Wish #1: More joy

Silver Handwritten Initial Pendant (christinakober)

(Little k pendant by Christina Kober)

Friday again. Wow this week just flew by. And so will today. As usual, I have some errands to run and work to wrap up. The plumber is fixing our shower drain (finally!) and I am obliterating the many dust bunnies that have taken refuge along the baseboards and underneath furniture. My mom is arriving later today for a five-day trip. She will be participating in the CAPLA conference starting on Sunday, Nov 15. We have some planning to do in relation to current projects and the co-evolution of our companies. Then we go shopping.

Today begins a week of Ks (a letter that, in my opinion, doesn’t get enough airtime). Although most people just do birthday wishes on their birthday, one is simply not enough. I want 7. I’m starting things off with  a “little k” because we all start out small. Speaking of small, there is a small person thousands of miles away who is celebrating her 8th birthday today. Happy Birthday Miriamu! My wish for you, and me, and everybody – is more JOY (furaha in Swahili).

Miriamu (Fall 2009)

I believe joy is best expressed through laughter. It is the most truthful manifestation of joy, for me. I can’t fake a laugh. Every laugh is totally genuine. If there is one thing I wish for in my next year on earth, it is more laughs, more glee, more joy.

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Asante sana

Miriamu & Kristle Meeting [Cropped]

I have been waiting to announce the outcome of our initial fundraising efforts for Project Tanzania 2009 because donations have continued to come in. The goal I had set out in my mind was $1,800. Approximately 40 families were kind enough to see the value in our efforts toward building healthy futures for Tanzanian children and donated to our project .

Project Tanzania 2009 was born from our desire to build community and healthy futures for children. Together Mike and I wanted to transform the celebration of our upcoming wedding into a powerful and lasting legacy.

Well we did it!  I am happy to say that we have exceeded that goal and raised a total of $2,225 $2,400 [updated amount thanks to last minute donations] which will ALL be donated to World Vision’s Survive Five program.

When Mike and I travelled to Tanzania in August 2009, our purpose there was rooted in connecting with our sponsored child, Miriamu, learning about her community, and providing much-needed educational supplies to her primary school. A big part of OUR education there was that we wanted to learn first-hand about the needs of children in Tanzania.

We learned there is no greater need or better gift than health.

To all who donated to the project, I want you to know that your generous contributions will support a widespread implementation of the Survive Five Program in Tanzania to strengthen health and build a future for all children. For the amount of money that we raised, more than 500 children under the age of 5 will now have the chance to grow into healthy and happy people.

The next phase of this project will include an email campaign to colleagues and professionals within our circles to encourage them to contribute to the great work Survive Five will accomplish in Tanzania. All donations from here on out will be made directly through the World Vision site. Go to the site to make a donation right away or to get Ana Alves contact information. She will walk you through the rest. Don’t forget to reference iNSPiRED PRACTiCE when you talk with her!

I owe some big thank yous not only to the over 80 people who attended our August 30 event and with grace and hope contributed to Project Tanzania 2009 but also to the many people who worked behind the scenes on making this project a reality.

Project Tanzania 2009 would not have been possible without the passionate support and participation of the following people:

  • Chantal Scerri (World Vision Canada): Chantal is an amazingly passionate woman that I must say World Vision Canada is very LUCKY to have. She was the one who presented us with the Survive Five program proposal and believed in us and the legacy we wanted to create. Thank you for your passion.
  • Diane Kelly (World Vision Canada): A truly committed WV worker, Diane coordinated our sponsorship visit with less than 2 months notice and let me say that without that the opportunity to connect with this sweet little girl a thousand miles away would have never reached reality. Thank you for all of your hard work.
  • Fabian Shemtawa (World Vision Tanzania): There are no words that could truly articulate our thanks to Fabian. We learned so much from him, about his life and his work. He shared insights into the communities that struggle in his home country but that they do so with hope and determination. He is a pioneer of change and my heart is full when I think of how happy he is to be strengthening communities through the work of World Vision Tanzania. Thank you for your joy.
  • Peter Rwechungura (Kinampanda Area Development Program): Peter was not only our good luck charm but perhaps one of the most gracious individuals we met while in Tanzania. He missed his ride to Arusha for a WV training session just so he could be present for our sponsorship visit. And he was easily the ONLY reason we made it through our hitchhiking adventure from Singida after our landrover broke down. Thank you Peter for your hospitality and grace.
  • Kitukutu Primary School: This wonderful primary school we visited is where Miriamu and her two sisters Msalawelu and Ulzanita spend their days. The welcome we received at the school made us feel like celebrities. The children were unbelievably sweet and really moved us. One day, I plan to return to that school to do more than visit. But until then I must thank them for their open hearts and beautiful song. (Note: We have a wonderful video of the kids singing but I have yet to be able to extract the clip. My brother is working on it so I hope to see some progress and be able to post it in the near future.)
  • The Kilimba Family: The greatest thanks from Mike and I must go to Miriamu and her family. We were overwhelmed (to say the least) by their generosity of spirit. They welcomed us as family – not strangers – into their home and showered us with gifts.  They are good people who radiate love. I am so blessed to have been gifted with my own family and it warms my heart that Miriamu has been blessed this way also. Asante sana! (‘Thank you so much!’)

