Welcome!

Inspired by Betty Londergan's What Gives 365 and the Bible (not necessarily in that order!), I'm giving away $250 a week in 2011.



This is where I'm recording that journey, and I hope you'll come along for the ride.

Friday, December 30, 2011

The Finish Line

Have you ever reached the end of something, only to discover that the finish line is merely the starting line for another leg of the journey? I felt that way when I graduated from high school, and eventually with my PhD. I'm feeling it again today.

Admittedly, I have not taken enough time to reflect on just what this giving journey has taught me. A few initial lessons come to mind:

- Giving money away responsibly takes more effort than one might think. I didn't always put in the research and reflection time required.
- Spreading gifts widely but thinly is an approach to giving with distinct advantages and disadvantages
- People's reactions to this project were mixed and interesting. They ranged from immediate enthusiasm to taking offense to lobbying for their cause to indifference - and I'm sure many others I wasn't aware of.
- Once the money was already 'spent in my head', giving it away was easy
- I did and didn't want people to engage in conversation with me about this. At times I was craving more 'traffic' and other times I just didn't want to bother thinking about it anymore.
- I'm not sure this has transformed me into a real blogger, but I suspect I'll occasionally miss it.

I appreciate how this process has sensitized me to needs in my community and around the world. It's broadened what I've been reading. It's gotten me back in the habit of generosity, but hasn't really required much sacrifice. It hasn't been as contagious to my children as I'd hoped it would be, but perhaps to a few other people at least...

As my husband and I discuss what's next for us in terms of learning to give, we are paying close attention to some of these lessons. What needs have come to our attention that we are well placed to meet? How might we focus our giving more strategically? How can we do more than write a cheque? What might this mean for our whole family?

No firm answers or plans yet. I am waiting to learn from a couple of upcoming trips to Africa - one to Lesotho in March that friends are taking, and a second to Kenya and Tanzania in July that I hope to take with my daughter. Needs will become obvious to us through those and I want to be open to responding generously. I'm also curious if we will end up playing a larger role with a program called Baby Smarts that I've recently begun facilitating in local high schools through Beginnings Family Services. It talks about healthy relationships, slowing down decision making, understanding what parenthood requires, and lots of other important issues for teens. Seems like a great fit for our family and a program with lots of room for growth.

For now, this week's final donation is going to the Benevolent Fund at our church. The fund is used to provide for people in our congregation and community who find themselves unexpectedly in financial need. These funds are Truly needed. They're applied to local needs in a compassionate, immediate and practical way, with little concern for overhead costs or 'overthinking.' I could use a dose of that right now.

To those of you who have faithfully read this blog and/or encouraged me along the way, I sincerely thank you. I hope Just Giving It has been an inspiration to you in some way. May you have not only a happy new year, but a prosperous and generous one as well.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Down Syndrome - and Merry Christmas!

I'm in the midst of Christmas rushing, but didn't want to be late (again!) with my weekly post.

This week, I'm following up on a suggestion made by my friend Christine. She's actually engaged to my cousin Cam -- does that make her my soon-to-be-cousin-in-law? -- and she volunteers on the Board of the Down Syndrome Association of Peterborough.

I admire Christine for lots of reasons. In this case, she's on this Board not because she's been directly affected by having a family member with Downs, but because she is passionate about kids and good health, and wanted to find a way to put down some roots in her new community of Peterborough. She then made an effort to find me at our large family Christmas gathering and tell me why she's so impressed with this organization. That impressed me.

I also happen to know a few people who have been directly, and/or "almost", affected by Down Syndrome recently. And I have had two lovely encounters with strangers with Downs in the past while too.

So on this second last week of the blog, I'm thrilled to support Christine and the organization she's thrown her support behind.

I rather wish this were more of a Christmas-y post. It is in its rushed-ness perhaps. (How sad!) Do know that it comes with sincere wishes for a very blessed, and restful and quieter, Christmas for each of you.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Focus, Stewardship and Hope. Welcome Home.

With thanks for your patience, here's the plan for this week's donation to an inspiring individual, and some other musings along the way.

This week I will be contributing toward Sharon Schmidt's trip to visit refugee camps in Africa. Sharon is a friend of a friend of mine. She is the Program Director of Welcome Home, a refugee housing community in Kitchener, Ontario. Out of a desire to understand the refugee experience more fully, she is planning this trip for next March. Here is an excerpt of how my friend describes Sharon:

"She has really helped people like me see that refugees are a lot like us. While they tend to be grouped with other needy people in our society, refugees actually have less in common with the mentally ill and the unemployed. Instead, they are often middle or upper class people whose lives are entirely disrupted by war and civil war -- and who find themselves in Canada, starting all over again. Sharon regularly recognizes the ways in which she can't begin to understand the refugee experience, and it has been her dream for four or five years to visit a refugee camp in Africa...She is definitely an inspiring person."

I've seen how my friend's life -- her time, parenting, spending -- have been impacted by Sharon's work, and it is my pleasure to invest in that impact in this small way. Have a look at Sharon's blog if you get a chance.

Yet even as I write this, I am given reason to pause at this week's choice. Three things have been jostling around in my head and I will try to make some sense of them here:

1. I've been reading Do More Than Give. Slowly. I haven't been allowing myself to read further quite yet, actually, because I'm stuck on an early chapter about the need to target one's giving rather than spreading philanthropy too thinly. Clearly this year for us has been about spread. As January approaches, what might that mean for our giving patterns? I've never been good at focusing -- I have an interdisciplinary PhD of all things! -- yet it appeals to me very much at the moment. I suspect that those who are single-minded do not waste much time, as I do, thinking about all the other ways they could be spending their resources. I'm not sure what form targeted giving should take for us. (And I've seen the joy that can come from a small but needed and unexpected gift given in many directions at once). I'm therefore grateful for the authors' encouragement to learn from the journey and let the focus emerge.

2. I've been thinking about poverty, personal responsibility and stewardship. If I am made aware of people who are in need (as I have been recently), should I give to them to meet that need even if I know that they have a history of poorly managing the resources entrusted to them? Likely many people experiencing poverty have a less-than-impressive track record of financial management. Are these particular people therefore being "penalized" because I know them better? Does the fact that I do know them well obligate me even more to give? At a bigger picture level, to what extent is my giving supposed to be tied to the recipients' "performance"? We expect accountability in charitable organizations (and are expected to do so), yet is it reasonable to expect the same from individuals? Is it poor stewardship or miserliness not to? My reluctance here has caught me off guard, to the point that I'm wondering what I'm really afraid of.

