traveling for 19 days.  Despite the advances in tech, communication is difficult and the team is due to summit in 2 days.  Needless to say, I am worried sick.  Altitude sickness, injury and rockslides have been cluttering my dreams. Balancing my own worry with an outward facade of strength for the kids is tough.  (But not as tough as a 9 day climb up a mountain so I’m good).  Our close friend summited Everest last year and we were all nervous for him.  I think as a result of that, our boys keep asking if daddy will come back and if he is going to die.  As hard as it has been as the spouse of a climber, I look at our kids every day and am so grateful for their health.  Every child deserves the same chance.

Derek Amery KilimanjaroThe cord bank is intended to improve access to stem cell transplants for patients in need by dramatically increasing the likelihood of finding a match.  According to Canadian Blood Services, the bank will collect, process, test and store donated cord blood units and they’ll be available to patients both nationally and internationally who are in need of a stem cell transplant. Cord blood stem cell transplants can be used to treat more than 50 blood related diseases and disorders.

You can watch the climbers’ progress via GPS and if you would like to donate to the cause every bit will help.  We’ll be publishing an interview with Derek Amery on his return.  Please send your positive energy over to Africa and get ready to celebrate the summit day with us!

The bank is set to go live in September, initially with a manufacturing site and two collection hospitals in Ottawa. A Toronto hospital will come on board by the end of the year, followed by an Edmonton manufacturing site and collection hospital in 2014. A BC hospital will follow later next year, the exact location is still under negotiation.


The climb began on Tuesday, August 6th, 2013 and will stretch until Wednesday, August 14th, 2013.  Monday, August 12th is SUMMIT DAY. Keep an eye out for summit updates.


Tide and Duracell Aid Alberta Flood Victims

charity, FAM By July 30, 2013 Tags: , , , No Comments

DuracellCan you imagine being a new mom during a disaster?  Your breast pump has no power, your mobile phone is dead and handwashing bibs with leftover water in your hot water tank seems like an insurmountable task.  Thankfully, Proctor and Gamble practiced social responsibility and gave tremendous care to families in High River and Calgary, Alberta during last month’s extreme flooding.  Duracell Power Forward Trucks and Tide Loads of Hope brought relief to victims affected by the recent Alberta floods.

As a part of Duracell’s Power Forward fleet, the trucks made several stops in Calgary and High River each day to help families and first responders reconnect with loved ones and stay powered whenever they needed it most. 20,000 batteries were distributed to help power important devices such as flashlights and radios. Each stop also gave access to charging stations for mobile devices and computers.

Having the necessary power to stay connected to loved ones during a time of adversity is a priority for everyone affected by the recent floods. The Duracell Power Forward Trucks provided the ability for residents to stay connected and power up equipment to help keep them safe.

Within days after the Alberta flooding, Tide responded and partnered with a local laundromat in Calgary to offer affected families free washes and detergent. On July 2, the Tide Loads of Hope mobile unit was set up in High River, one of the most affected communities, allowing residents and relief workers to drop off laundry to be washed, dried and folded, free of charge. Tide washed 300 loads of laundry per day to help affected families through this difficult time. Watch and share a video of Loads of Hope in High River. For every view, Tide will donate $1 to the cause, up to $25,000.

Tide Loads of HopeTide Loads of Hope was created in 2005 to provide much needed free laundry services to families affected by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Inspired by the resilience and spirit of the people of New Orleans, Tide was driven to expand the Loads of Hope program and has since helped families across the country affected by disaster. Today, the program includes the Tide Loads of Hope truck outfitted with 32 energy-efficient Frigidaire® AffinityTM washers and dryers. Collectively, Tide has washed over 55,000 loads for more than 40,000 families impacted by disasters since the program launched.

In addition to deploying the Duracell mobile trucks and Tide Loads of Hope, P&G’s relief efforts also included a donation of personal care kits with over 22,000 units of product from brands such as Dawn, Mr. Clean, Oral- B, Scope, Glide, Gillette, Always, Tampax, Herbal Essences and Pantene.

