Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Inspiring NYT article

Nicolas Kristof wrote an inspiring article outline how people, particularly women are finding ways to make a difference by seeing a need and making a change in their lives and the lives of people half way around the world.

It’s all about what might be called Do-It-Yourself Foreign Aid, because it starts with the proposition that it’s not only presidents and United Nations officials who chip away at global challenges. Passionate individuals with great ideas can do the same, especially in the age of the Internet and social media.

The challenge is to cultivate an ideology of altruism, to spread a culture of social engagement — and then to figure out what people can do at a practical level.

Read the full article here.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Bits of blankets, lots of love

One of the many things my children and their friends teach me is that there is no problem so big that a little time and attention, love and friendship can't make better.

This week we gathered with our Difference Maker's group to needle felt some happy pictures on wool squares which will be sent to the Knit a Square Foundation to be made into blankets for AIDS orphans in Africa. Knowing the blankets would be going to children, our kids decorated them with happy faces, hearts, peace signs and polkadots. The kids decorated enough squares to make at least one blanket, but we hope that these specially decorated squares will be spread out among many blankets so that our kids can reach out and touch many children.

Some resources for talking about this issue with children:
Braids by Robert Munch and Taya Kendall (read the story of how this book came to be here.)
Simon's Story by Glynis Clacherty
Our stories, our songs : African children talk about AIDS by Deborah Ellis,

For older children and teens
The heaven shop by Deborah Ellis, 
Ana's story : a journey of hope by Jenna Bush, 
AIDS & HIV : the facts for kids by Rae Simons,

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Empathic Civilisation

Really wonderful talk about how we have evolved through techology to become capable of an Empathic Civilisation.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Message in a Bottle

We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.
~Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

October 15th is's Blog Action Day and the topic this year is water which is timely because today my kids attended a workshop on the environmental impact of the bottled water industry.
Water has been on our minds a lot lately with today's program, our recent river clean up and a local news story in our about Nestle's "right" to sell our local water and the power that company presumes it gives it within our community to influence programs like the excellent one my kids attended today.

Today's program gave the kids a real perspective on bottled water. Through hands on demonstrations the kids saw how much water (1500 mls) and how much oil (about 150 mls) is used in the production of each typical water bottle (and that is before they fill, package or ship it). They learned about the cost of the water  - just 1 cent to fill it from the tap or 100-200 times that to buy it from the convenience store or vending machine. The learned about the implications for our recycling and landfills from the use of plastic bottles. They heard about threats to our aquifer and local supply - everything from the local Nestle water plant which is extracting and exporting the water for sale to a local mining company which has recently punctured the protective layer which separates our aquifer from surface water contamination.

We are surrounded by water. We spend a lot of time hiking by our river, swimming at the lake at the cottage, canoeing and kayaking at the local conservation area. I have a very hard time imagining what the world will look like in 20 or so years when the fresh water supply has dwindled and is owned by large corporations.

As with anything the first step is to get educated. And the second is to act.

Things you can do with your kids:
Stop drinking bottled water. Buy and use re-usable bottles. They pay for themselves in no time.
Ask your schools, city facilities etc not to sell bottled water
Organize a reusable water bottle buying co-op for your neighbourhood, class, sports team.
Find out the cost implications of water bottles on your recycling program.
Write letters to your editor and mayor to publicize the issue.
Watch the Story of Bottled Water, FLOW, Ryan's Well and other water documentaries to educate yourselves about water issues.
Raise funds for organizations like charity:water
Take part in the World Water Monitoring Day activities,
Do a bottled water taste testing challenge with friends
Do a water audit in your home.

In an age when man has forgotten his origins and is blind even to his most essential needs for survival, water along with other resources has become the victim of his indifference.

~ Rachel Carson

~ A river ran wild : an environmental history by Lynne Cherry,
~ Save water by Viv Smith,
~ Water by Trevor Day,
~ Water : how we use and abuse our planet by Pamela Grant
~ Water supplies by Jude Welton,
~ Keeping water clean Ewan McLeish,
~ Follow the water from brook to ocean Arthur Dorros
~ EPA educational resources for Water
Flow - For the Love of Water

The We Generation

From a lovely article in USA today: Growing numbers of pre-teens and early teens are giving tweens a new face: a socially responsible young citizen. They're not only doing good in their local communities, but having a global impact. Some have created their own non-profits, and most have websites enlisting the support of kids like themselves who also want to help others.

