a peek inside the fishbowl

11 May, 2013

The gift of We Day

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Yaktivism

The other day someone mentioned that the Fishbowl was becoming a little too political. It’s not changing. I’m still writing and thinking about the same stuff – kids, recipes, activities around Ottawa, gadgets and gear for families – but all this stuff just happened at the same time: Bangladesh and Live Below and McDonald’s and I have to be true to myself and get it out there otherwise it eats me up. So please forgive me if you’re not finding the kind of content you usually find here at the Fishbowl. I hope you stick with me, because – as many of you know – the topic matter changes pretty frequently! Thank you as always for your continued support! xo

A couple weeks ago I was invited to attend something called We Day, an event organized by the folks behind Free the Children, a charity which was founded by Craig Kielburger.

Are you familiar with Craig Kielburger at all? If you know his story you already know that he is a wunderkind in the truest sense of the word. You can read more about him on Wikipedia but I will summarize by saying that he is essentially the poster boy for youth action.

I first read about Craig a few years ago in connection with his advocacy work for Free the Children, and then again awhile later.

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this here, but I was interviewed for one of his books about how to use social media for activism.

Me to We

The book is called Living Me to We: The Guide for Socially Conscious Canadians. I had actually forgotten all about it until the invitation to We Day showed in my inbox. So I did what anyone would do and went out and picked up a copy. It’s a great book, and I think the girls will get a lot of out it. And it’s pretty neat to be included in it.

page turner

Unfortunately they misspelled my last name. Ha ha! And I thought I was marrying into a name that was easy to spell. :)

We Day is a fascinating event. Intended for tween and teenage kids, it is the ultimate school assembly… but with music, celebrities and social activists, performances, and motivational speeches. It is all about youth empowerment, the power of one, and it invites young people to step up and take action on local and global issues. I recommend you watch this video if you’d like to get an idea about what it’s all about:

You can’t buy a ticket to We Day, it has to be earned. Each school group that attends had made a commitment to undertake one local and one global action throughout the year in order to help create positive change in the world. And We Day is a kind of thank you, one that helps keep those fires burning.

I took the girls out of school to attend We Day (they rode sidesaddle on my media pass) and I’m so glad we did.

There were a bunch of great speakers, but notable standouts for us included Craig Kielburger (he is so charming and well spoken), and I had a brief opportunity to speak with him. I asked him what parents can do to raise “activist” children. I am transcribing his answer here because I thought it might be of interest to you too:

“In our family my parents always read the newspaper flat out on the kitchen table – and we had those conversations. My mom would never walk past a homeless person without choosing to engage with them in some way whether it was a nod of the head or a hello or putting a few coins in… it starts with the parents. Studies overwhelmingly show that the greatest single indicator of whether a child will volunteer is whether their parents volunteer. And it’s not a push – not a dragging along – it’s just sharing what you do and that becomes part of the family norm.”

Words to think about, right? Charity has to live and breathe in the family. It all begins at home.

Spencer West talked about his climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro. You can read his inspiring story in this Q & A in the National Post. (There are some great photos too in that piece too.) You can also watch him in action right here:

Here is in the media room, answering questions:

Spencer West at National We Day in Ottawa/Gatineau

His story will stay with us for a long time.

Molly Burke is a young woman who captivated and inspired the audience. She spoke out about bullying. Here’s her story on video (I can’t watch it without welling up):

There were so many other heartwarming moments that day, but one of the best ones for me occurred in the parking lot afterwards. I turned to one of my daughters and asked her what she thought of We Day. She sighed, and smiled, and with a twinkle in her eye she told me that it had changed her life.

It was lovely to have the opportunity to meet celebrities and enjoy box seats overlooking the event, but that was the best part of We Day for me.

I kind of knew this going in, but it turns out you cannot attend We Day and not be affected by it. And now I have something for you.