Finally I must thank those people who have walked with us on our journey. I was tearing up while writing our wedding ceremony over the weekend at the thought of the community that has nurtured both Mike and I throughout our lives – as individuals and as a couple. I don’t know whether it is luck or blessings or what  – but I can tell you that it is just right.

Big love and appreciation must go to my mom and dad – Eddie Calisto-Tavares & Gilbert Tavares – for planting seeds of generosity and love of community in the hearts of their children. Project Tanzania 2009 is a testament to the values they have instilled in me. My mom always said to me:

Give unselfishly to the world…do not expect anything in return. Just do it to make the world a better place. These are surely words to live by and they crescendo in my mind every day as I live and breathe.

Special thanks to all who helped in making our Seeds of Love & Hope event on August 30, 2009 a wonderful success. We are so grateful to: Eddie Calisto-Tavares, Gilbert Tavares, Khorie Calisto-Tavares, Emanuel Calisto, Brad Tyler-West, Mickenzie Tyler-West, Laura Calisto, Charlie Calisto, Judy Calisto, Jean Foderick, Carol Foderick, Lucy Calisto, Chaise Calisto, Manuel Calisto, Maria dos Anjos Tavares, and Marina Grinchuk.

On behalf of Mike and I, thank you again to everyone who attended the event and sent in donations for Project Tanzania 2009. We are honoured by your hope, conviction and generosity.

The long road

PictureKM 011

The road to Singida is (un)paved with good intentions. This journey – over the past year and a half – has been an amazing one. Filled with lots of challenges, luck and small personal victories. I had no idea how much thought and hard work would be necessary to ensure the main purpose for my travel to Tanzania would be fulfilled – in a way that would meet my expectations. I can happily say that it has – in every possible way.

We are now back from Singida region and from meeting Miriamu and her family. It was really wonderful. We felt like local celebrities! The World Vision Tanzania folks were so hospitable and generous.  Upon our arrival in Singida (a large town about 40km away from Miriamu’s village),  we bumped into a couple of visiting officers from World Vision Canada (Mississauga office).  Such luck!

Matching Hats

Miriamu is a sweetheart. Very shy but she radiates light from within – as do her two sisters and mother. They all have these big beautiful eyes. She spoke very little (although this isn’t a characteristic of mine, I do have immense appreciation for the strong silent types) but I think was very happy.

We had a great visit at Miriamu’s school and learned a lot about the child sponsorship process and activities undertaken by WV Area Development Program (ADP) office to assist and support in meeting the needs of the Kinampanda ADP people (this area is actually made up of several villages). There is a local committee of community reps that meet to determine priorities and needs which WV then supports. One such need is the construction of a sunflower seed mill to produce oil. It is there largest cash crop. Now that we have started a dialogue with WV Tanzania workers we can better understand how to support them in moving the community to one that is sustainable. The Kinampanda ADP (sponsored by WV Canada) has only 5 years left. Each ADP only lasts for 15 years because the goal is not to create codependency but rather independence.

There is still much to tell but I will do that once we get back to Egypt. There are many stories of broken down vehicles and the kindness of strangers, ethical dilemmas and unfair dealings. There are more photos to share of our time in Ngorongoro Crater and of our visit to a local Massai village.  But I need time to reflect. I learned so much and all that information and those new ideas are circling in my brain. So now I head off to Kigongoni Lodge for some much needed quiet, solitude and reflection.