In a related article Huffpro has a feature of 7 young people making a difference. So inspiring

Immappacy ~ How big is Africa?

Excellent post and visual to show how our perceptions can sometimes be so off.

A great book to follow up on the topic of Africa would be Africa is not a Country by Margy Burns Knight.

Talking about religion

I just recently learned that the word religion comes from the Latin root that means to bind.
Wouldn't it be great if we could use religion as a way to bind us together rather than separate us.

Lately we have been confronted by so many religious divisions - the ground zero mosque, which isn't really a mosque and isn't really at ground zero, discussions about whether religion plays into the world's slow response to the crisis in Pakistan, our own city's struggles over the building of a Sikh temple, even philosophical divides on the homeschooling boards I frequent.

In the midst of figuring out how to navigate these concepts with my kids I came across this article (linked from this wonderful blog) and read these words, written by UU president Peter Morales.

Religion is much more about what we love than about what we think...The questions we ask one another are so critically important. If you and I ask each other what we believe, we will get into talking about very heady stuff. We will put forth our beliefs and then support them with evidence and argument. All too often we will end up arguing... However, when we ask one another what we truly love, what we truly value, what we care about more than anything else in life, something amazing happens. We don’t argue. We listen. We connect. We discover that we love and want the same things. We care about one another. We want honesty, depth, and intimacy in our relationships. We want enduring friendships.

We also discover that we realize that we are all in this life together. We want to help heal the world. We want compassion, understanding, and justice to guide our actions and our governments. We want to work together, hand in hand, to build a world beyond exploitation and violence.

This year one of my goals is to take my kids to various houses of worship and to introduce them more fully to the worlds' religious traditions. We started this past weekend with a walk through the stations of the cosmos at a nearby religious retreat which is a beautiful spiral timeline that shows the evolution of the universe, the development of the various world religions and the stations of the cross.   I loved the quotes selected to illustrate some of the ideas of the world religions and how they followed the same threads. We really are more alike than we are different.

Nonviolence is the supreme religion. One who looks on the creatures of the Earth, big and small, as one's own self, comprehends this immense world.
~ Lord Mahavira

Thursday, October 14, 2010

More world food day resources

For every grain of rice
we are thankful
for thousands of workers.
For every drop of rain
we are thankful
for the earth's many blessings
 ~ one of our mealtime blessings

I came across the Kids Can Make a Difference website the other day.
Inspiring kids to end hunger and poverty in their communities, their country, and their world.

KIDS is a program of iEARN (International Education and Resource Network) the world's largest non-profit global network that enables teachers and youth to use the Internet and other technologies to collaborate on projects that enhance learning and make a difference in the world.

If you are looking for activities to do with kids make sure that you check out the Classroom Initiatives to see what some educators have done around the issue of hunger awareness with their students.

And this excellent resource from Mother's Acting Up outlines a classroom Hunger Banquet along with ideas for other activism education.
The World Food Day USA website has a great selection of links and activities including the UN's online fame called Food Force.

And this blog has some children's story books related ethical eating (mostly vegetarianism)
Some other ideas for families for World Food Day:
~ Tour a farm, CSA, or farmer's market and learn more about where our food comes from and why it is so important to support local food suppliers.
~ Deliver donations directly to the food bank.
~ Have an around-the-world-dinner with recipes from various regions of the world.
~ Try Grassroots International's challenge to eat for a day in your community for just $2 or investigate how food accessibility and poverty are intertwined even in North America through movements like Put Food In the Budget.
~ Discuss with your kids and then sign the Petition to End Hunger and the Starved for Attention Petition
~ Before your meal take a moment to try to think of and honour every set of hands your food may have passed through to reach your table.  Choose a blessing for your meal that reflects that. (I've listed some of our favourites below.)

Before we eat,
we turn our attention
to the bounty before us;
We are truly thankful for the gift of this meal
and for the richness of our lives.
May this food nourish our bodies
And the company of those we love
Nourish our spirits.

Thanks to the earth
thanks to the sun
thanks to the rain
for all they have done.
Thanks to the work
of heart and hand
That made this meal 
from the gifts of the land.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Easy as pie

I don't think a really good pie can be made without a dozen or so children peeking over your shoulder as you stoop to look in at it every little while. 
~John Gould

As part of our Canadian Thanksgiving celebrations, we made pies - some for a potluck for our family and then today we made some for a friend serving a post-thanksgiving Thanksgiving meal at a shelter.