I was given a Blackberry Z10 by Telus, one of the event sponsors, with which to share our We Day experience. I’m going to shake things up and give it away to a special someone who’s made it to the end of this post. I won’t be promoting this post as I do my usual giveaways because I want this awesome device to go to a Fishie who’s REALLY reading. :)

The fine print, as per usual. Please read!

  • This giveaway is for a white Blackberry Z10 that I was given by Telus for use before/during/after We Day. It is a sweet little thing that retails for $650. If we didn’t have iPhones we would keep it, but I don’t feel right keeping it or selling it.
  • I want to give this to a Canadian who volunteers or has raised money for charity. In order for your entry to qualify, please use the comments below to tell me about your own volunteering experience OR how you have helped your child be an activist. If you win, consider this a thank you for helping make our world a better place. :)
  • I will seal the package and stuff all the cords back in the box. I will cover shipping costs but that will be the end of my involvement. You’ll have to activate this yourself and take care of your own phone/data plan.
  • This giveaway is void where prohibited by law.
  • If you can’t post your comment here for whatever reason, you can email it to me for posting. Send it to andrea at quietfish dot com … however I cannot be responsible if your entry is misdirected or gets stuck in my Spam folder.
  • Do you know someone who would appreciate the chance to win? I bet you do. Forward this info to them.
  • I will choose the winner using Random.org at noon EST on Monday May 20, 2013.

Other deets in case you’re wondering (this is straight from my contact at Telus):

If the winner is already a TELUS customer, they just need to transfer their number over to the new device. This can be done online or over the phone with an agent. If the person wishes to unlock the phone, they can call us and we’ll do that.

Customers can unlock their TELUS mobile device for use with other mobile carriers. Device unlocking is the process of reversing the TELUS specific settings on your mobile device so that it can be used with a SIM card from other mobile carriers. TELUS will provide customers with the code to unlock your device in order to enhance your overall mobile experience while maintaining the standard manufacturer’s warranty on your device for a $35 fee.

That’s it! Over to you. Good luck!


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24 Responses to "The gift of We Day"

1 | Heather

May 11th, 2013 at 3:07 pm

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I am always changed after reading your blog posts. Whether it is the struggles that you had with your Reno, your support of local and sustainable businesses, or the $1.75 challenge. I volunteered for over 25 years with the guiding (girl guides) and found the ages between 11 and 17 was the best time to introduce new ideas to them and have them become passionate about being part of the change.

I think the phone should go to someone who works with youth groups.
I am so glad that you and your daughters were able to attend WE day.

2 | LAurel

May 11th, 2013 at 9:47 pm

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Andrea
My daughter Brynn was a one to experience the gift of We Day through some friends of ours. Their daughter, a friend of Brynn’s had just turned 12 and said, prior to attending We Day, that for her birthday she wanted to raise $5000 to build a well in Africa. Wow right? Brynn is now her official helper and together they are raising awareness and collecting donations one bottle and penny at a time.
Truly inspiring!

3 | Katie

May 11th, 2013 at 10:08 pm

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My parents are active volunteers and taught me to do the same. I hope to teach my son the value of volunteering as well. For now we participate in community clean ups and cleaning eye glasses for the Lions Club(they are brought to developing countries).

4 | Valerie

May 11th, 2013 at 11:00 pm

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So great that you got to experience We Day! I completely agree with Craig Kielburger’s statement. My parents were always active volunteers in our community, helping out at church, at the food bank, coaching our teams, etc. As children, these activities were normal parts of our routine. We just thought that everyone volunteered as much as our family did! I feel quite lucky to have learned these values from a young age. I have gained so much from my volunteer experiences. In every community that I have lived, my involvement as a leader with Girl Guides of Canada has allowed me to meet amazing people and gain a sense of belonging in a new place. Unfortunately, I had to step back from my role with GGC because of health reasons. I now focus my efforts on raising money for the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada. I am very much looking forward to passing on these values when I have children someday.