Project Tanzania 

[UPDATE: Looking for more details? Want to know more about our Alternative Wedding Shower or the outcomes of Project Tanzania? No problem! Check out the links or go to the Saying I Do category on this blog.]

In my last post, I shared news that come August I will be witnessing the sun rise and set on the migratory plains of the Serengeti and a top the tallest mountain in all of Africa. Welcome to Tanzania 2009. Mike and I will be taking an early “honeymoon” with a little adventure, wildlife and a whole lotta heart. We will, of course, be visiting a sweet girl named Miriamu who lives in Singida, Tanzania.  It is our hope that more than spoons and linens, you can share in our contribution to Miriamu and her community, to truly build a life.

I know, dear friends and family, you may wonder about us. Feel free to chuckle to yourselves and utter to the heavens: “Oh those crazy kids! What have they gotten themselves into THIS time?!”  I am sure that people are already placing bets on whether we will survive this trip.  Well bet all you want and say what you like.  We will see you back on Canadian soil end of August 2009 with tanned skin, big smiles and full hearts. Mark my words. 🙂

So here it is…Project Tanzania 2009 – sponsored by iNSPiRED PRACTiCE and K&M’s Wedding.

Do you remember your fifth birthday? Did you have a big cake with fluffy white frosting and five candles? Did you have hugs and kisses from family members? Laughs and smiles with your friends and family? Were you healthy and happy?

The idea of helping kids survive their 5th birthday may seem extraordinary for those of us who live in a country with universal health care, emergency food services, running water, low infant mortality and generally, good quality of life. There are children here who have to fight for their lives at a very early age due to congenital defects, disease and developmental challenges. Many of those kids beat the odds, thankfully and grow to be perfect versions of themselves – happy and fulfilled.

Unfortunately, in Tanzania, making it past your fifth birthday is by no means a given. The infant mortality rate in the country is 70.46 deaths per 1,000 live births. Canada’s infant mortality rate is 5.08 deaths per live births. Poverty, malnutrition, disease, and drought make each year a life-or-death struggle for millions.

In 2008, World Vision  started a program called Survive 5 aimed at reducing child deaths from malnutrition, pneumonia, malaria, diarrhea and other major childhood diseases. Survive 5 provides bed nets, vitamin A capsules, vaccines, antibiotics and other items to help children survive past the age of five.

Survive Five

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (which was ratified incidentally on November 20, 1989 – my birthday and the year my brother was born) identifies access to health care as a basic human right to which all children are entitled. While there are many worthy issues to address in developing countries, health is perhaps the most deserving. Without health, you cannot overcome poverty, conflict or despair.

Through the understanding and generosity of my parents and the administrative support of iNSPiRED PRACTiCE, Mike and I have proposed the idea that in lieu of wedding gifts we would like to encourage anyone and everyone to generously contribute to Project Tanzania 2009 and directly to the regional Survive Five program in Tanzania. In addition to the Survive Five program, Mike and I will be bringing educational gifts and school supplies for the 100 or so children who attend school with Miriamu.

Information will be posted on the iNSPiRED PRACTiCE website and blog shortly with details on how you can contribute. Family and friends will receive information via mail and an invitation to our “alternative wedding shower” which will take place Sunday, August 30.

 

Sprout

Orientation Guide

Busy, busy, busy… I have only a smidgen of time for a post.