In the time it would have taken me to make a dozen pies, my four kids managed four beautiful handmade-with-love pies. They were involved at every step of the process, from picking the apples to peeling, chopping, measuring, mixing, cooking, rolling, filling and decorating the pies. And then they waited, somewhat impatiently, for them to finish baking so we could deliver them to a friend who would deliver them to another friend, who would deliver them to the shelter and serve those humble pies to the shelter's guests.

As we were eating our dinner tonight, my kids wondered if someone somewhere right that minute was enjoying a slice of handmade-with-love apple pie. If they liked the cinnamon and vanilla in the filling and the sugar sprinkled on the crust. If their piece had the heart shaped cut-out - the one that was sort of off center by mistake. If the pie tasted like the ones their mama had made for Thanksgiving so many years ago.  They wondered if having pie would help them feel that someone cared about them. And then they agreed that making the pies to share was one of the things they were most grateful for this Thanksgiving and asked if we could do it again.


I am amazed and grateful that helping kids feel empowered and connected to the world around them can sometimes be as easy as making pie.

Monday, October 4, 2010

World Habitat Day


Today in honour of World Habitat Day some friends met at the Habitat for Humanity building site to help a wonderful artist paint the World Habitat Day Community Mural which will be installed on the permanent fence at the build site. The mural depicts "My Ideal Neighbourhood".
Isn't it beautiful?

A Castle on Viola Street by DyAnne DiSalvo ~ A hardworking family gets their own house at last by joining a community program that restores old houses.

The magic beads / written by Susin Nielsen-Fernlund
Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting
The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
The Lady in the Box Ann McGovern
A Shelter in Our Car Monica Gunning

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Peaceful news

Came across this lovely magazine in my recent travels.

Ode is a print and online publication about positive news, about the people and ideas that are changing our world for the better.

The current online issue has articles about planting peace poles, being open to the power women have to change the environment and time banks. All very cool ideas and certainly kid friendly.

Those difference makers

We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.
When we see land as a community to which we belong,
we may begin to use it with love and respect.
~ Aldo Leopold

A merry band of friends, a few big garbage bags, gloves meant for adult hands and a beloved river.
A chair frame, fencing material, broken glass, furniture, building equipment, bags of paper, plastic, cans.
Small caring hands cleaning up messes made by large thoughtless adults.
I love these kids, environmentalistsactivists.

The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man child who cleans up the river. ~ Ross Perot, with apologies for the editorial correction

Saturday, October 2, 2010

World Food Day

As we approach World Food Day this fall there are over 1 billion people who are hungry.

One Billion.  That's one sixth of the earth's population.

Hunger is something young children can easily sympathize with. One year the kids and I planned a mini hunger banquet. I served the kids 1/3 of a cup of uncooked rice and dirty water for breakfast, while I feasted on bagels and eggs, yogurt and fresh fruit. Eventually I shared, but not before a few tears and gasps of horror as they realized how deeply unfair the disparity was. I think they got the message.

There are plenty of resources you can use to talk to kids about global hunger issues. The Feeding Minds website is an excellent one. Children may be surprised that there there are people who are hungry right in our neighbourhood and may need some guidance to understand that hunger happens because food may not be available or that it may be available but just not accessible to certain parts of our population. The Feeding Minds website offers some great lesson plans which are easily adaptable to family discussions and include not only information about hunger but also some tools to spark ideas about what we can do to alleviate it - both in our neighbourhood and world wide.

~ Hungry planet : what the world eats by Peter Menzel
~ Let's eat! : what children eat around the world
~ The Penguin atlas of food by Erick Millstone
~ This is the way we eat our lunch: a book about children around the world
by Edith Baer
~ Food for all by Rufus Bellamy
~ Beatrice's goat by Page McBrier

Those leaves, those seeds

The other day I went looking for a rake. 
All of ours were gone.
Apparently the kids and some neighbourhood friends had decided to go around the neighbourhood offering to rake leaves for charity. For the low low price of $2 a band of kids would descend on a neighbours yard to rake and sweep and shovel those leaves off the grass. They even would haul them away in bags.

They raised $30 (thanks to some generous tips) which they plan to split evenly between the Red Cross and the Terry Fox Foundation.
AND they scored a huge pile of leaves to play in.

Everyone wins.
And my heart melts to see these seeds grow in them, to know they internalize what we talk about, include their friends and realize that a little work can go such a very long way.