P&G’s brands worked to help relief workers and families whose homes, clothing and personal items had been impacted to help renew a sense of hope in a difficult time. These programs were made possible with the support of P&G’s valued partners: the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs, the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Association and Purolator.

Disclosure: I am a P&Gmom. As part of my affiliation with this group I receive products and special access to P&G events and opportunities. The opinions on this blog are my own.


Teaching Equality

charity, FAM, health By March 8, 2013 Tags: , , , , No Comments

Olympians and KidsThe smells of burnt fish and feces are becoming normal.  The soles of my feet, after three days, can no longer get clean.  There is no pavement – just sand where the kids play their games.  It makes it easy for the Right to Play leaders to draw lines to facilitate the games and learning.

Different schools and areas are on a sliding scale of poverty.  The little girl who defecated on the wall of her corrugated metal shack this morning.  The woman wearing only her bra and a sarong around her waist who wanted my phone number in Canada – versus the school that had a well and children without sores on their faces or distended bellies.

LIberia JumpWe played with kids at Islamic schools, Christian schools and who knows what kind of schools.  It didn’t matter at all.  The kids reacted the same.  And the group leaders need to seriously come to my house in order to get my kids in line.  All they have to do is say ‘Circle’ (pronounced ‘’psy-cow’ in West African dialect) and the kids magically form a circle, joining hands.  A huge part of the process is response.  The leader says ‘circle’ and kids say ‘circle’  the leader says ‘circle wider’ and everyone jumps backwards as they chant ‘wider’.  The rhythm and music that is part of many of the games was compelling.

After three days it is hard to be stoic.  A little girl today followed me everywhere and the attention I paid her may be more than she has gotten in weeks.  Yesterday children of Clara Town flocked around us and followed like geese.  They all want to be in photos, and seeing the shot afterwards on the digital display thrills them to no end.  They make crazy poses – perhaps thinking they are rock stars and models (one man of about 21 begged me for his photo and posed like Beckham).  Sometimes the camera equipment scares them.  I made two little ones cry today and could have died.  It was like I had zapped them with a tazer.  They have much to cry about and my Nikon was the thing that did it.  I have never felt so horrible.  You absolutely liberia water wellmust ask prior to photographing adults.  Many in more impoverished areas feel like the rich North Americans with their expensive equipment are coming to take pictures for profit out of their hardship.  We got a few scowls, but mostly warmth.  The women are so beautiful.  I could photograph them endlessly.

I had the opportunity to work with many older kids – 10 to 14 and the games were more advanced.  In one, 4 areas were designated as ‘agree’ ‘disagree’ ‘I don’t know’ and ‘maybe’.  The leader would pose a question and we would run to the quadrant that best fit our thoughts.  We then had to justify why we ran there.  In one instance, the statement was ‘Only girls should play with dolls’.  Half of us (including me and the Olympians) ran to ‘Disagree’ and half of the girls ran to ‘Agree’.  A heated debate ensued.  In Liberian culture only women care for children, therefore only girls should play with dolls.  The girls in our quarter countered that if a man has a baby he needs to know liberia playdayhow to hold it.  The facilitator stood between and reminded us often that we could move if we changed our minds.  Clara Hughes piped up and said that at one time some people thought that only men could to do sports but now both sexes excel.  My non-confrontational self was uncomfortable.  And shocked at the cultural disparity.  But amazed that some of the girls were really thinking for themselves – on all sides of the argument.  They were certainly less nervous orators than me.  I kind of wished we could do a touchy/feely hugging game afterwards though.  Right To Play has lots of those, and gets people comfortable with their bodies and appropriate physical contact.

Looking out my desk window in the hotel room at the moment.  It’s teeming with rain and I listen to Handel (Watermusik.. chuckle.) as I write.  My view looks like ivy or trellis.  But it’s electrical cords and barbed wire.  Surreal.