5 | Stacey K

May 12th, 2013 at 12:07 pm

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As a fundraiser for Cops for Cancer at my childrens’ school, my husband dyed his hair neon pink, and I volunteered my head for shaving. It was a very intense experience, both as a volunteer – knowing that the money was going to send kids with cancer to Camp Goodtimes; as well as personally. Shaving my head was incredibly liberating, and I highly recommend it to all women.

6 | David G

May 12th, 2013 at 1:21 pm

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Volunteering is such wonderful experience, especially if you look at it as a great opportunity rather than a chore. When my first daughter started school I realized that I had an chance to show my children the rewards of giving back. Over the past 5 years I have been very committed to my school parent advisory council. As well I have the flexibility in my job to be there as a volunteer almost every time I am asked. Over this past weekend I had an opportunity to be a part of a Challenge retreat with my Grade 4 daughter. What an amazing time! Yes it was tiring at times but that is to be expected with 60 plus kids and only one teacher, the rest of the responsibility fell on the parent chaperones. But the moment that made my weekend and possibly even my year was a comment from one of the boys. As I was sitting down with 4 children and helping them with a board game I made a comment that elicited a response from one of the children of “You know you are one pretty cool dad!”. The child doesn’t realize how awesome that comment was but I am pretty sure I will always remember that moment and it will keep me volunteering for many years to come.

7 | Nora

May 12th, 2013 at 7:36 pm

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Thanks for the opportunity Andrea!
My daughter was lucky to be chosen by her school to attend We Day & loved it. She really enjoyed the experience & came home truly inspired. Her favourite speaker was Molly. I have been a long time volunteer with Ottawa’s Ronald McDonald House, a charity that does so much for families with critically ill children at CHEO – & I am pleased to be able to assist them in doing so! I also volunteer at my children’s schools, which I think is important to do if time allows. My kids like me being part of their school community too.

8 | sara

May 12th, 2013 at 10:12 pm

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Love that your blog reflects what’s on your mind, and some important issues of our times. Keep up the good blogging!

As for charity work, this has meant different things at different points in my life. As a child it was seeing my parents volunteer as guide and scout leaders. Raising money for different charities or visiting the local nursing home. As a teenager and young adult, it included working at Neighbourhood services, sorting goods and helping out, participating in awareness programs like the 30hour famine. Donating to toy mountain is something I’ve done since I was 15, an annual tradition my little guys now help with.

Right now with a three year old and zero year, I feel like I’m in the thick fog of sleepless nights but it’s still important for me to show them every little bit helps. Local projects like adopt a tree (weekly watering newly planted trees at our beach) and neighbourhood cleanups.

Stories like these are inspirational for sure. Looking forward to doing more in the coming years and getting my children excited to do more too!

9 | Laura

May 13th, 2013 at 8:02 am

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Growing up my parents always volunteered and taught us the importance of doing for others and giving your time. We try to now as adults do the same. As a family we recent in took part in April in Clean up Toronto. We helped clean up a close by park and our school yard. It was a great day!

10 | Pamela

May 13th, 2013 at 8:45 am

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First let me say that I read the blog everyday and learn many new things from you and our experiences.My daughter has life threatening food allergies and from a very early age she has had to be an advocate for herself. Throughout this journey I have volunteered at school and at every school event as well as created a protocol for Anaphylaxis in her school. Teaching the children to be aware of food allergies and how to re act in case of an emergency has been a very rewarding experience. Throughout those years I watched my daughter become more confident and now as she has moved to a high school setting she has taken on the role of educator as well as advocate.There is great comfort to all the allergic families in our school that we care for and watch out for one another. I am proud to say that this is just one of the small ways that we as a family volunteer and educate.
Thanks for the opportunity

11 | Sam

May 13th, 2013 at 11:38 am

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While our family has been involved in various volunteer opportunities over the years I am most proud of my 16 year old daughter who for the past 2 years has volunteered at least twice a week at one of our local hospitals. She decided to do this on her own without her usual network of teenage friends & always manages to fit her hospital shifts into her very active schedule. The experience has been invaluable- she has gained so much more than the time she has given.