Craftivism: A great way to get the kids involved

When the world's troubles seem too big , I am always amazed at what a little comfort can do to help my kids. A little handmade warmth, a small gift that says I love you, some tangible way to convey that they are cared for seems to make almost any situation better. I think it is universal in fact and my kids are often moved to "make something" for friends who are struggling.

When our home school group was in the middle of the the doll making project my friend Joanna wrote something so beautiful on her blog.
I am not kidding myself that this will change very much in their hard lives. I know, though, that if my little ones ever found themselves without me there to care for them, I would be overcome with gratitude if another Mama, somewhere in the world, shared a little bit of her hand made love with my children.
I think kids get this - that a doll or a blanket won't change the world on it's own but that it can make someone feel loved and cared for.  And putting more love and caring out into the world does make a real difference - both to the giver and the recipient. Whenever we have made things to give away, my kids develop a deep connection with the place and the people their gifts are intended to help. The idea that they have sent dolls to Haiti, which were made by their own hands and hugged with their own arms before shipping them has come up in so many ways over the past few months.

There are lots of ways that kids can become involved in making tangible gifts or items to show others they care.

Some opportunities to get your kids involved:

Dolly Donations - Sarah launched an amazing program to send dolls to Haitian children after the devastating earthquake. Working with organizations and orphanages she is sending love to so many. Kids can help choose fabrics, decorate faces, sew and stuff and make cards to send along to with their dolls.

Conn Kerr - provides cheerful pillowcases for pediatric cancer patients. Kids can help choose fabric, sew, tie-dye or decorate purchased pillow cases non-toxic dyes. There are coordinators for local hospitals all over North America so your crafts help local kids.

Knit a Square provides blankets for aids orphans in Africa. If you don't knit or crochet there are plenty of online tutorials to help and this would be a great beginner project. There is also a felt option using shrunken wool sweaters (and there are directions on this website). A group of our friends are going to get together to decorate some wool squares with needle felting so the kids can add some designs and pictures to their squares. We are hoping to send at least 40 squares to make a blanket.

Craft Hope is a great place to become involved in craftivism and their new book is fabulous.

There are also likely local opportunities. Knitting and quilting guilds often have connections for all sorts of charitable organizations who would love to receive handmade goodness. Often there are hat and mitt drives for local schools or shelters and it is super simple to make fun fleece hats. Seniors homes will often love to receive some bright kids art to decorate a seasonal table. Or you could arrange a kid craft sale and donate some of the proceeds to a favourite charity.

One of our favourite children's books is about the power of giving handmade gifts.  The Quiltmaker's Gift is incredibly beautiful and sparks great conversations with kids of all ages.

Friday, September 24, 2010

1000 Boxes (Or how to keep your volunteers happy)

I think I have mentioned before one of our favourite places to volunteer is at a local warehouse that, among other things,  packs food and hygiene boxes and distributes them across the province. We first volunteered there almost 2 years ago sorting a huge shipment of crocs which needed to be paired and were then being shipped overseas. It was overwhelming and I thought we may not have really been much help as many of our little ones liked to de-sort the already sorted piles. But they welcomed us back a few months later to pack some food boxes and since then we have made it a regular part of our homeschool co-op activities. I've lost count of the number of times we have been. My kids love to go. They work on the conveyor belt, carefully packing their cans of spaghetti sauce or boxes of cereal into the shipping box, or sorting books from our book drive, or loading the hygiene boxes onto a skid. And they always come away with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

I marvel a bit at their enthusiasm as the work can be monotonous at times. And yet this organization has truly figured out how to keep kids interested and motivated. In fact I think they could write a handbook on how to make the most of the energy of young volunteers

1) They set things up in small, doable tasks that are easy for kids to manage. Supplies are easily reachable by big and small kids, there is a sign to remind them how many of their items need to be packed, and the directions are very clear.

2) They allow for flexibility within reason. If a child is bored with putting crackers in a box they can switch with a friend, or go break down empty boxes, or stack new boxes or unload supplies for a neighbour. Small ones can help with simple jobs. Even the toddlers can pick up small boxes and put them in larger boxes or push the empty boxes to the recycling bin.

3) There is constant encouragement and cheer leading, not patronizing but heart felt, from the man who runs the warehouse. He works with the kids, making things easier for them, keeping an eye out for supplies that are running low, refilling tape dispensers, appreciating their efforts, and gently guiding them if needed. The manager of the program always makes an appearance, greets the kids and teases them about how much they have grown or who is missing teeth or who is wearing their favourite shirt again and he always says how happy he is to see them again, cementing that connection for them.