The Youth of Claratown, Monrovia Liberia

charity, FAM, International, ROAM By March 4, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , 1 Comment

Claratown MonroviaAfter hours of games – in one spot 40 kids had been selected to participate and over 300 showed up – I was able to really see the theories behind Right To Play.  It is genius and the youth of Claratown, Monrovia, Liberia showed me the learning and laughter produced by Right To Play.  I keep thinking of the parallels it has to the theatre sports of my youth and university years, teaching  attention to detail, conversational abilities, control of the body and leadership.  After every game (not a soccer match, but a shorter activity such as ‘What time is it Mr. Wolf’ or ‘Find the person in the circle who is leading the activity’ or ‘find whose hand the stone is hidden in’ – there is a very deep discussion about the lessons learned.  Some games invite you to state your name proudly as you go around the circle.  I did that one in theatre school continually.  Others ask you to say the name of a country or boy’s name in a claratown schoolmetronome-like tempo – the trick being you can’t repeat one said already.  Bails of laughter resounded when I hesitated and shouted ‘Britney’ for a girl’s name.  They all thought I was perfect, as I was white.  But no.  You should have seen their faces when they had to mimic an action and I chose the Gangam Style jumps!

There are also other games that I played like Mosquito Tag that teach about issues pertaining to the local culture: sleep under a mosquito net, reduce garbage and don’t leave water standing.  In others, we talked about the meaning of discrimination, segregation and equality.  With the smaller kids we worked on left and right, body parts, physicality and focus as well as healthy eating (the fruit salad game!).

Claratown OuthouseIt was so special to have the opportunity to speak with locals.  They think we have no problems in North America.  I explained the homeless in Vancouver, the sexual assault, poverty and murders throughout our country.  They were shocked.  I talked about food banks and violence and they realized that perhaps we are not as shiny as we may seem.  I watched them cook and set up individual businesses buying bleach or grain in bulk and selling it in small packets for a profit.  This was not only a poverty-stricken society, but almost operated as if it were 1800 – the cell phone charging stations aside.

After two vigourous play sessions, I attended a two and a half- hour forum on drugs and youth. It was lengthy and – wow – the West African accents are hard to understand!  But I was floored.  These youth leaders – from teens to mid-thirties – arranged this event with guests.  Our Claratown vendorsCanadian group of 7 were special attendees.  But the mayor and governor of the region also attended.  And two representatives from the Drug Enforcement Agency.  I hadn’t been in such a formal atmosphere since student government days at Queen’s.  The Queen’s students had nothing on these statesmen.  Points were discussed, debated, restated and analyzed.

IClara Town Youth Meeting came to a realization.  This conversation and articulation was the next logical phase of the Right to Play programs in which I was participating.  After being kids, people become youth leaders and then full-on volunteers who run groups all over Monrovia.  In Westpoint there were 9 circles of at least 40 kids.  The leaders were better than most counselors I have had in my life (don’t make me tell you how many).  And they were jobless.  They volunteer their time because they realize that if they don’t, their community will implode once these kids reach a certain age.

At the meeting, six-time Olympian Clara Hughes spoke for our group about her drug use as a teen.  A pin could have dropped.  These topics are not discussed in West Africa.  There are trucks that sell shoe polish to ensure appearances are tidy and yet there is no affordable way to go to the bathroom.  She then talked about determination and the blessings she received by having leaders, coaches and trainers.  And how, despite her difficult past, went to to win Olympic medals for Canada during both the summer and winter games.

History was made at this meeting.  I kept thinking of the French Revolution.  Seeing fourty people who have been through a recent war, and whose brothers and parents now suffer the effects of cocaine and marijuana, I could feel change bubbling within the room.  And these people all experienced Right To Play programs after being through a horrific war.  I would argue that my children cannot articulate in public the way the children involved in Right To Play programs had as we ‘played’.  And at the meeting?  I wish I could hire the whole lot of them to negotiate for me and run my company.

