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, 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.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Thankful from the bottom of her second heart

I'm laughing as I write this. The winner of the 'most fully alive' contest this week is the 27-year-old recipient of a heart transplant. Beat that! :) Thanks to my friend Pippy (also very much alive herself, having packed up her family and headed off to live in Tanzania recently) who reminded me about her friend Andrea Clegg's journeyHaving lived for 14 months with a battery-operated mechanical heart, Andrea had a heart transplant just before Christmas 2010. She is an inspiring young woman, who is using her experience to raise money for Toronto General Hospital's transplant research and to encourage people to become organ donors. Global television crews followed Andrea every step of the way, and you can link to the video they produced through her blog -- it's not for the squeamish, but if you're up for it, hers is an incredible story to watch!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

"Bring Out Your Live!"

Recently I heard someone described as being "so alive." It's not an adjective that would pop into my mind to describe someone very often -- but as soon as I heard it, I thought, "I want to be fully alive," and I've been pondering what that looks like. I was browsing through old photo albums today and discovered that each of my girls each looked amazingly alive at three years old. Heaven help us if it's all down hill from there!

Here at Just Giving It, the third Friday of the month is devoted to supporting inspiring individuals. When we started, I didn't realize that this would be the most difficult of the weeks. (Why is it so hard to find people to give money to??!)

Part of the fun of this journey has been not knowing exactly where the money's going to come from our where it's going, often until the very morning I start writing my weekly post. So I'm not worried. But I did want to let you all know that I could use your input. Who do you know that is "so alive"?

And looking ahead, the fourth Friday is coming too -- we take your suggestions for that day, so keep 'em coming!

Live well today.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Sister Christine

Working primarily for voluntary organizations as I do, I have been hearing a lot lately about the huge workload created by demands for greater accountability in the charitable sector. It's such a balance, isn't it? I am all for organizational accountability, but at the same time I have seen how "being accountable" can suck valuable, and disproportionate, time and energy away from organizations achieving the very impacts for which they are being called to account.

Sister Christine is a pillar in our community. She holds the Order of Canada for her work among the marginalized, particularly homeless men at the Welcome In Drop In Centre where she's worked for more than 25 years. She is also involved with 3 emergency shelters and other affordable housing initiatives, and other practical services such as transportation, medical care, clothing, job creation and many other big and small supports too numerous to mention. I drive past her Centre every day.

The story goes that when one funding organization in our city sought to get behind her work many years ago, they didn't ask her to write a proposal or fill out 10 forms. They handed her a check over a cup of tea because, as she's said, "they trusted a nun."

I've only met Sister Christine a couple of times since moving here a few years ago. She's a force to be reckoned with. I was told that if I needed to reach her, I should call between 5:30 and 6:30 am. And while I'm sure there are many admirable things about her, I particularly appreciate the fact that she, a woman of faith, has such enormous credibility for the work that she does. She strikes me as being utterly practical and 'no nonsense', caring, and virtually fearless as she works among a population most of us would cross the street to avoid. She is able to provide a haven to the homeless and isolated in our community in large part because of volunteers and partnerships with other agencies -- folks are willing to work with her.

A quick Google search gave me just a taste of what others have said about Sister Christine's work:

"She's truly a a beacon of hope for the marginalized in our society."

"Sister Christine doesn't roll out numbers and statistics when she talks about poverty. She talks about Stan...or the young man with fetal alcohol syndrome who can barely speak, but who can pick up a broom to sweep the Drop In Centre and considers it his job to do so."

"She seeks to do good and do it well."

Despite her long history, solid 'career' and advancing years, Sister Christine is still very much a hands on leader who hasn't lost her focus. As she said recently at a poverty elimination planning session, "If you get too big, you really can't help people. You need to know their names and their stories. Then you can figure out what they need."

I'm all for accountability, and I know that Sister Christine's work would stand up under scrutiny. But I'm also grateful that someone 'trusted a nun' and let her do what she was called to do. I'm inspired by her work and by the people who have supported her in it.

Friday, June 3, 2011


It's international week here at Just Giving It. When I first wrote down the handful of organizations that I might consider giving to, back on December 29 last year as this blog was just taking shape in my mind, Kiva was high on the list.

Here's how it works:

Kiva partners with existing microfinance institutions around the world, who know their local context. Those field partners distribute loans to local entrepreneurs and upload stories to the Kiva website. Lenders (you and I) browse those profiles and select the ones we'd like to fund, for as little as $25. Kiva combines those funds and disburses them to the field partners. The entrepreneurs then repay their loans, and Kiva repays the lenders. Lenders can then re-invest those funds, donate them to pay Kiva's operating expenses, or withdraw them using PayPal.

When I first visited Kiva earlier this year, it had recently been identified as one of Oprah's 'Favourite Things' and the resulting popularity meant that there were temporarily no loans available to be made! That's changed, and as of this morning there are 713 loans available.