Here are some good news items that surfaced end of last and early this week…

  • I am an e-mentor for Sprout – an e-course for emerging social  entrepreneurs. This wonderful initiative is brought to us by the great people at TakingITGlobal.  Looking forward to the orientation this week and then meeting the participants!
  • I have been working my butt off to get reports written and finished. The good news part is that soon it will be over….until next month.
  • There is a high probability that I will finally be travelling to beautiful Churchill this summer. Yay Churchill!
  • I got a call about visiting Miriamu in Tanzania. It looks like things are falling into place and I am so moved by the wonderful people at World Vision (Chantal and Diane) who are trying to make this happen. I am hatching a pretty fantastic little plan for a personalized gift to Miriamu’s schoolmates. In addition to items that they need such as school supplies, I am thinking about including something that tells each of them how awesome they are. I wonder what that might look like… 😉
  • Women’s Enterprise Centre in Winnipeg has approached me about submitting a proposal to deliver my Change the World at Work (or some variation of this) workshop as part of their fall series.
  • My darling friend Donna offered last week to throw a shower for me in the late fall in Toronto. I am so incredibly touched by her gesture. I was equally relieved when she completely understood that I am not a terribly traditional gal. I have never had much interest in receiving toasters and linens as gifts. I think she liked Mike and my idea of contributing something to Miriamu’s community and inviting our family and friends to help us do that.
  • I found some delectable vegan bakeries like Sweets from the Earth, Lollicakes and Veg Cakes in the “area” that could be perfect candidates for wedding cake or cupcakes. I was losing sleep over this…
  • My friend Jennifer and I met up on Saturday night at the Distillery District to celebrate her upcoming birthday. I finally got to present her with her “you are awesome” poster. We chatted about everything under the sun including some exciting possibilities – one of which might just have something to do with the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. We shall see…

I am out of time. It’s back to work I go!

About a girl

 miriamu

I wanted to post this today because a really fun surprise is in store for a little darling who lives a thousand miles away, across an ocean and on the other side of a continent. Her name is Miriamu. She is from Tanzania – one of the most beautiful countries in the world. She currently lives in Singida Region – one of the poorest in the country – located right in the middle between Tabora and Arusha.

map-of-tanzania

Miriamu has a real intensity about her that got me hooked. Very serious. But there is something kinda sweet about that. Her birthday is November 13 and mine is November 20 (obviously I am a wee bit older). We are totally scorpios.  

It is hard for me to know what life is like for her. Or what her dreams are. But I want to know more about her and her family. Mike and I are pretty excited to travel to Tanzania for our honeymoon at which point we hope to visit this sweet girl. I imagine the visit will be quite short but it seems more than worth it. Even if just to let her know that we know she is special.

When Kal started her You-Are-Awesome posters, I had thought it would be fantastic to get one for Miriamu. The only issue was that it felt wrong making a poster for her that she wouldn’t understand (i.e. in English). Miriamu speaks her regional language of Kinyiramba and the local dialect of Swahili. But after getting 9 posters from Kal for other special people in my life, I just had to make it happen!

I got in touch with Patrick of Enviro-Safe Cleaning Worker Cooperative. I knew, of the main cooperative members, several of them are from Kenya – a country whose official language is Kiswahili (or Swahili to us). He got in touch with his nephew – who had just came to Canada from Tanzania in December of last year – to get me an authentic translation for the poster. Sweet!

MIRIAMU Wewe ni mtu maalumu. It means MIRIAMU You Are Special.

M12-miriamu_8x10

The deal with the posters is you choose the animal, the colours, the name (of course!) and the adjective. When it came time to choosing an animal, it was a NO-brainer. GIRAFFE. It is the national symbol of Tanzania and represents grace. Tanzanians are said to be a graceful people. The colours sort of followed after that – colours that represent the sun and earth.

Kal was so moved by the poster that she offered it to me as a gift. I promised that I would share with Miriamu the story of how her poster came to be and all of the amazing people who had a hand in making it a reality.

Bling

rose-diamond

As I returned back to Toronto after a 5-week hiatus, I picked through my mail excitedly eschewing the bills for more colourful and mysterious items. Like a kid, I love to get fun mail – magazines, letters, cards, etc… There was quite a bit to choose from that had arrived over the past 5 weeks but my eye was drawn to two items: a letter from Miriamu (my foster child) and a magazine from the organization through which I found her. In the magazine is an article about purchasing ethical jewellery – in particular, the elusive but much desired, diamond ring. Karen Stiller writes:

It was a dark and stormy night—really. We were standing on a beach in Nova Scotia when Brent opened up a little grey box and asked me to marry him. The ring was a tiny sapphire. No diamond in sight and I was relieved. Those were the days when apartheid breathed with a death rattle. I knew that many diamonds came from South Africa and I didn’t want one of those on my finger. I felt very strongly about it…back then.

But somewhere along the path of 18 years of marriage, I got an itch on my finger. I started to want a diamond. My husband started to want to buy me one. So, with the armchair knowledge that comes from watching Leonardo in Blood Diamond, we trotted off to our local jewellery store and chose a stunner. I asked one question, “Where does this diamond come from?” “Europe” was the answer. I was so enamoured by my glittering new friend that I wrapped up the conversation and had them wrap up the ring.