Claratown childrenAfter the discussions we were blessed with African drumming and dance of some local children outside the building.  There was a 3 year old who couldn’t control herself and followed along.  The hope extended from inside to out.

In case you missed the first travel article focused on West Point it is archived here.


TODAY is Bell Let's Talk Day

charity, FAM, health By February 12, 2013 Tags: , , , , , 2 Comments
Bell lets talk1 in 5 Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their lives.  I was one of those 5.  Hospitalized for depression during my undergraduate degree, I lost friends and people spoke in whispers as I walked by.  I became a liability to know, and a burden for those who visited.  But my experience also made me realize how common mental illness can be.  Also in the ward were three other people I knew from university including the spouse of one of my professors.  I began to accept the condition as being akin to a heart murmur or broken achilles.  Mental health is just another medical condition that needs attention.  When I was well I took some time off and thrived.  Truly happy, fulfilled and strong, I made the decision not to go back to my original university.  Too much stigma.  Too many obstacles I didn’t need. Several years later, a few things have changed – but not enough.  TODAY is Bell Let’s Talk Day!  Read on..
One of the biggest hurdles to overcome for anyone facing mental illness is the stigma associated with it. It is the leading reason two-thirds of all of those living with a mental illness do not seek help.
Bell Lets Talk Day

To drive progress in reducing stigma, a campaign called Bell Let’s Talk is opening the national conversation about mental illness and its dramatic impact in all parts of the country. Stepping forward as Bell’s spokesperson for Bell Let’s Talk Day and our campaign to effect change is six-time Olympic medalist Clara Hughes. As a community leader and philanthropist who has come to know and inspire Canadians, Clara has seen the impact of mental illness and understands how important it is to get people talking about it around kitchen and boardroom tables.

So, TODAY… for every:

– Text message sent*
– Long distance call made*
– Tweet using #BellLetsTalk
– Facebook share of the Bell Let’s Talk image

Bell will donate 5¢ more to help fund mental health initiatives across Canada.

* By a Bell or Bell Aliant customer.

So tweet! Call!  Reach out and start some conversations.  Our kids need to know that it’s ok to share, to talk and to ask for help.

Liberia – The Trip of a Lifetime

charity, FAM By December 18, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , 3 Comments

Right To Play ParentAnd then there was the week that I didn’t really sleep.  Olympian Kaylyn Kyle and I were behind in votes.  I called in a ton of favours and spread the message in creative (and largely annoying) ways.  Friends knew how important Liberia was to me and would ask daily about vote count.  As I had an emotional drop-off of one of my kids at school, a mom embraced me and encouraged me to share about my children and my life.  During our conversation I shared about “Level The Field” and her eyes lit up.  She had worked for the Swedish Olympic team for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and is very familiar with the organization and the benefit of sports for kids.  Rocking her newborn in the stroller, she mentioned that she had a few friends in the sports field (that was a pun..) and would reach out to them to help our cause for Health in Liberia.

Fast forward.  Several days after the contest closed I was practicing square breathing and coaxing myself to carry on with life.  My friends and colleagues didn’t want to ask too much.  I was clearly distracted.  I got the email indicating I would go to Liberia while headed to the gym and became one of those people on her phone during an hour of cardio I hadn’t really noticed.  (I joked with Kaylyn that if we were to travel together she’d put my abs to shame).  Could it be true?  Could Liberia have won – when George Weah, one of Liberia’s most famous humanitarian athletes was a footballer as well?  Liberia needs so much support after recent years of civil war.  200,000 people have died and it ranks amongst the poorest nations on the planet.  Inequality.  Sexual crimes.  Disease.  The women, children and the handicapped youth need the teachings of inclusiveness that Right To Play can offer.

A few days later I was on a press trip to Ottawa and was about to tour the Canadian Parliament Buildings when I got another email announcing the voter who had won the chance to accompany the group on our expedition.  Her name is Lori Harasem and she lives in Alberta.  With three kids she finds time to work as the Recreation and Culture Development Manager for the City of Lethbridge and volunteers too.

