5 things that matter right now and how to make a difference. Pass ’em on!

Members of groups who are sponsoring two Syrian refugee families hold up signs welcoming their charges as they wait for the families to arrive at Toronto's Pearson Airport, on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

’Tis the season for giving (and getting) and you're kinda ready to do some good. But who has time? Plus the second season of Serial is out. Well, it turns out $5 or five minutes goes a long way to helping people. And a bunch of organizations make it super-easy. You can make a difference without changing out of your flannel pyjamas.

Below are a few ideas that might help you get started….

Eco-Equitable trains new immigrant, underemployed women
Eco-Equitable trains new immigrant, underemployed women


By this time next year there might be 25,000 Syrian newcomers in Canada. Wouldn’t it be nice to help them adjust to their surroundings? Any one of us can do that by becoming a mentor.

Skilled immigrants entering the true north, strong and free, have the education, the experience, and the language skills to succeed. What they might not have is the Canadian context of workplace culture as it relates to their profession, or a solid understanding of how to translate their skill set. Advice, feedback, direction, and local insights are crucial to their success. And access to a professional network that only a local mentor can offer

Across Canada, programs run by immigrant employment councils match professionals with skilled immigrants based on job experience. In these occupation-specific relationships, mentors meet their mentees in person, online, and over the phone. And lives are changed.

If you're in Toronto, check out the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council or Allies Canada for options across the country.


Zonta in a national women’s rights organization dedicated to raising the status of women.
Zonta in a national women’s rights organization dedicated to raising the status of women.


Remember the Hydro One employee who made vulgar, sexist remarks to a CityTV reporter at a Toronto FC soccer game earlier this year? Maybe if he’d attended an anti-sexism workshop, it might never have occurred.

It’s incidents like these that the non-profit Zonta Club of Ottawa hopes to prevent by educating boys and young men. The club donates to a high school program called ManUp, an educational workshop in which teens discuss sexist and controlling behaviour, and street harassment. Last year, ManUp ran in one high school; in 2015, the program is in 15 Ottawa-area high schools. They also give several annual awards and scholarships to young women in business; public affairs; theatre (Sandra Oh was the first winner) and humanitarian work.

They’re a member of Zonta International, which was founded in 1919 with the “goal of advancing the status of women through service and advocacy in local communities”. Amelia Earhart was a member! Today it has 30,000 members in 67 countries. As an NGO it has general consultative status with the UN. Pretty cool.

Find your local club at zonta.org; and read up about the different ways you can volunteer. 


Tsuut'ina theatre project connects Alberta students with First Nations history
Tsuut'ina theatre project connects Alberta students with First Nations history


Here are some startling facts: Indigenous youth are Canada’s fastest growing demographic and, contrary to popular belief, they are not guaranteed funding to postsecondary education. In fact, money is a major barrier. More than half of Canada’s Indigenous population hasn’t finished high school and just eight per cent have a university degree.

Indspire Building Brighter Futures bursaries, scholarships, and awards helps First Nation, Inuit, and Métis students cover the costs of their post-secondary education and training, books, living expenses, and childcare. The awards – for engineering, business, science, pre-law, and law, trades and technology and more – are based on academic merit and financial need.

A registered charity that’s been around for 30 years, Indspire is the largest funder of Indigenous education outside the federal government. To date, it has awarded $79-million through close to 25,000 bursaries and scholarships to Indigenous students. Indspire’s President and CEO is Roberta L. Jamieson, a Mohawk who is the first First Nation woman to earn a law degree as well the first woman Ombudsman of Ontario. She’s also a member of the Order of Canada. I’m wowed.

Visit www.indspire.ca and learn how far your donation goes.



Maybe it’s hard to imagine but your economics, chemistry, and calculus textbooks could bring a lot of joy to a lot of people on the other side of the world. (Even if you felt tortured while cramming during late-night study sessions.) Drop those gently used university books, journals, and course packs (less than 10 years old) to Goodwill in Ontario and they’ll be delivered to London, Ontario-based Textbooks For Change. Social entrepreneur Chris Janssen founded this charity after a teaching stint in Rwanda where he saw a group of students sharing the tattered pages of one photocopied textbook.

Fifty percent of proceeds from the drop boxes cover costs of shipping the donated books to postsecondary institutions such as the University of Kenya. All the money raised (from sold textbooks) during student-collection drives is donated to the social cause of the students’ choice. Donate and read more at: TextbooksForChange.ca



If you’re a Gen-Xer like me, you probably know every word to Feed the World and sing it every Christmas. Sadly Bob Geldof’s famous song didn’t end famine on the planet. A quarter of a million children face starvation in war-torn South Sudan.

Now, an ambitious development plan called FEED is guiding 215,000 residents of the famine-stricken country so they can sustainably feed themselves and their communities. A consortium of NGOs, CARE/Oxfam/World Vision, has provided South Sudanese farmers with basic tools including seeds, rakes, ox ploughs, fishing nets, and beekeeping equipment.

In Farmer Feed Schools operating in seven of the country’s 10 states, farmers are busy planting, growing, threshing, winnowing, and drying crops; and storing seeds to prepare for the next planting season. Soon they’ll be digging fishponds and building market stalls to sell their produce.

FEED’s three-year-goals are to boost food production and for men and women to support themselves by becoming successful farmers and small business owners. You can help. Click on ‘Where We Work



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