3. Just this morning, our pastor spoke about Jesus being the hope of the world. Not just hope for eternal life (which He is), but hope for the here and now. He put it in these terms: how would the world look different if Christmas had never happened? No churches, no Christians. No World Vision. No Salvation Army. No William Wilburforce. The most memorable part for me was an excerpt he read from the CBC's Brian Stewart -- a renowned foreign correspondent [and agnostic], who was addressing the graduating class at a Presbyterian college a few years ago. He remarked that he has never been anywhere in the world where Christ followers haven't gotten there first -- to respond, care, serve, make a difference. And he's been to some very remote places! I felt proud to be counted among their number when I heard that.

I don't know if these three threads will weave together or not -- soon, or ever. For now, I'm letting them percolate within me (how's that for a mixed metaphor!) and giving the money to Sharon. She is obviously a person of focus, who looks poverty unflinchingly in the face and who is committed to making a difference. When the threads don't knit together neatly in my life, it's inspiring to hear of others who are finding ways to make that happen. And I suspect that for them, it feels messy too. I guess it's just good to be on the journey together.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Why are Third Fridays so hard?

If you've been joining us for awhile on this journey, you'll know that the third Friday of each month is designated for an inspiring individual. It's proven to be the hardest week of the month to figure out where to give. That always vaguely discourages me. So here I am at the last one, and I'm still struggling. So for all of you faithful readers out there, stay tuned. I haven't forgotten to blog today. I'm just puzzling over some things and need a bit more time.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Mustard Seed

I flew to Calgary last weekend and thoroughly enjoyed 8 hours of movie and TV watching on the plane while knitting. I didn't particularly enjoy having to watch ads before each program. Until a particularly powerful one caught my eye.

It was for The Mustard Seed. I'd never heard of them before, but interestingly, their name came up in conversation at the dinner table the following night, with friends of ours who live in Calgary.

In exploring their website further this week, I was impressed, even by the dignity of the language they use. They serve men and women experiencing homelessness and poverty, through providing basic care, housing, employment and addiction recovery services. They are excited about "the power of community to create sustainable change." They follow Jesus.  What started as a coffee house ministry in a church basement has now grown to be Alberta-wide.Having done research into both homelessness and social enterprise recently, I was especially intrigued.

Have a look at A Day in the Life of The Mustard Seed, filmed this Fall. Check out their 10 People Like You campaign. Powerful stuff.

For those in the Guelph area, the Adopt-A-Family program of the Children's Foundation is still looking for people to provide about 40 Christmas hampers to families in need. We've had fun as a family being involved in this program. Call them!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Khoorie Heritage Trust, messily

I continue to be so fascinated by how things come together, and by what this giving journey is teaching me.

This week's entry is a hard one to write, and once again, it's all about timing. This week, Attawapiskat has been very much in the news, with its abysmal housing, poor drinking water and struggling residents, and the federal government's decision to assume third party management of its finances. I admit that when I heard the Chief being interviewed, I was pretty frustrated, but a bit embarrassed at feeling that way. Roughly ninety million dollars of taxpayers' money has been poured into that community over the past five years, to support a community of about 5,000 people, and she had the gall to be angry that the government is stepping in? The left-leaning sociologist in me knows very well the legacy of colonialism and shame and generation addictions etc. etc. that has contributed to this very complicated problem, but at what point do people need to be accountable for the resources entrusted to them?

This very same week, I've been conscious to mark World AIDS Day. For me this year, it's been marred by frustration at the gutting of the Global Fund due to national governments' unwillingness to live up to their financial commitments in the face of global economic meltdown. Such ironic timing. Yet at the same time, I found myself surrounded by friends and neighbours who are passionately choosing to act -- to give, to pray, to protest -- and I'm witnessing God at work in the midst of it all. It occurred to me that in many developing countries ravaged by HIV/AIDS, if external money is given, much of it unfortunatley gets siphoned off to benefit the very wealthy. Interesting that in Canada "developing world," waste seems to be more of a problem than padding individual coffers. Both can have devastating consequences.

Also this week, I received a message from my friend Lawrence. He's been on my mind this week because he and his kids are performing in a play that I'd love to see, but can't -- so I'm sending two of my kids in my place. Lawrence is just back from Australia. He drew my attention to an organization called Khoorie Heritage Trust -- an organization seeking to "bridge the cultural gap" between Aboriginal people and others living in southeastern Australia -- a country with a history of relations with its Aboriginal people not unlike our own.

It's international week here at Just Giving It, so this timing seemed too right. I admit it's an uncomfortable choice for me this week. This seems like a creative and dynamic organization doing much-needed work, and I trust Lawrence's judgement. Yet I feel conflicted about giving to international Aboriginal support without giving to that same cause here at home, about whether I would choose to give here at home in that way, and about whether this week's donation should be going to AIDS programming instead (even though we've highlighted Bracelet of Hope in the past, which is what I have on my heart this week).

So there it is. Never sure if I've made the right choice, but knowing it's not a wrong one, and trying to watch carefully how the various threads are being knit together in my thought and life.

Thanks for joining me on the journey. May Advent bring new birth in and around you.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Giving Away Christmas

Yesterday was just too full to blog, so this morning I'm catching up on two weeks' worth, combining both inspiring people and suggestions made by others. I knew you all wouldn't let me draw a blank two weeks in a row!

One donation is going to my 15-year-old friend Cassidy. I'm bending the rules a bit, because I don't usually repeat gifts, but we haven't given to WV's Gift Catalogue here before (I love this amazingly successful vehicle to engage people in international giving!) and I absolutely want to support this kind of initiative and compassion in a teenager. Here's some of what Cassidy wrote to me:

For the Christmas season World Vision organizes an extra program where you can buy chickens, goats and other essentials needed in the developing world. Contaminated water is one of the leading killers of children in impoverished villages . For 15,000 dollars we can dig a well producing clean water to cook, drink and bathe in. We can be a hero to hundreds.