4) The kids know what the end result of their work will be. Before we start we're told where these boxes will go. They know the overall goal for the day's packing and how that fits into the bigger picture. This context gives them something tangible to help them understand that every box helps a family and that their work is valuable.

5) There is room for a child's natural enthusiasm and yet the atmosphere is created where the kids understand that we are there to help others, and that if we pack boxes with love and care and respect, the people on the other end will feel that. Our gift is not only the act of physically packing but care that goes into that.

6) They have Popsicles.
At the end of every one of our sessions, the kids do the last minute clean up and put things back in order as best they can. And then they gather for a thank you and a treat. The cost to the organization is few dollars. And yet that simple act of a gift at the end of our time helps turn rewarding work into a memorable experience. It also cements a connection that has allowed our contact with this organization to grow in such a way that my kids will often think of something and ask me if FTC could use their idea.

Today, we were the group that packed the last of 1000 food boxes to be distributed for Thanksgiving. The organization wanted to take our picture with the boxes for their newsletter. And while we were gathering the kids we were figuring that our group (in its various combinations) has probably packed at least 1000 boxes over the past year.

The kids can't wait to go back to get started on their next 1000.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

International Day of Nonviolence

In a gentle way, you can shake the world.
~ Mohandas Gandhi

October 2 marks both the birth of Gandhi and the UN's International Day of Nonviolence. We will likely head over to a nearby town for a peace walk but before then I want to do a bit more reading and research with my children on both topics.

Here are some of the resources I've found:

Gandhi: the young protester who founded a nation by Philip Wilkinson, Gandhi by Demi
Jadyn and the Magic Bubble: I Met Gandhi by Brigitte Benchimol
Paths to peace : people who changed the world by Jane Bresking Zalben,
Gandhi (DVD with Ben Kingsley)

The war by Anais Vaugelade, (one of our favourites about choosing non-violence)

Institute for Peace and Justice which has pledges of nonviolence for children of various ages.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


I came across Youngzine today which is an online newspaper aimed at kids ages 8-15.
The stories look to be internationally focused, well researched and broad in scope. There is also the opportunity to write for the news magazine.

Definitely one to check out.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Happy Peace Day!

A few shots from our Peace Party in the Park and the Human Peace Sign we participated in this evening. Wishing you a peaceful day.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Planning for Peace

If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.
~ Mohandas Gandhi

Taken at a children's peace labyrinth we visited earlier this month.
The sign is made of a mosaic of children's drawings about peace.

Peace Day is coming up on Tuesday. Our family is joining with some friends for a Peace Party in the Park and then we will make our way over to the nearby town to participate in their annual human peace sign. We went last year and the kids had a blast.

I've been searching for some activities to do at our Peace Party and thought I would share what my friends and I found here and what we are planning for the day.

~ How to make an Origami Crane (we hope to make enough to leave some strings on the Children's monument we are gathering around)
~ Peace Bracelets inspired by the ones here
~ Pinwheels

~ If we have enough kids we plan on making a human peace sign.
~ We'll play a game about relying on friends to hold the world up. I did this at a Kids 4 Peace gathering we had a few years ago. We blow up balloons - about one for every two kids and then we give them all to one child to hold. Inevitably it is too many to keep track of and they fall on the ground. Then we invite in a friend to help and it gets easier but is still challenging. We keep inviting kids to help until by working together, we are able to keep all the balloons off the ground. Then we help the kids make the conclusion that not only was it easier when everyone was working together, it was more fun.
~ We'll have a Postcards for Peace station where kids can make postcards with their wishes for peace. For the holder children we will talk a bit about the MDG and the UN meeting that is taking place today to assess our collective (minimum) progress and then the kids can write to the Prime Minister and our MP about honouring their commitments to these goals. Younger children can make general postcards. We are looking for peace pen pals to share them with.
~ I've found some more activities in the educational resources section at Peace One Day

We'll also have some music supplied by a talented young friend and eventually I would like to get some CDs to play at events like this.

We'll also have a shared snack and some story time, and a chance to discuss a peace pledge.
Some of our favourite kids books about peace:
A little peace by Barbra Kerley,

Paths to peace: people who changed the world by Jane Breskin Zalben,
Peace one day by Jeremy Gilley,
Let there be light : poems and prayers for repairing the world by Jane Breskin Zalben,
Peace tales : world folktales to talk about by Margaret Read MacDonald,
Old Turtle by Douglas Wood
A million visions of peace : wisdom from the friends of Old Turtle by Jennifer Garrison,
Peace begins with you by Katherine Scholes,

Did you know that the Nobel Peace Prize Laureates called for the decade 2000 - 2010 to be a decade of peace?

