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Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Hazelwood YMCA - NAYDO 2012

As a YMCA employee I am consistently amazed with the innovation and creativity of my Y colleagues all over the world. I arrived in Pittsburgh, PA today for my very first NAYDO Conference.  I'm here with YMCA employees and volunteers from over 20 countries.  Our goal for the next four days is to strengthen the philanthropic culture of the YMCA through sharing information, learning from each other's successes and challenging each other to go outside of our comfort zone and think creatively of ways to build healthy communities wherever we may be.

Today, I got to learn by doing.  Philanthropy LIVE is a component of the conference that allows delegates to volunteer at a YMCA in the conference's host city.  I got off the plane and went straight to the Hazelwood YMCA.  Before arriving, I had read that ithis Y was located in a "neighbourhood plagued by violence and dilapidation" and was "a community acknowleged as high-crime and high-poverty by the City of Pittsburgh and that the average income is 250% below the federal poverty level."  At first glance, all I could see was an overwhelming amount of abandoned buildings. The neighbourhood seemed to lack vibrancy and life.  Upon entering the Y, I was delighted by the colour and activity and warmth of the Y staff.  Executive Director Tindae Matambanadzo welcomed us and quickly let us know where we could help.

The first thing I was able to help with was the repainting of the computer lab.  I was working with a gorgeous shade of what I would like to say was a "Lorax" orange.  In that one lab with three computers, the staff have been able to welcome community members who are job searching, learning computer skills, using the internet and most recently it has been used to run tax clinics for community members.   Youth are also able to access the internet, play games, do homework and learn together in a safe and supportive environment. 

Doug Page from The Redwoods Group paints the art room. He really did have the most graceful painting style.  I think it was because he truly enjoyed what he was doing and knew the impact it would have.  High five to Doug and his colleagues who supported the Hazelwood project along with two others in Pittsburgh with a variety of resources.  They didn't stop there, they joined in and worked side by side with all the volunteers. 

Outside, I was able to help cultivate and harvest the community garden.  I was surprised to hear that the closest grocery with fresh produce was 90 minutes away using two different buses.  In it's first year, the garden produced 300 pounds of food.  The harvest was completely organic and everything was made available to local residents.  How amazing that food security is lacking in one of the most prosperous cities in North America? And how wonderful that the team at the Hazelwood took a plot where abandoned houses used to sit and turned it into this amazing, life giving space.
 The Y-Grow Garden has an amazing learning space, plots with room to grow, planter beds filled with herbs and a greenhouse with lots of vegetables ready to be harvested.

All of this letteuce and the beets behind me came from a little corner in the greenhouse.  It is amazing what a little bit of land can produce and how it can impact an entire comunity.

Grateful for an inspiring first day at NAYDO.  Can't wait for tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Boys are Back!

My Toronto Blue Jays are back and last week I got to go to the Home Opener with all my siblings...DREAM COME TRUE!

Aneez and Vanessa spent their last night in Canada with us under the closed dome of the Rogers Centre.  Karim, Minaz and Kahzmir came too!  Minaz, who comes to one a game a year (we choose wisely because we'd love for her to love baseball like we do) chose to come to a game on her birthday a mere hour after getting her first tattoo!  I lucked out big time in the sister-in-law department.

The Jays lost but looking back at that day, who cares?  I won a memory for a lifetime!

 Watching Kahzmir cheer and holler and be free is always a wonder.

Karim, me (the favourite child) and Aneez.  
Can't wait to be together again!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Meditation for your Monday



"Our prime purpose in this life it to help others." - The Dalai Lama

I am so lucky to be able to say that every day when I go into work I am living my life's purpose of helping. 
It is one thing that I have great certainty about and I am so grateful to know this with full confidence.

Wishing everyone who makes helping others a priority in their life, a very
HAPPY NATIONAL VOLUNTEER WEEK. 
You are treasured.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Standing Up with Life...

Quite simply, one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life.