Using a program on the World Vision web page I have made a section directly connected to the main page where supporters can donate online. I have contacted a radio station called Shine fm and I am currently waiting for a reply to see if it is possible for them to publicize it more in the city of Calgary.

I am planning on going out to canvas Redwood Meadows several times before December 31st (which is the deadline for supporters to donate)  to raise awareness and to see who is interested to donate either at the door or online.

I sincerely hope you will support this idea


The second donation is going to my long-time friend Paul and his family. They are "Giving Christmas Away" this year, travelling with eight other families to Guadalajara, Mexico, as Paul says, "to take a step back from commercialism...serve the poor and learn from either other."

I rather guiltily spent a lot of money on Christmas gifts at Canadian Black Friday sales yesterday. It feels very very good for me to support these folks and to be inspired by them this morning.

As my friend Jennifer often says, "Be blessed and be a blessing!"

Monday, November 21, 2011

I haven't forgotten...

...I just haven't been inspired. So I didn't blog. First time that's happened. There you have it.

This past Friday was to have been the day to donate to an inspiring individual. All year, that's been the hardest week for me. I didn't expect it to be like that. To all of you I know and love, please don't take this personally. I am quite sure that each and every one of you has inspiring qualities and could put $250 to some necessary and/or noble use. But your name just didn't come to mind. Perhaps I just don't know enough people. Or maybe I haven't been doing my homework. Or maybe I'm just in a November funk. It's depressing not to be able to find someone inspiring to give money to. Whatever the reason, I felt like I was "scrounging" to find someone this week, so I didn't do it. (So much for telling my friend Shelley that something or someone always drops into my lap on Fridays. Not this week!) I'll catch up at a later date, I promise.

In the meantime, I did hear from my beloved friend Caroline about a book and a blog called Giving 2.0 that I'm looking forward to exploring. And I heard about a story where people came home to find their house literally strung with cash -- the storyteller referred to it as 'reverse robbery' and as a direct answer to prayer. Very cool.

Feel free to inspire me! And in the meantime, you have my permission to be a reverse robber.

Friday, November 11, 2011

11/11/11 - Movember

It's local donation day, and this week it's being combined with a cause suggested by one of you. In fact, by my cousin Mack. He's growing a moustache in support of prostate cancer research as part of Movember.

I bet many of you have received requests to donate to this cause recently. I bet even more of you have seen men in your life sporting 'staches. A few of you may even be counting the days until your beloved shaves his off.

I can't grow a mo, but I can be supportive in this way. Way to grow, Mack!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Tony Blair and Faithful Philanthropy

Faithful philanthropy. Say that 10 times fast!

I was just catching up on reading the Globe and Mail's most recent articles on philanthropy, having just written today's blog post on malaria eradication. It's an excellent series, and one article entitled "I put my faith in creative philanthropy" caught my eye. Interestingly, it turned out to be written by former British PM Tony Blair, highlighting his faith-based foundation and commitment to malaria eradication. He refers to himself as a "practical optimist." Sounds good to me. Do have a look.

Mosquitoes and Needles

Two of my girls had vaccines lately. Both were freaking out ahead of time, and both said it wasn't nearly as painful as they'd expected.

As I begin preparations for a 2012 trip to Africa with one of them, I sure wish we could get a vaccine against malaria. Mosquitoes are a big nuisance, to be sure, but ever since spending time in Africa, mosquitoes here in Canada really don't bother me. After all, you can't die from them! In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa though, mosquitoes can be deadly. I've lost a colleague to malaria. Malaria caused almost 800,000 deaths in 2009, mostly among African children, accounting for almost 20% of childhood deaths there. That's one child dying every 45 seconds. Horrifying, and preventable.

For now, insecticides and netting are the best defence, especially for those of us with no natural immunity. A vaccine is being tested courtesy of a clinical trial in 7 African countries. It won't be ready for us by next summer, but it's showing some promising initial results.

So this week our international donation is going towards an organization involved in an antimalarial vaccine initiative. I've given the money to PATH. This organization caught my eye for two reasons: it explicitly invites people to give to innovation, and it has the support of the Gates Foundation. (Tempting to think my little $250 won't make a difference when measured against Gates' dollars, but I'm persevering with the contribution nonetheless).

PS -- For those interested in exploring philanthropy and community engagement a bit further, have a look at the free sample chapter from Do More Than Give. I've just ordered the full book (one click on my iPad -- love it!) and am inspired by the work on high-impact collaborations coming out of the Tamarack Institute's Learning Centre. Thanks for the referral, Brenda!

Friday, October 28, 2011

United Way - local programs, local results

I continue to wrestle with the question of in which contexts is one big donation is better than lots of small ones? As I look back over this giving adventure so far this year, the money has gone to a combination of large and small efforts, via large organizations, smaller ones and individuals. In the end, I suppose I hope it's like a balanced diet -- a little bit of everything, moderation in all things...you get the idea.

This fourth week of the month is my opportunity to give to a cause suggested by others to me. Once again, this time it's come in a rather backhanded way. I sit on the Board of Directors of the United Way. Last night at our monthly meeting, one of the other Directors made a passionate presentation to us to give to the United Way campaign -- partly to demonstrate what she so capably does when she goes out to community groups to speak, and partly to encourage Board members to write cheques.

I have mixed feelings about most things, and United Way is no exception. But I do choose to support it, with both time and money, for several reasons. My main motivation is that the United Way responds to local needs. That might seem obvious, but I don't take it for granted. Working close to home is really important to me (I'm looking forward to reading Who's Your City? before too long), and they're supporting over 80 local programs. I also know firsthand that the United Way is really responsive to community requests for support and that the programs it supports actually make a difference. What more should I ask?

It's United Way campaign season. During that season, agencies who receive United Way funds are asked to observe a 'blackout period.' You won't be hearing from them during this time -- they're making sure that United Way gets lots of air time for its fundraising messages in the community. Last year, United Way of Guelph Wellington surpassed its fundraising goal (no small feat, given the economy and reliance of this community on manufacturing!). This year, their target is $2.85 million, and they're well on their way to meeting that -- but it can't happen unless lots of us get involved.

So thank you, Irene, for reminding me to write that cheque this week.