Thanks for the always thought provoking content.

12 | Corvid

May 13th, 2013 at 2:24 pm

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I do some volunteering. It’s good for both my soul and my kids. They sometimes join in, but equally important, they SEE their parents giving their time and money to make the world a better place.
It’s pretty much common knowledge that one of the most important things parents do is show their kids HOW to live. We plant seeds in the minds and souls of our kids. And often those seeds don’t germinate for years – when kids become parents. That was my experience. These are very important seeds to sow. I just re-read this and noticed how this sounds very Chauncey Gardener. ;-)
Surely I’m not the only parent who struggles with getting my kids to volunteer or give sustained focus and effort to a cause. The competition for their attention and dedication is fierce. I worry about the time-eaters like texting, surfing, texting, gaming, texting, entertainment, texting, youtube, texting, etc. Ditto for adults. Imagine if even half of all that Facebook time were redirected to charity or benevolant work? It would ROCK the world.
Hey kids (and parents) who can and do ROCK the world by volunteering….THANKS!

13 | Jacquelyn

May 13th, 2013 at 3:46 pm

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We are so lucky to live in such an open, safe country. I use my volunteer time to help others adjust to life in our city. Right now I’m helping a newcomer improve her English skills so that she can more fully participate in life in Canada. She has told me that is has been so helpful to have someone who can explain Canadian customs to her as well as help to improve her conversation skills.

I do not do this thru a charity, I saw someone in my community who was struggling and I volunteered to help her. My children get to see that charity can start right in our own backyard.

14 | Carolyn

May 14th, 2013 at 2:06 pm

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I hope that once before they leave school, each of my four children get a chance to experience We day. It sure must have been nice having it in Gatineau this year.
I’m a stay at home mom and have always volunteered just to keep my brain stimulated and to get me out of the house. I’ve worked with a Literacy Group in Northern Ontario before kids and since having children, have spent the past 10 years helping organize events and fundraise for a local nonprofit Cooperative Nursery School that each of my kids has attended. I also help out whenever possible at elementary school for my kid’s concerts, coaching volleyball during the teachers’ work action this year, helping with pizza days etc. and I’m also a Girl Guide leader and we always try to find different ways of helping in the community whether it be collecting for the Food Bank or Clean Up the Capital campaign. I echo exactly what Craig Kielburger said about his parents being his role models – my mom has always volunteered as well as my dad and that’s where I get it from – it’s just something you have to do with your resources at hand to give back. We also sponsor a child through World Vision who is the same age as my eldest daughter and we always raise funds for the Ottawa Humane Society since the animals need help too. We’ve recently begun running as a family to help raise funds for local charities too – my husband and I run marathons and the 3 girls are running the 5km this year for the first tome. It’s a fun way to give back and it gives the kids a way to participate!

15 | KJ

May 15th, 2013 at 4:12 pm

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I have a button that says ‘question authority, not your mother’ – and I am thinking of it right now…. Thanks for your post and for the questions it raises. With our two kids (7 and 9) we try to have conversations about the WHY of an issue along with the WHAT. As an example, my daughter made green bin liners and sold them on our street last Christmas to raise money for Plan Canada’s Because I am a Girl campaign. My daughter was moved by the issue of equal access to education for girls, and wanted to help in some small way. We used it as an opening to try and unpack a bit the issue of gender discrimination, but also to connect it to issues at home, like the inequities in First Nations education funding highlighted by the Shannen’s Dream campaign. Back to the button…I think it’s so important to raise our children to become what Joel Westheimer calls justice-oriented citizens. That means, for example, questioning why people in our community are hungry, what it would take to end hunger, and why the governments we have today aren’t taking steps to end hunger when we clearly have the resources to do so — as well as, of course, organizing a food drive. I don’t want to win the phone, I just wanted to say your post really hit home. In some small way, I hope I am raising kids who will want to – and have the tools to – change the world. The other button I have that’s on point is one saying ‘grant me the strength to change the things I can’t accept’. Love your blog, even though I am a non-commenter!