Apparently Lori and I had a mutual friend.  Could it be?  I sent a covert text to my friend from my sons’ school to see if she knew Lori.  Apparently they were childhood friends and Lori was described as an extremely special, caring and loyal woman with a true believe and love of sport and play.  I tingled head to toe.  And then I toured the crucible of Canadian law and government feeling the importance of community, integrity and outreach.  The stately building made me realize even further that our position as Canadians allows us to help other nations – other children.  I am so honoured to be an ambassador for Right To Play.  To represent my country and to help children smile.  Somehow my kids’ Christmas lists don’t seem very pressing.

As I expressed to the other parent ambassadors when we were simultaneously told the news, I have been humbled just to be chosen to participate in the Level The Field program.  The prestigious group of parents who participated did a stellar job, and I still marvel at the work put in and the exposure that was given to the organization.  The true winners are the kids that we will be able to support through awareness and future donations.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all 6 West African nations could have oodles of funds flowing in?  I know that Right To Play is dear to all of our hearts now and hopefully in time we will all be able to help all of the 6 countries.  in the Level The Field program and the 20 countries Right To Play works in across the world.  If you would like to receive the Right To Play newsletter, you can subscribe on their website.

I told my schoolyard mom friend the news and the next day she cornered me as we waited for the bell.  Her son wants to start raising money to send soccer balls with me to Liberia.  He has a plan.  He’s 7.  And clearly very special.

Let the journey begin!


Ronald McDonald House Vancouver

charity, FAM By December 14, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , , , 1 Comment

ROnald McDonald House VancouverThank goodness I have friends with older girls.  If not I wouldn’t have known about One Direction.  And when I met Emma, a resident of the Ronald McDonald House Vancouver, I wouldn’t have been able to connect nearly as well.  I always end up at RMH around the Christmas season.  Last year the boys and I delivered new unwrapped toys and my kids refused to leave for 2 hours after having an extraordinary time playing with the other children.

This year, I was drawing on mugs to wrap for the house so that families would have something handcrafted, homey and festive for the holidays.  And wow.  Totally appropriate!  These parents devour coffee.  Of course they do.  Many don’t sleep much between their childrens’ treatments, and with going to the hospital and giving attention and education to siblings also living in the house, there’s not much free time.  I, too, am a coffee addict (with apparently no good excuse) and jumped at the chance to try the new McCafe take-home coffee at this event.  Little did I know I’d be transformed by positive, loving children at the same time.

A new arrival from Powell River was among the most polite boys I have ever met.  “Please”, “thank you”, smiles and an artistic talent that made me stare.  He was wearing a Ronald McDonald House shirt and decided to draw the logo on his mug.  (I drew a bunch of sunshines and happy stuff as it was the only way my heart wouldn’t break – especially when I made eye contact with the other moms there.)  If I could have purchased his mug, I would have.  He was so proud.  With shining eyes and meticulous wrapping, he joined me by the Christmas tree for a photo.  One little girl took her place snuggled under the tree.  Yes – she was definitely a gift.  Cute as a button I think the expression goes.

I didn’t want to leave.  I wanted to teach a dance class.  Cook a meal for the families.  Lead the kids in a theatre sports game.  The experience just solidified my affinity with the charity and I know I will be back shortly.  There is so much good that we can all do and when I visited the house in London, Ontario I realized what families with severely ill children might need.  You can always drop the following to your local RMH.  (There are 317 houses in 31 countries throughout the world and in 2011 , there were 513 families served worldwide.).

– Tupperware to transport leftovers to the hospital so parents don’t have to leave the bedside of their children
– Toys for Christmas and the holidays – often parents cannot get away to shop – even for siblings staying at the houses.
– A hot meal for the house (you can book a date, buy groceries and cook)
– Volunteer to teach a yoga class, fitness training, do a craft or share one of your talents.
– Drop off some treats or baked goods for families to enjoy between hospital visits (label the ingredients).
– And then there’s coffee… but now that McDonald’s has launched it’s McCafe Premium Roast take home coffee, the need will be much less great.