PS -- I hear that Kiva loan is being paid back, little by little. So exciting! I also hear that the Globe and Mail online is starting a feature on philanthropy this weekend -- join me in having a look. Have you seen the People for Good  ads on TV? They caught my attention...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Investing in the Competition with Joy

I try to live my life out of an abundance mentality -- that there is more than enough to go around. (Enough love. Enough food. Enough work. Enough dessert...you get the picture). Thankfully that's been pretty easy for me to do, as I've been blessed to be born into an abundant life and to have been given one as well.

Lately I've been thinking about what it means to bring this view of the world to my work as a self-employed consultant. A few of us who do similar work in similar ways have been getting together occasionally to talk about our work. And it's already led to some very fruitful collaborative experiences. I've built some friendships, landed jobs I never would have been able to get alone, and am enjoying having colleagues in what can often be quite solitary work. One thing I love about this is that we are, strictly speaking, in competition with each other. But we have found ourselves entering new territory here (sometimes running, sometimes tentatively on tiptoe), sharing information and experience and opportunities, largely out of a conviction that there is enough to go around, and that we are all better from having worked together.

In other conversations in my life, I've been considering the extent to which I actually 'put my money where my mouth is' in terms of living out what I believe to be true. Does what I believe really make a difference in the choices I make day to day?

This week (belatedly -- sorry again!), it's time for Just Giving It to honour an inspiring individual. So I'm pulling together these two strands of my life and supporting a colleague who is heading to Arizona for professional development. Gayle is involved with Creating the Future, and she had the courage to send a request for money to some of her friends and colleagues, to help defray the costs of her upcoming trip. The trip will bring together a small group of creative minds who will be developing social change curriculum for social entrepreneurs and executive directors. That curriculum will be brought back into the participants' local communities as 'rocket fuel for social change.' I live and work in Gayle's community, and I trust that we will all benefit (even more than we already have) from her energy, wisdom and commitment to community building as a result in having participated in this week away. (And her request also introduced me to Start Some Good -- very cool.)

So today, I'm 'investing in the competition,' with great excitement. I've learned that whenever I loosen my grip on stuff, life-giving things happen. So it's withe open hands that I say, "Go for it, Gayle!" -- and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Friday, October 14, 2011

With Thanks for the Local Harvest

I love to eat. I also love to shop at markets and to cook, but I especially love to eat. And lately, one of my daughters is very much into cooking (specifically baking cupcakes, although she's a very good veggie chopper too). She and I had a ton of fun at a local food swap recently. We showed up with 12 jars of our tasty 24-ingredient high fibre granola, and left with a bin full of gloriousness: pumpkin spice doughnuts, coconut chocolate cherry granola bars, baba ghanouj, zucchini bread, lavender bath salts (to bathe in, not to eat -- but the herbs were home-grown), butter tarts and maple glazed cinnamon buns. Beyond yummy. We've already signed up for the next one, and this time my daughter has her own table rather than sharing mine. She's made lists of possible recipes already, and it's six weeks away.

It's Thanksgiving season here, and this year I am immensely grateful not only to have enough food, and delicious food, and loved ones with whom to share it, but I'm also thankful to live in a community where local, accessible, real food is a priority. I'm not true, year-round locavore by a long shot -- I lack the self control for that, as I would miss bananas and coffee far too much (and OK, who am I trying to kid? I've eaten Swiss chocolate and American raspberries and Chinese tea while typing this!) -- but I do try to support local food producers as much as possible.


This was the first year in many that our family decided not to be part of CSA -- we were going to be away a lot this summer, and we couldn't find a local CSA that would let us opt out for certain weeks. We decided instead to shop more intentionally at local markets. Not long after that, we learned that a local farmers' market was opening at our kids' school, right in our neighbourhood! It's an initiative of the Food Roundtable in our area, which has been doing lots of interesting work, including developing a Food Charter. It's been such a pleasure enjoying local cheeses (even Haloumi, that I learned to love in Greece this spring!), fruits and veggies, the world's best lemon tarts, and fresh-baked sourdough bread to supplement the loaf already delivered to our door each week by our 'bread angel' each Wednesday. And of course the main market on Saturdays whenever we're in town.

But I still very much missed our CSA that we'd been part of in our previous town for many years. It's at Everdale Environmental Learning Centre. I loved going there -- choosing how to spend our 'veggie points' on the bounty that was always beautifully displayed, picking beans, cutting bouquets of flowers, buying eggs from Rosemary's chickens, admiring the draft horses, and inevitably running into someone I knew and having a friendly chat as we carried our loot to the car.

So this week, our local donation is going to Everdale. Karen and Gavin and the Dandy Girls, we miss you. But this donation is also for what Everdale represents: a community that is committed to finding creative and varied ways to support a local food economy. I love the local food, and the inspiration and conviction I encounter in the people I meet who grow it, cook with it and eat it.

Friday, October 7, 2011

ALS and David/Jonathan

One week ago, I should have been blogging. Instead, I was browsing through stores on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan with my 13-year-old. Hardly my usual Friday morning activity, but once I discovered that we couldn't get Internet access at our hotel anyway, I decided to give myself a week off.


A week off from writing, but not from giving. And that feels like a break, because that's actually how it's been. The giving part of this blog doesn't bother me in the least -- in my head, the money is already spent. It's sort of like having a gift card now, already paid for but waiting to be cashed in. It's the writing part that's proving to be a bit of a chore. I so admire Betty L. (inspiration behind this blog) for doing it daily last year -- I can hardly make myself do it weekly! I don't love to write. I like adding things to my to-do list even less. So the giving is still fun, but the writing is just discipline. Not a bad thing.


So I need to give (and to write!) double this week. The first donation is going to the ALS Society of Canada, in honour of two people I love. One is my grandmother, whose husband Gord died of ALS quite a few years ago. Nanny is taking our whole extended clan to a resort for Thanksgiving, as she generously does every year, and her building memories and relationships in this way makes me extra thankful this weekend. The other is my friend Mary, whose mom died of ALS one year ago this month. Mary is soon running a half marathon, along with her brother Will, in honour of their mother. ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) is an agonizing illness that causes your muscles gradually to shut down as your neural pathways degenerate. (Mine would gradually shut down if I were to attempt a half marathon!) The ALS Society provided practical and essential supports to both Gord and Mary's mom as they battled this disease, and it's my pleasure to support it in continuing to do so.