16 | Sasha

May 16th, 2013 at 9:44 pm

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Hey Andrea,
Thanks for this giveaway and thanks for covering social justice issues. I don’t mind the political nature at all :). I’m not sure I want the phone… I’ve gone phone less up until now, and it seems to be working for me. But if I wonit, I’d probably give it to one of my students. I’d either get the social justice committee to do a big raffle to raise some money for one of their beloved nonprofits, or maybe I’d donate it to the Relay for Life committee to give to the kid who has raised the most money for our event next Friday (shameless promotion: ours is the longest running high school relay for life program in Canada and has raised close to $500,000 to date). I’m not sure I’ve done much volunteering really, just the usual teacher stuff: coaching teams, supervising relay for life and other fundraisers, talking to kids in the classroom about social justice, shaving my head to raise money, etc. Most of the adults I know don’t do nearly as much as the teenagers I know – its a shame people don’t give them more credit.
Thanks for covering Me to We day… The kids from my school came back totally jazzed up and reaffirmed. I love that.
Sasha

17 | Terri O'Donnell

May 20th, 2013 at 8:23 am

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I have been a volunteer at our local Legion for years and helped to organize many different Fundraisers but this is my first year raising money for Relay for Life. Our driving force for this is the fact that between my husband’s relatives and my relatives, we have lost too many people to so many different types of cancer in such a short period of time. Living in a small rural area it can be difficult with Fundraising as it seems there is always someone who needs help but somehow our locals always pull through for us. <3

18 | Rebecca

May 20th, 2013 at 8:39 am

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I’ve been volunteering for quite some time. I started as a hospital volunteer in high school and then moved to university clubs and organizing events for first years when I got to uni. Now I am a volunteer coach for the local track and field club and about to be a station captain for the Ottawa race weekend.

19 | Dan

May 20th, 2013 at 9:19 am

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Last year I decided to do Movember mainly on a dare, but I was empowered and surprised at how many donations I received. Many of which I am happy to say came from my social media circles. They say Men’s health is pretty low on the charity scale but with events like Movember it creates a real community just like We day. I had never heard about it until a lot of my twitter feed was commenting on it and it would have been perfect for my DD’s if they could attend, but only two students from my oldest DD went. She wasn’t one of them. I think back and wish they could make this event more public. I’m sure it would be a life changing event for both my DD’s as they have had some cyber bullying within the last few weeks. My youngest seems to be over it, but my oldest seems to be still the target. I’m hoping to attend future talks on social media and teens to figure out how I can help not only her, but other teens. It’s a difficult time and hopefully I’ll get her on the right path and make the right decisions. I know my DD has a good head on her shoulders and life lessons are always hard, but she’s been mature through this and I hope she continues on that trend and inspire others and not be a target.

20 | Shan

May 20th, 2013 at 10:38 am

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I love this post! I have dabbled in volunteering over the years, but have only gotten really serious about since my oldest daughter was born 11 years ago. Funny how kids will do that to you. I think it’s important first for them to see me and their Dad be giving of our time and resources. We don’t have a lot of money to throw around, but we do have skills that can be put to use as well as the drive to use them. My husband sits on many committees within our local Agricultural Society as well he and I manage the school fair exhibit, taking over for his father, who retired last year. It’s a large undertaking, we deal with over 3000 pieces of children’s art and school work. Our girls have just started becoming active volunteers in this endeavour by helping to sort and hang artwork among other things. In addition I sit as chair of parent council at our daughters’ school and have a hand in organizing all of our fundraisers. I also Captain a Relay for Life team with my best girl friends and all of our kids. In the past two years we’ve raised over $7000. We are on our third year of organizing our local Touch a Truck event. Our girls are 7 and 11, so at this age they do a lot of tagging onto the activities my husband and I are already involved in. With my 11 year old I check in with her to see if there’s any area of interest she’d like to explore. She’s involved with the charity committee at school and is in charge of the family “do-good” jar. A jar where we all drop our change. Once it’s full we use it to do some good, buy groceries for the food bank etc. Whatever they decide it should go to. Mostly we just try to be positive role models.