Peace is not something you wish for; It's something you make, Something you do, Something you are, And something you give away.
~ Robert Fulghum

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dear Editor...

For the last two weekends a small group of young people has been “Pulling for Pakistan” at the Farmer's Market. In exchange for a donation to the Red Cross Pakistan Relief Fund, these kids would pull their wagons loaded with customers’ packages from the market to their vehicles.

Over the course of two weekends, through the incredible generosity of the market patrons, the children raised $1360, which will be matched by the Canadian government. We were all thrilled with the outcome. And as parents, we are so grateful to this community, not only for their donations, but for their encouragement and kind words to the children about their efforts to do something tangible in the face of this tragedy in Pakistan. Our children came away from the experience having learned the powerful lessons that even though they are young, they can make a real difference by working together and involving their community.

On behalf of the eleven families, and 30 kids that participated I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who offered their donations and good wishes. You touched many lives in many ways through your generosity.


Karen and friends

Our letter of thanks to our community was published in today's paper.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Growing volunteers

This week we headed back to the nonprofit nursery with our friends to help get things ready for winter. The kids worked very hard - and some (the younger girls) even chose to keep working when they could have gone on a hike. They were on a mission to catch up to the boys in moving the crates of trees back onto the ground. It is always lovely to see their focus and commitment when they know their work is valuable and their efforts and abilities are acknowledged.

This particular nursery provides trees free of charge to homeowners and community groups doing reforestation projects and so all week the kids have been chatting up the value of this nursery to our friends and neighbours. It's easy to see how connected they are to this ideal.

The staff there are wonderful with the kids and I think that make all the difference. They found meaningful jobs for even the smallest among us, gave the kids plenty of choices about how they wanted to contribute and most of all trusted the kids to do the work they so wanted to do.   We have been lucky to find a few exceptional opportunities that the kids can get completely engaged in and I have often thought of writing down tips for volunteer organizations about how to work with young children as volunteers, because I think that most organizations don't know how to harness the energy and enthusiasm of a group of committed kids.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

If we cared for one another's children

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
~ Margaret Mead

The solution to adult problems tomorrow depends on large measure upon how our children grow up today.
~ Margaret Mead

Today my kids and their friends launched their Pulling for Pakistan project. At 6:30 am we loaded up the van with our wagons and signs and headed down to our farmer's market.  We set up our info table and donation jar just outside the market and started offering shoppers help to their vehicles in exchange for a donation to the Canadian Red Cross Pakistan Flood Relief Fund.   It started off a bit slow but then our friends started to arrive and business picked up.  The kids would pull in teams, sometimes with a parent and other times on their own.

People were exceedingly generous. And patient. And so kind in their encouragement and comments to the kids.

I was a bit hesitant last night as I was searching online for pictures to print out that showed the extent of the need without being too upsetting (and no the sad irony of that was not lost on me.)  I was so disheartened at one point reading comments to the news stories about why people have been slow to give to this crisis. Religion. Politics. Donor fatigue. Helplessness. Skepticism and mistrust.

And then today I was blown away by the fact that none of that seemed to matter to the people who dropped coins and bills in our jars. Until, late in the day, one woman approached me and told me how much she disagreed with what we were doing. That Pakistan has nuclear weapons. That the "Muslim countries" aren't doing enough and that there are other people more deserving of our attention and our efforts.  Slightly alarmed, I tried to keep walking her away from the kids. I told her that I agreed with her concerns about peace but that the Red Cross is not the Pakistan government and that NGOs are trying to help people whose lives have been torn apart by this flood as best they can. I explained that all my children wanted to do was to help other children who were homeless, hungry, thirsty, at risk of serious disease and who were undoubtedly scared that no one would help them. That our kids had done similar things to raise funds and send care packages to Haiti, send books to First Nations communities, and collect food for the food bank. That what these children behind me wanted to do was help where they could, however they can, without reserve, because it is the right thing to do.

And I told her that perhaps if we cared for each others children, and we taught our children to care for each other more than we care about our politics, that perhaps, just perhaps, we could create a world without the need for weapons.