The second donation on this first week of the month (international week -- have a look back at the Rules of the Game if you've forgotten!) goes to the David /Jonathan project. It's a microenterprise initiative, working mostly in South America, giving start-up capital (usually $200-300 dollars -- perfect!) to [female] entrepreneurs living in poverty. It works out of a belief that even those in the most dire of circumstances can improve their lives if given an opportunity to do so. Its founder Vince is a long-time friend of ours who has recently left his job to work full-time with this project -- you can see his picture here. He's a successful,  passionate, godly guy whose enthusiasm is contagious. (Plus he has a son named Jonah, which gives him bonus points in my books!) If you're curious about the reason behind the name (David/Jonathan, not Jonah), have a look at 1 Samuel 18 for some context.

Be thankful on this glorious weekend, and every day!

Phew. That wasn't so hard.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Childhood Cancer

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

My friend Jan suggested that I write about this -- she has a good friend Tobin who has been battling brain cancer for much of his life, and Jan and her 13-year-old son Joel are fabulous at supporting Tobin and his family in all kinds of creative ways, including drawing attention to this cause.

When Jan asked me to consider supporting this in September, she didn't mention Tobin. She mentioned Jadyn, an eight-year-old friend of Tobin's who recently learned that her brain cancer is back.

I don't even know what to say about this. Jadyn, Tobin, their families and so many others are on journeys more difficult than they ever imagined. If drawing awareness to their struggle and supporting them financially in this small way can encourage them even a little bit, I'm honoured to do so. They are brave people -- not by choice, not because they are so different than the rest of us, but because they've had to be given the strength to cope with challenges that most of us have been spared.

On a more encouraging note, I wanted to update you on a previous post about my friend's dad, Forrest, who is investing his 'golden years' building houses around the world for Habitat for Humanity. Forrest has gone to Malaysia and Ethiopia in the last couple of years, and has also helped build a house near his own home in the Annapolis Valley. Aren't these photos great?! He's looking to head to Ghana this November. What an inspiration!

How are you going to be inspiring today?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Baby N at SickKids

Having a sick child terrifies me. I get edgy even when it's something very minor; the possibility of something major puts me into Mama Bear panic mode almost instantly.

I am so thankful to have healthy kids, and to live in a country that has a state-run health care system. But that system is far from 'free' -- not just because we pay for it through our taxes, but because time spent in a hospital brings with it all kinds of other costs: lost wages, parking, meals out, accommodation etc. etc.

A friend of mine has a grandson who is less than one year old and who has spent more than the past 40 days at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. I've spent some time at SickKids too, when my niece had heart surgery as a newborn. It's an amazing facility, filled with skilled and dedicated staff. But it's not somewhere you want to spend 40+ days.

That precious boy is undergoing yet another surgical procedure this week. His parents are stressed and exhausted. This has been a very difficult and costly time for them. It's dragged on longer than expected, and it's not over yet.

So today's donation, intended for an inspiring individual, goes to baby N's mom and dad. To cover yet another night in a hotel. Or some provisions from the hospital cafeteria. Or maybe even dinner and a movie -- a much needed change of scenery. Mostly, it's to encourage them that this season will not last forever, and they are not alone.

PS -- I came across Tides Canada today, and Small Change Fund. Have any of you ever worked with either of these organizations? I'm intrigued!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Guelph Wellington Volunteer Centre

Happy new year! Does it feel like that at your house? It's back to school week here -- one of our favourites of the year, complete with excitement, drama, anticipation, germs, grumbling, bickering, storytelling and 'Mommy homework.'

It's also local week at Just Giving It. This week's donation is going to the Guelph Wellington Volunteer Centre, which is marking its 10th anniversary this year. I love the Volunteer Centre for lots of reasons -- the people that work there are terrific, they invest in leadership development, they take broad view of what volunteering means, and they encourage people to make our community better. Just under 70% of people in this community volunteer their time, leading to the designation as 'Canada's Most Caring Community.'

But today, the reason they came to mind was because they make it easier for young people to get involved. In Ontario, teens need 40 hours of community service to graduate from high school. At my daughter's school, that number is 150 hours. And just like with other kinds of giving, it's not always straightforward to find ways to give back that are well suited to your skills and interests. I have referred friends, clients and my own daughters to the Volunteer Centre's database of student volunteer opportunities. It's a treasure trove of ideas, (who knew you could run monthly birthday parties for seniors?!) and it provides a service that is useful to local organizations as well as to students and their parents.

So as we kick off a new school year, I'm thankful for such an active and effective Volunteer Centre -- it's one more thing that makes Guelph one of Canada's most livable city. What makes your town great?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

An Hour of Flight Time in Eastern Africa

(Late again. Another too-busy Friday! The last of the boxes will be unpacked today at last. Back into routine on Tuesday.)

When I started this blog project, my intention was not to repeat any donations. I didn't think that part of the commitment would be too hard, given how many needs and support-worthy initiatives there are out there. This week though, I was struggling with it. It's international week, and I'm finding it difficult to think about any overseas needs ranking higher on my current priority list than the famine in the Horn of Africa.

The scale of the need is massive. God-sized for sure. Yet the responses required are both big and small. I heard this week, for example, about a new dimension of a CARE program addressing the problem that the food rations being provided were too heavy for women to carry the 3 km or so back to their plots in the enormous refugee camps, to the point that they were giving away some of their newly acquired food to pay local wagon drivers to transport it for them. It costs them the equivalent of $1.10 in cash, but they simply don't have it. $1.10!

So I'm finessing the rule a bit. This week, a second donation is going towards the Eastern African famine, but I'm directing it through a different organization. I'm purchasing an hour of flight time from Mission Aviation Fellowship.

MAF describes itself this way: "Mission Aviation Fellowship is a worldwide team of specialists, meeting the transportation and communications needs of overseas missions and relief and development organizations serving those living in the poorest and most remote parts of the world." They maintain 135 aircraft, flying into some 2,500 airstrips in more than 30 countries. And now, they are bringing planes from as far away as South Africa to help aid agencies respond to the food crisis in Eastern Africa.

I've had a few brief points of contact with MAF over the years. I've flown in one of their planes in Africa, onto an airstrip that was having its grass cut by machete even as we landed. A friend recently took an MAF flight in northern Manitoba. Another friend works for MAF locally here. And this coming week, through a rather roundabout MAF/church connection, a young Swiss woman is arriving to stay with us for six months.

