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, 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...