Our kids, through the generosity of others, raised $560 today.
We'll be back next week.
I'll be better prepared to handle questions.
But I can't see that I could be any more proud of these kids and the community they are creating.

A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.
~ Mohandas K. Gandhi

The young, free to act on their initiative, can lead their elders in the direction of the unknown... The children, the young, must ask the questions that we would never think to ask, but enough trust must be re-established so that the elders will be permitted to work with them on the answers.

~ Margaret Mead

Monday, August 2, 2010

Storytelling and Peacebuilding

I came across this link today. I haven't had time to explore it fully but I plan to.

Description from the site:

Peace-building storytelling activities for teachers, parents and adults who work with children.
Constructing and sharing stories of hope and peace, stories with nonviolent plots and happy win-win endings may lead us to create similar elements especially in relation to the lives of our children and maybe even in our own.

The great kindness challenge - August 14

From here:
The Great Kindness Challenge is one day devoted to performing as many acts of kindness as possible. Our goal this year is to have over one million children participate. It is our hope that this day will inspire a lifelong commitment to service and kindness.
From sunup to sundown, children around the world will accomplish simple, kind deeds using The Great Kindness Challenge Checklist.
The checklist features 50 acts of kindness to choose from. Click here to download the checklist. Then just do what you can on August 14. Even the simplest acts can make a big difference in someone's life. And you just might be amazed at how fun it can be.
Do you belong to a group that could participate, or would you like to form one? We invite you to use The Great Kindness Challenge to perform group acts of kindness and have your own events to honor this special day.

Let's make our world a more kind, loving and compassionate place for all.
Check the Great Kindness Challenge website for more ideas and this post for some resources.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Raising Global Citizens

If you are coming over from the Family Matters radio show - welcome!

You can hear Ryan and I being interviewed about youth activism and raising global citizens here. (It takes a while to load.)

To learn more about Nishin you can watch him on youtube here and here.  You'll be blown away. He's awesome.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Foreign Policy Blog on Children

Check out this blog for booklists, tips about talking to kids about world conflict, resources and information about the status of the world's children. A great resource for parents wanting to educate themselves about issues affecting children.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


"If learning is embedded in real world context, where you blur the boundaries between school and life, then children go through a journey of aware where they can see the change, enabled where they can be changed and then empowered, lead the change." Kiran Sethi is the founder of a revolutionary new school in India, called The Riverside School. She’s changing the way we think about children, the way they think about themselves and her ideas are contagious!

Monday, July 12, 2010

What will matter

What Will Matter
By Michael Josephson

Ready or not, some day it will all come to an end.
There will be no more sunrises, no days, no hours, or minutes.
All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten will pass on to someone else.
Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevant.
It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.
Your grudges, resentments, frustrations, and jealousies will finally disappear.
So, too, your hopes, ambitions, plans, and to-do lists will all expire.
The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.
It won’t matter where you come from, or on what side of the tracks you lived.
It won’t matter whether you are beautiful or brilliant.
Your gender, skin color, ethnicity will be irrelevant.

So, what will matter?
How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought, but what you built.

Not what you got, but what you gave.
What will matter is not your success, but your significance.
What will matter is not what you learned, but what you taught.
What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage and sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.
What will matter is not your competence, but your character.
What will matter is not how many people knew you,
but how many will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.
What will matter is not your memories, but the memories of those who loved you.

What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.
Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident.

It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.
Choose to live a life that matters.

Found here

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The dolls arrived

Back in February our homeschool group participated in the Dolly Donation drive for Haitian orphans affected by the earthquake. I was blown away by the response from our group and happily packed up 37 beautiful handmade dolls.
The dolls were delayed by the logistics of moving goods into Haiti but they recently arrived. My kids were beyond thrilled to spot some of the dolls we sent and one of the ones we sewed among the pictures posted on Sarah's blog

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Love. My. Djembe.

Oh, the brave music of a distant drum!
~ Omar Khayyam

The kids (lucky!) got to do an African Drumming program today at a local library with a drummer, artist and storyteller. He began by having the kids listen to their heartbeat, to assure them that they have the rhythm in them. Then he introduced them to the drum and its history and lore. He taught them 3 basic drumming sequences by giving them each words to help the kids remember them. And after they practised he taught them how to answer the call of the drum, about the mother beat, tempo and poly rhythmic drumming. They were so excited to play. At the end of the session, he told them a Hyena and Hare story about a magic tree. It was a wonderful program and I was thrilled to have found it so soon after the kids were drumming in the park.  I just wish I could have played. They all had so much fun and music is such a fantastic way to introduce kids to the connections between cultures.