I was so happy to learn that McDonald’s supplies so much (besides the beds and positive atmosphere for families in need) to the houses.  Even suppliers and staff run frequent dinner-cooking nights.  Pretty cool.  And seriously?  After meeting the happy kids and being with the parents?  No better place on earth.  Unless you’re not a visitor.  As volunteers at the houses say “It’s the best place ever that you hope you never have to stay in.”


Level The Field with Right To Play

charity, FAM By October 30, 2012 Tags: , , , , , , , 1 Comment

Liberia Health SoccerIt’s been a rough week.  My son is having a hard time with self-esteem and handling stress.  He is lashing out and struggling and as his mother, I feel my heart breaking piece by piece.

But today is soccer day.  He was up, dressed and ready to get inspired by his coach and teammates.  He runs.  He plays.  He tells the kid who missed the pass that it’s ok.  Living in such a privileged community does not fix the growing pains that kids go through, but having abundant resources to help makes everything easier.  I have seen first-hand how sport and guidance help children thrive.

Liberia HealthI am honoured to be part of a new program with Right To Play called Level The Field.  The organization operates to create a healthier and safer world through the power of sport and play to help create a level field and equal opportunities for children everywhere.  Teamwork, cooperation and respect are explored in fun ways and community leaders act as coaches to change behaviours.  Right To Play’s innovative methodology is grounded in a deep understanding of social learning theory and child development needs.  Through sport and activities adapted from local traditional games, mental, physical and psycho-social well-being of the children improve.  (And I have a hunch that the parents feel pretty good as they watch their children play and laugh.)

Typically my writing is laced with wit and fluff.  But as I write today, tears are close.  I read about the children in Liberia and I think about my son’s behavior.  What do mothers feel when their children get sick because they haven’t learned that washing hands can prevent disease?  If my heart is breaking from watching my son suffer, what would it be like for parents living in disadvantaged areas of the world?  We all grow up with our own context and it is difficult to compare hardships, but I can’t help wanting to do everything in my power to help those moms smile as they watch their children thrive and grow.
Right To Play has given me the gift and opportunity to be able to help them raise awareness about the work they do every day, all over the world..  I have been partnered with Kaylyn Kyle, Vancouver Whitecaps soccer goddess and Olympic medalist.  Together, we promote how we can help level the field for children through play with a focus on how play can positively impact the health of those in Liberia.

Liberia Children Right To PlayLiberia is one of the poorest countries in the world with one of the highest incidences of malnutrition, infectious disease and other global health concerns. 85% of people live below the world poverty line*.   A massive civil war between 1989-2003 not only modeled violent combat for the children, but it created a lack of trust in people from other communities.  After Right To Play started working with local communities in Liberia in 2008, there are more organized sports and activities and people from various communities play together.  Children are less likely to reach for weapons and fists to settle conflicts.  And 183 local leaders and supervisors have been trained as positive role models.  People with disabilities are now included in play, and girls and boys are now playing together more often, in a country with a high incidence of sexual violence and a history of gender inequality.

Level The Field video

I’m embarrassed.  Not only did I not know about the work done by Right To Play, but I didn’t have a handle on how bad things are in disadvantaged countries around the world. Did you know that 26,000 children under the age of 5 die every day?  Infectious diseases such as HIV, measles and diarrheal disease are largely preventable.  I can’t stop shaking at the thought of the mothers watching their toddlers die.  We need to help.  Please encourage Right To Play’s activities and help us promote children’s health in Liberia by visiting the Level The Field page on Facebook. By voting for our program, or the program you feel most passionately about on Facebook, you can help us raise awareness about Right To Play’s work and also enter for a chance to accompany the team with the most votes on a visit to see a Right To Play program in-action.  We need to lessen the number of broken hearts in this world.

Level The Field with Right To Play*Source: