When 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.
The 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.
We 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 must 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 how 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.
After 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 metronome-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!).
It 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 Canadian 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.
I 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.
After 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.
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:
– 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.
And 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.
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!
Thank 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.”
It’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.
I 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 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.
What do you think it would be like to have your passions and activism rewarded by being flown across the globe, given VIP access and hosted (along with your Mom) at stunning Thai resorts while you met elephants and reported on polo matches? Cinderella meets Madagascar kind of movie, right? Nope. For 13-year-old elephant lover and polo enthusiast Jonny Gray of London, Ontario, the dream became a reality. Named this year’s Roving Elephant Reporter for the 11th Annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament in Hua Hin, Thailand Sept. 12-16, 2012, he was given the experience of a lifetime.
As the Roving Elephant Reporter, Jonny became a star of the elephant polo circuit, delivering a television report and enjoying VIP access to all areas of the four-day event, including exclusive interviews with participating players, elephant experts, and celebrities. Jonny and his mother, Jacquelyn Doucette, spent seven-nights stay at Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas Riverside Resort & Spa in Bangkok and Anantara Hua Hin Resort & Spa in Thailand. UrbanMommies was granted an exclusive interview with Jonny and he shares about his love of animals, activism and his travels.
UM: What first made you like elephants?
JG: My first exposure to elephants was through the African Lion Safari near Cambridge, Ontario where we loved to watch the elephants have a bath. I fell in love with how they interacted with each other like a family and how they seemed so bonded with their trainers. I dreamed about seeing them one day in the wild on a safari but never thought it would be so soon!
UM: When you were selected to become the Roving Elephant Reporter how did you feel? Had to traveled overseas before?
JG: When I first got the news I won I was speechless and then I became scared because I was worried about the responsibility of being a reporter on this charity event. I didn’t know what to expect! Eventually I became excited about traveling to a new part if the world and experiencing all it had to offer. I had traveled to Europe but never to Asia.
UM: What are 5 things you packed for the airplane?
JG: The flight to Thailand was very long. It took us over a day to get there and we stopped in Belgium and India on the way. To keep me busy I packed my iPod for music, a good book, lots of snacks (gummy worms!!) and a travel pillow so that I could sleep.
UM: What would you tell other kids about rescued elephants in Thailand?
JG: There are over 1500 elephants that live in captivity working on the streets in Thailand. Although most are treated as well as possible by their owners they still live a life of poverty without much to eat and poor living circumstances. Many people recognize that this is a big problem in Thailand and are making efforts to help them. My experience is with the elephants which have been rescued by Anantara Resorts. They provide a wonderful life for thirty rescued elephants where they spoiled and doted on. You can visit these elephants and learn to take care of them if oh ever get a chance to visit Thailand!!
The charity polo tournament that I was reporting on helps to support these elephants as well as providing funding for an elephant hospital and ambulance, and even research with elephants.
UM: How would you advise other kids to become animal activists?
JG: I believe that animal activism starts at home. My parents have taught me that animals need our respect and protection. We have always taken care of baby or injured birds, rabbits, chipmunks and mice that we have found on our property. We learned what they needed to eat and how to take care of them from the internet. We have also adopted dogs which needed homes and because we are on a farm we did the same with horses. Awareness that animals need our help, and learning about endangered species, is an important step towards being an animal activist. You can learn about the animal rescues in your community and see if they need volunteers, but even just spreading the word about these foundations helps to raise awareness about the needs of the animals in our communities. I think a great idea is to have a birthday party which ask for donations of pet food or toys instead of gifts to be given to your local animal rescue is a great way for kids to help!!
UM: You stayed at the Anantara Riverside Resort & Spas. What were your favourite things about the hotels?
JG: I had the privilege to stay at Two resorts in Thailand. The first one was the Anantara riverside resort and spa in Bangkok and the second one was their resort in Hua Hin. One thing I loved about the resorts was all the tropical plants that we don’t see in Canada. I felt like I was staying in the rain forest! The food was amazing too! However, by far the best thing about the Anantara chain of resorts was the people. They were so friendly and helpful they made me feel at home eventhough I was half a world away.
UM: Finally – tell me about the other activities you did while you weren’t busy reporting!
JG: I was so busy in Thailand reporting on the tournament that I had to decide between two activities – a Thai cooking class and a trip to Monkey Mountain. Well, I chose Monkey Mountain because I heard it was an incredible experience and I was right! As we drove up the mountain we started to see monkeys occasionally and we were pretty excited because we had never seen monkeys in the wild before. At the top of the mountain, we met a lady who sold peanuts to feed to the monkeys. When we bought a bucket full from her, monkeys started coming from everywhere and suddenly there were hundreds of monkeys surrounding me wanting a peanut. It was crazy! The monkeys were so fast and they climbed everywhere to get a peanut, even on my head. I was really scared at first but after the peanuts were all gone, I got three more buckets just so I could experience it again!!
Although there are always exceptions to every rule, the majority of children are born with kind hearts and enjoy doing good things and helping people. Sure, they have their moments of selfishness, clamoring after their own and other kids’ toys, but most kids are good people that like making the world a better place. The benefits of actively fostering children’s charitable impulses are enormous. Besides helping counter the overdeveloped “gimme” impulse, it gives kids a powerful boost in self-esteem to realize they can make a difference in someone’s life. Here are some tips on kids and charity, and how to encourage a giving spirit.
We were introduced to our first Ronald McDonald House in London, Ontario on our final All-Access Trip. With 12 Ronald McDonald Houses across Canada, 309 around the globe and plans for 2 more in Canada located in Red Deer and St John’s, the scope of this charity is huge.
I was embarrassed that I only knew a few things to begin – like 10 cents from every Happy Meal goes to the charity, and that families stay there when their child is ill and hospitalized. The amount I didn’t know, and had trouble imagining, was what changed my perspective on life more than anything else in the McDonald’s All-Access Moms Program. Meeting real people in crisis is a powerful thing. People with real stories, pain, and incredible strength. I hope that my involvement with the charity is limited to volunteering, and I pray that I will never be one of the 10,000 Canadian families per year who become residents in one of the houses.
Just imagine being a parent of a child with leukemia when your spouse has to stay at home working. Imagine being a 4-year-old sibling of a sick child who doesn’t understand why Christmas isn’t happening this year like normal. Imagine being a Mother who spends every waking moment at a hospital with no time to cook or do laundry. The doctor’s visits when there is bad news, or when there is good news and hope. Imagine just for a second and then push it out of your mind. Ronald McDonald House exists in order to give families the gift of time. As Margaret, the executive director at the Ronald McDonald House in London uttered: “We can’t buy the children time, but we can give it away.” The gift of preparing hot meals, dealing with Christmas shopping, laundry and expenses can allow families to spend precious time together as a unit.
Here’s what I didn’t know:
1. The first Ronald McDonald House opened in Philadelphia in 1974.
2. New initiatives for the charity include Ronald McDonald Family Rooms in hospitals and Ronald McDonald Care Mobiles which may be used to travel to inner cities or remote areas where there are limited resources. The 40 x 8 feet mobile vehicles are specially designed to deliver pediatric health care services, where children need it most.
3. McDonalds underwrites the salaries and all expenses of Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada employees so that 100 percent of dollars raised go back to the Houses. This is very rare.
4. The (Canadian) federal and (Ontario) provincial governments have supported the Houses through capital funding as well. Recently, the Infrastructure Stimulus Funding program parceled out over 22 million to renovate and increase the number of rooms in the Toronto, Hamilton and London facilities.
5. The family dinner program is a crucial component of daily life for families using the Houses. Individuals from the community are able to sign up to donate food, time and cooking skills to make a dinner for the House. The value to families is immense. After a long day at the hospital, parents and siblings get a home cooked meal that they don’t have to prepare or fund. And volunteers can see the immediate impact of their efforts as they dine with the grateful families.
6. Although it’s not completely free to stay, thanks to the support of their sponsors, Ronald McDonald House families pay on average only $11 per day though no family is ever turned away due to an inability to pay.
7. Despite the increase in beds and space for families with children in hospitals, the Ronald McDonald House in London in particular has an occupancy rate of 86 per cent. Wow!
8. $37 million has been raised since 2004 from Happy Meals alone. That’s ten cents at a time. You can do the math. I’m kind of inept with decimals…
9. Spaces in the London House include: 5 computers with internet access, a toddler playroom, children’s library, play space for 6-12 year-olds, teenage room, fitness centre and a home theatre room. The different areas and nooks within the house allow families privacy and encourage them to live their lives as normally as possible. The respect for the individuals is immense. Families have their own locked cupboards in the kitchen in case the kids will only eat nutella or mac and cheese. Tupperware and bags are readily on-hand if families would prefer to eat later or take their dinner back to the hospital. My favourite place was the treasure chest. This room is very special and has a magical effect on the children that stay at the House. But I can’t say anymore…I’ve been sworn to secrecy by the pirates.
10. There is a section in many Houses, just as welcoming as the other rooms, where families whose children are immune-compromised can stay, in order to further prevent the spread of germs to these children.
I used to volunteer for many organizations and since having had kids I have struggled to incorporate charity into my life. I have now found a place I can put down roots and show the kids what it means both for us and families in need to help. Whether we cook a meal, take unwrapped toys to help siblings adjust to their temporary surroundings, donate some Tupperware containers or teach a tap dance class in the House to help release some stress. I want to incorporate this charity into my life with my kids. I keep thinking more creatively about how I can use my unique talents to help – donating time and talents are just as valuable as contributing money. I took my boys to our local Ronald McDonald House yesterday to deliver toys. They met many children and played, hugged and laughed. For many, I think the friendship was a more powerful gift than the toys.
You can find the other All-Access Mom blogs on the Cityline Microsite.