My mom and I made a loan together recently, to support Elsa Balaba in the Philippines who needed bananas and sugar for her street food stall. It's such fun reading through the profiles! Great too to see that our loan was pooled with others' to provide Elsa with her full requested amount. We now receive periodic updates as she pays it back.

Small business owners need start up and operating capital, no matter where they live. Microfinance is a  pathway to development gains that has proven to be very effective. Kudos to Kiva for making it easier for those of us in wealthy nations to connect, simply and meaningfully, with entrepreneurs in poorer places who need our capital. We need their stories. A beautiful win-win.

Charity Intelligence and Building Houses for and by Low Income Residents in Winnipeg

The fourth week of the month would normally be the week we give to a cause or recipient suggested to me. This time, I'm taking my suggestion from an organization called Charity Intelligence Canada (Ci), and specifically their 2010 list of recommended charities. Ci researches and analyzes charities in order to funders greater confidence that their funds are being well used. I'm really impressed with their approach. For example, they ask the very basic question: does this charity need the money? (As opposed to whether they are able to raise it.) They look not only at financial numbers, but also at the goods and time donated to a charity tefore assessing whether its spending ratios are healthy. They look at the degree of local ownership, at how many people are served, and at how the organization is managed. Recently, they have begun assessing social enterprises and social purpose businesses alongside more traditional charities, to help Canadian givers better understand the 'double bottom line impact' of businesses  seeking both financial and social return. Interesting and helpful stuff.

So this week I have decided to make a donation to Inner City Development, a social purpose business that does renovations in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Why them? Manitoba and renovations have both been on my mind in recent weeks -- Manitoba because of the terrible flooding that folks there have been experiencing, and renovations because we're about to embark on some of our own. I've also been doing some research in my professional life on those who are experiencing precarious housing in my own area. I appreciate the practical approach of providing jobs -- not just handouts -- to inner city low income residents. And how much more practical can you get than picking up a hammer? And I love that an explicit part of their mission is to provide services to inner city non-profit organizations. They started by renovating inner city housing for low income residents, and they are committed to providing full-time, year-round employment to their staff -- unusual in the constructon industry.

I suspect I'll go back to the Ci report many times before the year is out -- I hope you do too.

Sacrificial Giving

There's a man at our church named Bobby. I don't know him very well. We've actually only ever spoken on the phone when he has called to remind me that I signed up to bring a salad to the community dinner on Saturday or to help with the food drive next weekend. He's the kind of guy who offers to make those phone calls. But I feel like I know Bobby a bit better than our limited contact would suggest, because he has a reputation. What kind of reputation do you have? Do you wish you had? Bobby's reputation is for service and selfless giving. He's a go-to guy, who quietly and faithfully invests his life in other people. I am not personally aware of even a fraction of all that Bobby does. I know that he helps at a local dinner and drop in centre, talks to people at his Auto Body shop about far more than car repairs, organizes men's groups, delivers cribs and other supplies to new moms in need, goes on missions trips to Ecuador, and is willing to make himself vulnerable in sharing his struggles and stories publicly with our congregation every once in awhile. There's way more.

I recently received a flyer that said this:

"As you may or may not know, this torrid pace Bobby's set has finally taken its toll...physically, emotionally and financially. The first two we'll trust God to heal and continue to pray as Bobby goes through this season of his life. The finances however, that we can do something about."

Last weekend there was an "Amazing Love BBQ" held to raise funds for Bobby.  The irony struck me -- even now, as Bobby needs our help instead of the other way around, we are blessed. Blessed to have an opportunity to give, and in that way to contribute, practically and tangibly, to the significant ministry that Bobby has had and to encourage him in it. As the flyer said, "If Bobby has impacted your life in the past few years, be part of a community that responds the same way." I was sorry to miss the BBQ, but glad to participate belatedly. Maybe the element of belated surprise will make it even more fun.

Bobby's  not the kind of guy you'd notice in a crowd. He won't make the news. But he has the kind of reputation that I would be proud for any of my children to have.

Catching Up

Sorry for the silence. Sort of. We've been away for awhile, in the Greek Islands celebrating 20 years of wedded bliss. A friend asked me this week what the very best part was. My possible list was long -- in fact I'd written it out while flying home: the quality of the light and the air, no driving, no bickering, no scheduling, no alarm clock, the fresh healthy food, the views, being near water all of the time, no food planning or cooking, no one complaining about what I chose to cook, spending time with each other when we're actually at our best in the day, not being interrupted, not having to remind anyone about anything, rarely multitasking...I could go on. But one of the very best things about the trip was the quiet. There was a surprising amount of silence -- much of it spent sitting outside gazing out at the sea. So the blog was silent too, and today is catch up day. It's one part of getting back into routine that I've been looking forward to.