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, February 25, 2011

Young Yoginis in Halton

Penny and I used to compete for the top marks in high school. It was a close race, and we shared the honour of Valedictorian at the end. That was almost 24 years ago, and I haven't seen Penny since. I have heard from her recently though, through a mutual friend on Facebook. She's been following this blog, and she sent me an idea for a donation. (It's the fourth week of the month, which means I'm using submitted ideas to guide the process -- do send yours!)

Penny is a teacher of kids with various special needs and barriers to learning. Her class has greatly benefited from funding provided by the Halton Learning Foundation. I'll let her describe it in her own words:

"This group provides money to schools for kids who need something that is preventing them from learning as well as they should - they have a program called Barriers to Learning. I have accessed money so I can provide breakfast to my kids every morning...This has become an important part of our daily routine. We have our community circle during breakfast, we practise our communciation skills and we discuss issues that seem to crop up such as stranger danger, appreciating people who help us...After breakfast I can sit back and watch them communicate and work as a team during the clean-up. For my kids, this is immense and they've made me publicly cry a few times. We feel like a family...I have also got money from the Halton Learning Foundation to purchase yoga mats for my classroom. This is one of our most peaceful times of the week. You can't imagine how great it is to see all my kids participating on their mats, getting some kids out of the wheelchairs and onto the floor, meditating and stretching."

Almost every day it crosses my mind to be thankful for the things in my life that work without me understanding why or how. Most often it's things like computers and telephones (when they ask, I tell my kids they're magic -- is that wrong?), but sometimes it's osteopathy or a kid learning to read. Yoga is another of those things -- and the image of Penny's students getting out of their wheelchairs to do their yoga poses, with full tummies and smiles on their faces, has put a smile on mine today.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Vicarious Backpacking

I love planning vacations. Even when they’re not mine. Lately, I’ve been helping my brother and his girlfriend finalize their itinerary for a backpacking trip in Europe (which has made me green with envy, by the way. They’ll be green for real, as one month from today they will be in Ireland recovering from St. Patrick’s Day celebrations!)

I was telling a friend about their trip recently, and that quickly transitioned into singing their praises for having come so far. It occurred to me in that moment that I am truly inspired by my brother, and I’m excited for this week’s individual donation to go towards his upcoming travel adventure. He’s earned it!

My brother is 15 years younger than me. We didn’t grow up in the same household. We share a father, and my weaker parent was in many ways his stronger one. He wasn’t raised with nearly the same level of support and resources that I was privileged to receive. He went through some significant trauma as a pre-teen that could have thrown him off the rails, but not only did he recover, but he took the initiative, as a teenager, to rebuild a relationship with the person who threw him that curveball. When he headed off to university (university!!) three hours from his home, he had never before been on public transit. He went on his very first airplane ride in 2008, in his mid-twenties, when we took our dad to New York City. With very little outside help and few strong role models, he found a way to put himself through school. He’s maintained a long term, solid relationship with a great girl (who deserves a lot of the credit); he has a full-time job in his field; he keeps in touch with his big sister and he remembers to send my kids cards on their birthdays. And here he is, jetting off to Europe for six weeks.
I’m impressed. And jealous.

So as my brother and his girlfriend get to Greece just before we do later this spring, I hope they gaze out over that gorgeous Aegean sunset and raise a glass in their own honour. They deserve it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Jumping In

I've only known my sporty daughter to miss making a team once. It was the skipping team in grade 4. So when tryouts came around again in grade 5, she was determined to make the team. And of course she did. And what a team it was! They travelled from school to school performing a
30-minute jump rope demonstration (ever see the movie Jump In?), encouraging students to live active lives and to participate in Jump Rope for Heart.

It's our week to support something local, and the Heart and Stroke Foundation is a national organization that makes an impact locally and across the country. When 9 out of 10 people are at risk of heart disease and/or stroke in Canada, it's hard to imagine a cause more relevant. So when my younger kids came home with their pledge forms for Jump Rope for Heart this week, it seemed fitting to designate this week's donation to that. (And it means my little guy will get a very cool shiny soccer ball as a fundraising prize -- a nice bonus for him).

When skipping practices were happening around here, I joined in. It had been awhile! But it came back to me pretty quickly, and what a great workout it is. Ten minutes of jumping rope is equivalent to half an hour of jogging -- that kind of efficient exercise appeals to me (especially given how much I dislike jogging). So now I incorporate skipping into most of my fitness classes, and I'll do so again today, in honour of the many people that each of us knows who have been affected by heart disease and stroke. (Just for fun, check out this cool video of me doing just that -- sign up, and you can be jumpified too!)

And somehow 'jumping in' fits this year's giving philosophy for me. Try it!

PS -- Thank you to each person who has sent me ideas for the blog. I'll be getting to them as quickly as I can, and I've been encouraged by the conversations that have been initiated through this crazy project. Next week the donation goes to an inspiring individual. Not sure yet who that'll be. Any ideas?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Nyota Home

It's a very cold morning where I live. But rewind to a sunny day last July, when I received an e-mail from my friend Miriam, letting me know that friends of hers nearby had raspberries available at their farm. Not usually a pick-your-own operation, when we arrived, Doug and Lynda's place was dotted with friends and neighbours happily helping to harvest the bumper crop of organic berries. We were delighted to join in. And our visit got better, because Lynda let the kids feed the chickens and Doug sent us home with some greens and garlic from the garden. The whole visit was a summer highlight.

As I was paying for our treasures, I noticed pictures of African kids on the walls of the farm store. Of course I asked about them, and learned that Lynda and Doug are very involved in supporting Nyota Home. Located near Nakuru, Kenya, Nyota provides a nurturing home and learning environment for children who have lost their parents due to AIDS or other tragedies. One of their main fundraisers locally is an art auction, which I had previously attended, so I was pleased to make a more personal connection with those behind this inspiring initiative.

Since then, I've enjoyed receiving Lynda's updates about Nyota's progress, lately through her blog written during a recent visit there. I was interested to read about the 'big girls' there -- 12 to 14-year-olds like my 'big girls' here. Their lives could hardly be more different -- yet Lynda's report says that the girls there get in trouble for not cleaning their rooms just like mine do! As my daughter and I consider a trip to Africa, we're thinking that Nyota will be on our list of destinations, as I can't think of anywhere she and I would rather spend our time. I bet she'd even help them clean their rooms.

For those of you in Canada, donations to Nyota can be made through Feed The Children. Funds go to provide for the kids' basic needs -- caring staff, meals, clothing, toys, health care and school fees -- items most of us take for granted that make a direct and important difference in the lives of these precious kids.

I hope to be back picking raspberries this summer -- the thought is a welcome diversion on this chilly morning. And maybe I'll be enjoying these kids in person the summer after that.