I think I took the easy way out. There was more to find out.

The reality is that there is always “more to find out”. This issue is really important to me so here are some tips to help us all dig a little. It’s all about being an informed consumer right?

  1. Ask questions. “Where does this diamond come from?”, “Do you have certification to prove it?”, “How can I be sure this piece does not include jewels from conflict zones?” and “Does your company have a policy on ethical jewellery?”
  2. Look closer to home. If you decide to go with Canadian diamonds, don’t assume that solves the problem. There are still potential social and environmental impacts. Ask questions and investigate.
  3. Consider alternatives. Precious stones can be a nice substitute for diamonds. The ones with the lowest negative impacts include citrine, garnet, quartz, and sapphire. Some people are going for really different materials – like wooden wedding bands.
  4. Make something old, new again. Use recycled gold from jewellery, watches, etc… for wedding bands or engagement rings. Purchase antique jewellery. These metals and stones have already been mined. Therefore, eliminating any future environmental and ethical issues.
  5. Use available resources. There is lots of information out there already compiled just for you. Use it!

Cobblestone

Yesterday’s recap: Thursday was overall a productive day. I haven’t been sleeping particularly well so I’m not completely my energetic self. Despite that, I managed to get quite a bit done including drafting pieces of a critical grant application for YEAR 2 of the Partnership. A visit to the Forks in the afternoon was a respite from the usual eyes-glued-to-the-computer-screen. It was there – outside of the entrance to the Manitoba Children’s Museum – that I snapped this photo of the COBBLESTONE. I love how the afternoon sun sneaks across the path.

A special piece of mail surfaced the other day and I haven’t had a chance to post about it. It came all the way from a small town near Arusha, Tanzania.

Continue reading

Pansies

Isn’t it funny how some things will grow anywhere? This photo is of one of 4 pansies growing out of our 2nd floor balcony. We have a ton of moss growing along the perimeter of the balcony and these pansies right in the middle – coming up through the planks. There is something about it that makes me feel a bit more like this is my home.

Yesterday’s recap: What an awesome day! I TOTALLY obliterated my to-do lists for Friday and even got started on some of next week’s tasks. Nothing was going to get in my way. Everything is working like clockwork.

But wait, there’s more…

Miriamu’s story

Tonight I finally finished preparing a package to my sponsored child in Tanzania. Her name is Miriamu and she is 6 years old. Sponsoring a child is something I have wanted to do for a very long time. I was never quite sure I could commit to it financially, however, and didn’t want to start something I couldn’t continue.

Earlier this year my perspective changed. I started thinking about the net positive impact it could have on a child and her family’s life and stopped worrying about the annual financial contribution I would have to make. So I did my research, settled on an organization and found Miriamu. I knew I wanted to sponsor a child in Tanzania. Why? Because I have plans to be there in the not-so-distant future and I wanted to ensure an opportunity to someday meet this child and better understand her life.

About a month or so ago, I received a letter from her. She shared with me a little bit about her family, her village, and her life. This is her story…

Miriamu is the youngest of 6 children and lives in Kyengege village in the Singida region of Tanzania. She has two brothers – Japhet (age 22) and Michael (age 19) and three sisters – Martha (age 14), Msalawelu (age 11) and Ulanzita (age 9).

She is in grade 1 at her primary school and her favourite subject is reading. Love that! She lives with both her parents, John and Nooma who are in good health. They are subsistence farmers who grow food to eat – not to sell – and therefore, unfortunately, live below the poverty line.

It all comes back to the environment… Hear me out. Subsistence farming is a last resort for many in sub-Saharan Africa after years of instituting monocultures. Monocultures leave crops susceptible to new pests and diseases. Conventional agricultural methods which were previously thought to increase yields, are proving to do the opposite in especially impoverished rural parts of Tanzania.

There are ways to combat this – such as using highly effective organic matter to fertilize and improve soil fertility – instead of industrial fertilizers. Issues like sustainable agriculture and forestry have become very important in countries like Kenya and Tanzania. But the reality is that access to information and resources is what will really make the difference.

As much as I am delighted to play a part in Miriamu’s life, I have a feeling that I won’t for some time know the impact she will have on my life. But first I have to learn Swahili. 🙂