So I hope I'm not cheating too badly. As we welcome Jenny into our home, and stock up on food for school lunches, I'm reminded with horror of those moms who don't know where their children's next meal is coming from. And I can feel the excitement of watching a plane arrive ("Da plane! Da plane!"). Logistics are a big part of the challenge in humanitarian emergencies -- I'm thankful for organizations like MAF that help things run a little smoother.


PS -- Watch for an update later this week on previous posts. We've been sent some great comments, photos and status reports...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Jack

Yet again, it all comes together. I was late with the blog this week -- forgot about it completely in the busyness of yesterday -- but then writing it today worked out to be even better.

My intention was for this week's donation to go to the Broadbent Institute, a new think tank dedicated to social democracy. Not exactly a cause suggested by others (it is the 4th Friday of the month after all), but by Jack Layton's death this week. (His family asked that donations in his honour be directed towards strengthening the work of the Institute). As we were unpacking boxes this afternoon, I uncharacteristically turned on the television, looking for some Saturday afternoon distraction, and stumbled upon the live feed of Jack Layton's funeral. Not only did it jog my memory about doing the blog, but it affirmed this week's choice and gave me the privilege of basking in Jack Layton's presence one final time.

For my dear readers not in Canada (or living under a rock), Jack Layton was a determined and inspiring social democratic politician, the leader of Canada's official Opposition, elected to that post just in May 2011. You can read about his legacy here and watch his diverse funeral service (complete with a eulogy by Stephen Lewis and the Parachute Club singing 'Rise Up') here. I feel as though I can't write any more here than has already been written about him in tribute. I will say that I was blindsided by how hard his death has shaken me -- someone he'd never met or influenced directly. How much more so the countless others whose lives he touched more personally! The sketch of his face as the full page cover story in the Globe and Mail took my breath away unexpectedly in the grocery store. (I couldn't find a link to it on-line, but love the photo of this impromptu memorial in chalk at Nathan Phillips Square.)

It seems most fitting today therefore to fill this space not with my words, but with his. So it is my honour to reprint an excerpt from Jack Layton's final letter to Canadians, crafted with great care less than 48 hours before his death:

Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one – a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.
My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.





Friday, August 19, 2011

Mrs. Chris

A few weeks back, I wrote about a couple of teenage guys I know who were heading away on trips to Aboriginal communities in Manitoba and Nova Scotia. Today I want to tell you about one of their leaders who took them there, to God's River, Manitoba.

"Mrs. Chris" is a local hero in our house. If you ask any of my girls to name someone outside of our family that they love, and/or that they know loves them, and/or that they know prays for them, they would say Mrs. Chris, in a heartbeat.

It's a precious thing to have role models and mentors just a bit farther along in the journey than you are. Mrs. Chris has three girls like me, but hers are doing exciting things like graduating and moving out -- milestones I'm not at all ready for, so I'm grateful Chris is blazing that trail for me. She's encouraged me to live intentionally and to invest lavishly in young people. She's lived faithfully through multiple losses and we've travelled that road together. Her girls have set godly, beautiful examples for us. They've led us in worship. She is committed to serving her community and particularly to the women and children in it. She's quite simply a lovely person.

Last night, as I sat savouring the last night at the cottage for this season, thinking about the busy day that lay ahead of me today, it didn't completely surprise me to get an encouraging note from Chris, saying hello and asking if there were ways she could lighten our load this weekend. So thoughtful. We're in the process of moving out of Mrs. Chris'physical community, but we know that we will continue to stay well connected in other important ways.

So as I sit here in the chaos of packing, soaking up the history and memories in these walls for one of the last times, it's fitting that Mrs. Chris would be the inspiring individual who came to mind this week. The donation will go towards her expenses in God's River, and I look forward to hearing how she was a blessing to folks there as she is so consistently to folks here.

Friday, August 12, 2011

James Bond, the Kramdens and Helping Local Kids

It's local week, and this week's donation is being made in honour of a couple who helped to make us feel more 'local' when we moved to Guelph. When we met them in the neighbourhood, they began including us on their guest list -- and wow, do they ever throw great parties! Last weekend was a black tie 007 Casino Royale night in honour of David's 50th birthday, complete with a red carpet, bright lights, fancy hors d'oeuvres and gambling tables (with chips worth pretend money -- just my speed).

What does all of this have to do with giving? Well, I've just RSVP'd for these friends' next gathering -- on September 10, they are hosting a fundraiser for the Children's Foundation of Guelph/Wellington -- a night of live music at their home, featuring the Kramdens. I'll be topping up that admission fee for this week's donation.

As David's invitation emphasized, he has confidence that a full 90% of the money raised goes directly to programs to support kids in our community, in three main ways:

1. Christmas hampers
2. Getting kids involved in sports
3. Breakfast programs in elementary schools

I'd anticipated that one of Just Giving It's December donations would go toward a Christmas hamper, but once again I've had the pleasure of watching things come together differently than I'd expected, and this seems to be just the right time. I'm sure something else inspiring will come to my attention for December. In the meantime, I'm delighted to continue to support the Children's Foundation and I've marked the Kramdens' concert on my calendar for September 10. No tuxes or roulette this time, but lots of local fun and local giving. Thanks for continuing to welcome us to the neighbourhood, friends, and for helping to make it a more generous place!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Guelph Teens Reach Lesotho

I've been privileged this week to receive copies of e-mail messages from Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik, impetus behind the million-dollar fundraising campaign Bracelet of Hope. She is currently travelling in Lesotho with 12 high school students from Guelph, Ontario -- they've been preparing for 18 months for the journey (and have even been mentioned in the Huffington Post!). Here is an excerpt from today's note from Anne-Marie:

Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, accused of sabotage by the oppressive South African Regime of the time.  His stay at Robben Island just off the coast of Cape town was most difficult.  During the 17 years he spent in a small cell on the island, he missed contact with children the most.  None of the inmates could have any access or contact with children.