21 | Leigh Evans

May 20th, 2013 at 11:42 am

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I think it is so important for my kids to see me giving back to our community, and involving them whenever possible.

I’ve been a member of The Junior League of Halifax for 3 years. Our focus is the reduction of childhood obesity. We run fitness programs for children and youth, healthy cooking classes and gardening programs. My kids helped with one project, in particular, when they made signs for each kid from one of our run clubs for their very first 5k race. We also made fresh fruit kabobs for the run club kids to have once they finished their race.

Also, my kids ask their friends for donation items in lieu of birthday gifts. We’ve collected items such as pyjamas for moms and babies/kids for a women’s shelter.

22 | andrea tomkins

May 20th, 2013 at 11:59 am

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This entry is being posted on behalf of Leslie S who writes:

“I work for the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region – the 24 hour, confidential crisis line that all residents of ottawa & surrounding areas are able to call in times of their own distress or crisis. Any one of any age.

Not only do I work here, but I am a volunteer as well. You see, all of our phone lines are completely run by highly trained volunteers, and I am one of the 200+ volunteers dedicating their time to those in need of someone to talk to, someone to turn to in times of need, someone who will be non-judgemental and unbiased.

I answer calls from those experiencing issues such as relationship problems, substance abuse, mental health disorders, students dealing with exams, bullying, sexual & physical abuse, and yes, even calls that deal with suicide ideations, and/or actions.

I’m also participating in the Ottawa Race Weekend, raising funds for the Distress Centre. Followed by that weekend, I’m running in the Ottawa Cancer Foundation run, raising funds for that…and I donate to every cause when people ask me for donations. Even if it’s just $10, I know that $10 makes a difference somehow in someone’s life.

I have heard so many amazing things about We Day, and I can’t wait to take my own children there someday.”

23 | andrea tomkins

May 20th, 2013 at 2:30 pm

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Comments are officially closed to new entries.
I’ll be doing the draw ASAP. Stay tuned!

24 | andrea tomkins

May 21st, 2013 at 9:19 am

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We have a winner! It’s commenter #14 – Carolyn – who wrote”

“I hope that once before they leave school, each of my four children get a chance to experience We day. It sure must have been nice having it in Gatineau this year.
I’m a stay at home mom and have always volunteered just to keep my brain stimulated and to get me out of the house. I’ve worked with a Literacy Group in Northern Ontario before kids and since having children, have spent the past 10 years helping organize events and fundraise for a local nonprofit Cooperative Nursery School that each of my kids has attended. I also help out whenever possible at elementary school for my kid’s concerts, coaching volleyball during the teachers’ work action this year, helping with pizza days etc. and I’m also a Girl Guide leader and we always try to find different ways of helping in the community whether it be collecting for the Food Bank or Clean Up the Capital campaign. I echo exactly what Craig Kielburger said about his parents being his role models – my mom has always volunteered as well as my dad and that’s where I get it from – it’s just something you have to do with your resources at hand to give back. We also sponsor a child through World Vision who is the same age as my eldest daughter and we always raise funds for the Ottawa Humane Society since the animals need help too. We’ve recently begun running as a family to help raise funds for local charities too – my husband and I run marathons and the 3 girls are running the 5km this year for the first tome. It’s a fun way to give back and it gives the kids a way to participate!”

Congratulations Carolyn! I will be contacting you by email ASAP.

And thank you to all the other volunteers who shared their experiences as well. You are making our world a better place. xo

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our two daughters Emma (15) and Sarah (13). I am the editor of the Kitchissippi Times, Capital Parent Newspaper, and a regular contributor to MediaSmarts.ca. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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