To be a drum by Evelyn Coleman,
African crafts : fun things to make and do from West Africa by Lynne Garner,
Africa for kids : exploring a vibrant continent, 19 activities by Harvey Croze,
Africa is not a country by Margy Burns Knight,

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Plant a Row

We can be confident that action which is in accord with a few basic beliefs cannot be wrong and can at least testify to the values we will need to cultivate. These are the beliefs that the human race is a family that has inherited a place on the earth in common, that its members have an obligation to work toward sharing it so that none is deprived of the elementary needs for life, and that all have a responsibility to leave it undegraded for those who follow.

~ Gilbert F. White, Stewardship of the Earth,

This year marks our first as gardeners. We've been working a plot at our city's first community garden as our yard doesn't have enough sun to really grow a garden. It's been an amazing experience for the kids - and for me. They have a new connection to their food and an appreciation for the amount of effort it takes to put food on our table. It's given them a sense of responsibility and is a source of pride as they each harvest from "their" plants. The community aspect has been a powerful one for them. In the communal space, we've planted a blueberry bush whose fruit we may not harvest to "pay it forward" and to thank those gardeners before us who left blackberries and rhubarb and the beautiful raspberries.
We've also talked about food security issues. Even knowing that we have a thriving cherry tomato plant has given them an idea of how powerful growing our own food can be.

Our plot is small and packed full of many of  the vegetables and herbs we eat regularly and while I don't think we will be able to feed our family of 6 from the garden, chances are good we may have some zucchini and tomatoes to share.

We're blessed with a few local programs which can help gardeners and those interested in the local food movement help others.

Plant a row ~ Grow a row is  a program which matches gardeners with food banks who are happy to receive and pass on fresh local produce.

Our city also has a gleaning program where residents who have fruit or nut trees which may not be fully harvested can contact this organization and volunteers will pick the produce and donate it to the food bank or other community groups.

Sharing Backyards is a program which matches up people with unused gardening space with those who wish to garden but lack space. The land owner and the gardener each bring their resources to the table and share the harvest from the garden.

I've listed a few here
Food for thought
Books for older kids
Food : ethical debates on what we eat by Jim Kerr, 
Reducing your foodprint : farming, cooking, and eating for a healthy planet by Ellen Rodger,

Thursday, July 1, 2010

G8 and peaceful protests

Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.
~ Howard Zinn

This is how change happens, though. It is a relay race, and we're very conscious of that, that our job really is to do our part of the race, and then we pass it on, and then someone picks it up, and it keeps going. And that is how it is. And we can do this, as a planet, with the consciousness that we may not get it, you know, today, but there's always a tomorrow.
- Alice Walker

We were lucky enough to spend much of June at a family cottage not too far from the small city where the G8 meetings were happening. I hemmed and hawed about taking the kids in to town on the day of the meeting. I really wanted them to get a chance to see some of the protests but if things were to get violent or out of control I didn't know the city well enough to escape quickly or find a safe place. Without Internet access at the cottage I was limited to getting info via the radio or the newspapers. On Friday morning after hearing the news stations all reporting small, peaceful and creative protests and given that the risks seemed very low, I thought it was important for the kids to see and hear first hand about some of the things we had been talking about leading up to the G8. We arrived before noon, in time to see some protests staged in order to air on the noon news programs, and watched plenty of journalists jockey for stories and space.  And then we wandered around town, listening to the locals discuss some of the issues. The police forces seemed to finally be exhaling as the day progressed without incident. The kids all chatted with various members of the force. We saw officers kidding with the clowns, and while they declined the free hugs, they did offer hearty handshakes.

The protesters were relatively small in number but they were creative and earnest in their appeals. World Vision had mimes of the world leaders on stilts, high above the crowds, waving symbolic money just out of the reach of of those below them. The Council of Canadians took a quintessential approach, trying to canoe past security. Locals, who had made water the focus for them, stood at their waterfront with signs and posters, proclaiming water as a right worth protecting.  A group of young activists tried the positive approach, urging the world leaders to believe that the Millennium Development Goals are still achievable.

All of this lead to some great discussions with the kids about the ways we can impact our world, the purpose of governments, the responsibilities of citizens, the reasons for protests, the need for police and necessity that their powers must stay balanced and in check, particularly in view of the situations that occurred in Toronto at the G20.