I found this odd when I first heard of it.  Why would the lack of contact with children have such a profound effect on a middle-aged man?  Today as I walked the dusty roads of Leribe, I understood what Mr. Mandela meant.  In Lesotho, there are children everywhere.  A cinder block house is tolerable only for sleep and shelter.  The beautiful mountains of Lesotho draw everyone out into the streets and the fields.  Children are everywhere, playing, walking and laughing.  They are a constant source of light and joy.  Most of the children here are so deprived of the basic necessities of life.  They are poorly clothed.  They lack nutritious food.  Many are orphaned...You simply cannot move about in Lesotho and not be surrounded by the joy and laughter of children...the constant presence and sound of children elevates even the darkest mood.  I understand what you missed Mr. Mandela.

Reach Lesotho is a program of the Upper Grand District School Board, part of an innovative two-year high school course in human rights. A film crew is travelling with the students and their mentors, making a documentary that will be screened on World AIDS Day.

The team has to raise $100,000 to cover the costs of the trip. To do so, they launched the 280 x 280 challenge. Each dollar donated represents 100,000 HIV - infected people in Africa.

I have travelled to some of the places in Africa most devastated by AIDS. I have seen fresh graves. Met grandmothers carrying for dozens of orphaned grandchildren. Sat at the bedside of young mothers on the verge of death. I am so inspired by Bracelet of Hope's commitment to seeing one African country AIDS free, and to their involvement of young people in making that happen.

I would love to be on this team. I would love for my children to be on this team. For now, I will content myself with enjoying Anne-Marie's messages and increasing this week's donation to $280 to meet the challenge. And I'll be heading to Harbourfront on December 1 to watch I Have Hope with my kids.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Let the Worshippers Arise

It's the start of a long weekend here in Canada. We have a couple of European exchange students living with us right now, and one of them asked me why Monday is a holiday. I realized that it's basically a weekend for having summer fun. As far as I know, this holiday Monday isn't commemorating anything -- it's just giving people a break. She thought it was unusual to give people a holiday for no reason.

For my family, this weekend will likely be a highlight of our summer -- one that we've been looking forward to since last year. We're heading to Kingdom Bound, a Christian music festival held at an amusement and water park in upstate New York. It will be the first time that all 6 of us (plus our two visitors) will have been together in more than a month. The weather forecast looks promising. We're planning to ride roller coasters and water slides, do some camping and enjoy a fantastic lineup of concerts.

For me though, the highlight is always the worship. There's a tent set aside for that very purpose, and it's literally a little taste of heaven for me to spend longer in there than the standard Sunday morning half hour, basking in the music.

Today's the fifth Friday of the month, and here at Just Giving It, I use those Fridays for gifts -- unexpected, no-other-reason gifts, kind of like this Monday's holiday. This time around the gift is somewhat retroactive, as it went towards helping another family get to Kingdom Bound too. A bit self serving perhaps, as we're excited to hang out with them. But the main reason I bought their tickets is that the mom is a true and fervent worshipper, and I felt strongly that she would benefit from the gift of worship this weekend. What better gift than to give someone time with God?

I'm curious which songs will imprint themselves into my memory and spirit this weekend -- there are always a couple. One such song from a previous year is called Let the Worshippers Arise. This week, we're helping that to happen and I'm grateful for the opportunity to worship alongside my friend for a few days, knowing that we'll be doing it together forever someday.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Famine in the Horn of Africa

With more than 11 million people in need of food aid and medical supplies in Somalia and Ethiopia, this week's donation is a no-brainer for me. 

There are three criteria for a famine to be declared by the United Nations:
  • At least 20 per cent of households must face extreme food shortages with limited ability to cope.
  • More than 30 per cent of the population must be suffering from acute malnutriton.
  • Two adults or four children dying of hunger each day for every group of 10,000 people.
This is what happens when a devastating drought is combined with war, neglect and skyrocketing food prices.

Donations are only "trickling in" so far, and to be honest, I get it. Look at that list: at least two of the four issues (war and neglect) seem preventable. And doesn't it seem as though the Horn of Africa is always hungry or at war or both? I just finished reading the memoir of a Somali woman yesterday (Nomad -- have a look!) and continue to be perplexed by the complexities created when religions and cultures clash.

But here we are again, giving in spite of misgivings. Because the people most directly affected by famine -- children, women, the vulnerable -- are definitely not those responsible for war or neglect. Or food prices. Or rainfall for that matter.

As a mom, I can't imagine the horror of not being able to feed my children. (I shudder to admit what I fed them just today.) And having lived through a brief heat wave with no air conditioning this week, I would be the first to admit to having utterly neglected my garden. I haven't visited Somalia, but I've been to Ethiopia and other places in that region. I've walked through dusty fields and talked to frustrated farmers there. I know that World Vision has long been at work in the Horn and is highly skilled in humanitarian emergency situations.

So even though getting the aid dollars through is an enormous challenge, and even though I might have to give again and again, I'm willing to contribute. The money is going to famine relief through World Vision and I applaud the Canadian government for matching my donation. (Although admittedly, when Bev Oda announces a match, does she perhaps really mean they won't match it? Hmmm...have to call my friends at Kairos on that one...)

(Thanks to the CBC website for the photos.)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Selfless Sabbatical

In case you've lost track, the third week of the month is dedicated to supporting inspiring individuals. Usually the money has gone to a single person, but today it's going to a family. These friends are doing something that I have long wanted to do -- one of the few things in my life that I wonder if I will look back on and regret not having done. They are taking a leave of absence from their jobs, pulling their three daughters out of school, and heading away.

Where would you go and what would you do? For me, it's a toss up. Villa in Italy? Ecotourism in Costa Rica? Working with kids in Eastern Africa? Paris? Turkey? Some combination of all of that and more, as I try to cram way too much into a short time as is my habit? In my friends' case, they found a small school on a small island in the Philippines and they're heading there to live and work for a year. 

Their odyssey officially begins in a few short weeks, but it really began long ago as they prayed and saved and planned. Nailing down the details has become a part-time job in itself.

They're pretty low key people, and generous. They've been modestly but faithfully raising money, not to cover their own expenses but to support the work of the school. Although I'm keen to contribute in that way, my hope is that this week's donation will be used for them -- to buy something that will be a treat, and/or will make their trip a little easier, and/or will remind them of how much they are loved and admired as they head off on this life-changing adventure.

Thinking of their trip reminds me that this life is not a dress rehearsal. We don't get a 'do over.' As they look back on this experience many years from now with a whole range of emotions, I can't imagine that regret will be one of them. They're another example of people who are living abundantly. As a parent, friend and fellow traveller, I'm inspired by their picture on my fridge and look forward to tales of what they're learning even as they teach others. Bon voyage!

Friday, July 8, 2011

MS and General Messiness

As I sit down to write this, things feel complicated today. It's a day for me to tie up some blogging loose ends, but a bunch of other ones are unravelling at the same time. Life is messy like that. So in the spirit of transparency and accountability, here we go:

1. A long time ago, I wrote about my friend Liz asking me to donate money on her behalf to a cause "that supports industrious girls." At the time, my suggestion was Grameen Foundation's program with mothers and children. Unfortunately I did not hear anything back from that organization, so did not direct the funds there. In the meantime, I've learned about Little Women for Little Women. It's girls in BC raising money for women and girls in Afghanistan -- check them out! I'll be suggesting that Liz direct her money there instead.

2. Similarly, I'm having trouble tracking down the Winnipeg construction company that I wrote about a few weeks back. I think it may simply be a case of the contact person having retired, so I'm going to keep trying and will keep you posted. Not an encouraging start to my foray into getting guidance from Charity Intelligence Canada, but I'm still impressed enough to persevere.

3. Another piece by CIC well worth looking at is their study of cancer research fundraising in Canada. Some of you may have seen this article this week about the Canadian Cancer Society -- yet another example of questionable ratios between fundraising and programming for a large charity. It's made me jittery of big fundraising machines, and made at least one of my friends quesiton whether she'll continue canvassing on their behalf after many years of doing so. The story broke just one day after I was chatting with a different friend about two related things: how social service charities seem to be under much tighter public scrutiny than other kinds of non-profits such as hospitals or universities when it comes to their overhead spending, and how her relative with MS has actually stopped supporting the work of the MS Society out of frustration -- I don't know the details. Hmmm...head spinning...segue to my next point.

4. Another story broke last week about funding for MS clinical trials in Canada -- so-called 'liberation therapy." For the last 7 years, our family has been involved in supporting the work of the MS Society, primarily through a 75km bike ride in Niagara. We have had the largest team. Two of our kids have been the youngest riders, completing the full ride at just 8 years old. My husband has been a top fundraiser and has travelled to other rides throughout North America, including riding 180 miles in Texas last year. We have a junior team of kids and a senior team for the rest of us. It's been a big deal.

This year, our kids' summer schedule will not allowd for sufficient training time to prepare for the ride, and one of them needs to be driven to camp on that day, so unfortunately they will not be participating and therefore neither will I. My husband has passed the team captain reins on to a colleague, but he is still actively involved and riding, both in Niagara and Banff. He's hoping to pass the $10,000 mark again and to ride in Cape Cod next summer. So because this is local week here at Just Giving It, and because I'm not doing much fundraising myself for a change, I thought it would be fitting for this week's donation to go to Team Eramosa.

And it will. But strangely, I'm feeling somewhat reluctant. A bit nervous perhaps that I don't have full information, and that if I did, I might not give. What story is going to break next? If I had access to the details of their books, would I be as impressed?

At the same time I feel compelled to continue to give. Why? I think it's partly because I want to be supportive of my friend Anne, my daughter's friend's mom, my friend's brother, of my former neighbour growing up, and the many others I know, mostly women, who are struggling with MS. It still seems that giving money is one way to do that, even if too much of it goes to 'back office' work -- how else to channel it if not through the MS Society? I think it's also partly because I understand that it costs money to raise money, and I don't want to use cynicism as an excuse not to give. It's partly because this ride has become a big part of our family's story and I'm very proud of those I know who do it. And I think it's also because I have a sense that I need to be faithful in and to this giving journey -- to give even when I don't fully understand it or don't have all the information.

I hope that's not the same thing as being irresponsible. But as I said, life's messy like that.

A friend commented this week, "When you know better, you do better." I'm not sure that's always true, but for now, I'm going with what I know rather than with what I fear. I know that MS is a terrible disease, and it takes money to fight it. I hope you'll join me in doing that -- you can sponsor my beloved by clicking here. And do join in the conversation too. What are you thinking (and doing) about all of this?

PS -- $72.50 of our donation to an entrepreneur through Kiva has already been paid back into our account, ready to be reinvested. Now that's the kind of unfinished business that I love to be able to write about!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Aging Well

Have you ever thought about how important it is to finish well?

When you're on the 'home stretch,' it would be easy to coast. To let up. To drift off track.To fade out.

This week's donation is going to someone who is flat out refusing to do any of these things. Forrest is 80 years old. Having recently nursed his wife through the ravages of dementia, he could now, understandably, be resting -- catching his breath and enjoying life in the Annapolis Valley. Instead, Forrest has actively participated in Habitat for Humanity builds in Malaysia and Ethiopia. Having done one measly day of such a build in Ontario, I know what kind of energy that takes -- even at half his age. As Forrest prepares to return to Ethiopia this summer, it is my honour to pay tribute to this godly man who is making a deliberate choice to finish well. Could he die doing this? Yes. But, as his family has discussed, there are far worse things.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Teens Serving Across Canada

One of the most intriguing things about this giving journey so far has been watching how the giving opportunities are 'revealed' to me each week. It's teaching me to trust that I don't always have to have things figured out well in advance -- all will be well.

Here I am today, faced with yet another great example of that kind of provision. It's the fourth week of the month -- time to give to something suggested by you. Unfortunately my list of suggestions is running a little thin, and I wasn't too sure what direction to take this week. Then yesterday afternoon I received a message from two teenage guys I know. I've actually known Casey and Kyle for most of their lives. They're brothers -- part of that core team of young people from my former church that I've written about before. Among other things, they are hard workers, amazing musicians, and excellent with my kids.

Their message described the adventures that each of them is embarking upon this summer -- perfectly suited to each of their abilities. Kyle (who's 16 now if I'm remembering correctly) is heading to Glace Bay, Nova Scotia to partner with a local church, helping with their summer camp, skate park and other programs as they reach out to First Nations communities in that area. Casey, who's heading off to college to study music this September, is travelling to God's River, Manitoba to be involved in worship leadership and a sports camp with the First Nations people there. Between now and their departure, they are participating in a 6-week training program and building their team of support.

Voila! This week's donation will be divided between these two fine young men. It's a privilege to join their team, and not to have to look any farther than my Inbox to figure  out that I should do so.