Typically I spend most of my Christmas break catching up on writing the eleventy thousand blog postings that I was too busy to write during the year, along with reading books for fun and maybe watching some movies, and definitely Christmas baking. But this year has been a bit of an anomaly, mostly because I was asked to teach a couple of new courses next year, so I have spent most of my Christmas break developing course materials rather than doing all of those things. And my family did two different cookie exchanges before I got to Ontario, so my sister’s place was so well stocked with cookies that it was unnecessary to do our usual Christmas baking extravaganza.
In lieu of Christmas baking, I made some chocolate hockey sticks and pucks for friends and colleagues, and today for Christmas dinner dessert I made a sugar pie. Sugar pie is a French Canadian delicacy that I’ve always wanted to try making, so today seemed like a good time to do it.
My brother-in-common-law got a virtual reality (VR) game system for his and my sister’s family this year. So we’ve spent most of Christmas Eve doing this:
I mean seriously, if you’d told me when I was a kid that someday I’d basically be doing Jedi training in the living room, I would never have believed it! But here we are with computers in our pockets, a digital assistant that can turn up the thermostat with a simple voice command, and VR systems in our living rooms.
And last but certainly not least in my twelve days of donating is the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue (VOKRA). VOKRA is a volunteer-run, no-kill rescue organization that helps about 1200 surrendered, abandoned, and feral kittens and cats per year by finding them permanent homes (or, for feral cats that aren’t adoptable, through their trap/neuter/return program). While cats are waiting to be adopted, they live in foster homes rather than a traditional shelter. And, of course, VOKRA is where I found my kitties!
The Greater Vancouver Food Bank provides assistance to nearly 30,000 people every week! That’s a lot of people. And that’s just to support people in Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, and the North Shore (Other food banks serve people in other suburbs around Vancouver).
And while you can donate food to the food bank, the food bank actually really likes it when you give them money because (a) since they buy in large quantities, they can get deals so that $1 will get them $3 worth of stuff, and (b) they can buy what they need to have a variety of food available to people, rather than ending up with a thousand cans of the same stuff.
In addition to the traditional services that one thinks of when they think about a food bank (i.e., providing food), the GVFB realizes that “emergency food as a stand-alone is not a long-term solution. [Their] goal is to build strong, connected communities through the power of food, and [they] employ the principles of sustainability, education and training, and quality nutrition to achieve this goal.”
Some of their programs include:
Project CHEF: Cook Healthy Edible Food: “an experiential, curriculum-based school program aimed at children in kindergarten to grade seven that teaches students about healthy food”
Rescuing Food from local businesses to distribute to individuals and organization.
Among other things, CF Canada funds researchers who are working towards finding a cure. Did you know that the gene for CF was discovered by researchers who were funded by CF Canada, in collaboration with the US Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, in 19891. They also advocate for better care for people living with CF, including advocating for newborn CF screening (which is now provided in all provinces except Quebec) and advocating for public coverage of medications for people living with CF2.
Apologies for the missed posting yesterday! When I went to post last night, I found out that I couldn’t get into my blog! I texted the Overseer of Deb0rking and Tsar of the Nerdery, who figured out that it was one of the plugins that was b0rking my blog, so he deactivated a bunch and now I’m able to get back in! Thanks, Kalev!
I’ll have to do some testing to see if I can figure out which plugin is causing the problem, but that will be another day’s problem. Today, I’m going to post about two more charities that I’ve donated to.
Opt provides clinical services to 30,000 people every year and they are the “only organization training and certifying sexual health educators in Canada”! They also “supports the unrestricted right of all women to choose when and if to have children [… and] the right of young people to receive the sexual health education and services they seek, based on their informed consent.” I believe that work is important and that’s why I’ve donated to this organization.
Another organization that I think does really important work is the Centre for Inquiry Canada. In these times of misinformation and “alternative facts”, I’m glad there is an organization that promotes critical thinking skills and good science and basing policy on evidence.
T.E.A.D. provides therapeutic horse riding lessons for people with physical and cognitive/communication disabilities.
It operates on a 92 acre farm in Port Hope, Ontario, with a very small staff, an active board of directors, and more than 250 volunteers! More than 300 riders per year take lessons with T.E.A.D., but they have growing waiting list.
Riding has many benefits including:
development of mobility, balance, and coordination
improvement of muscle tone and strength
development of confidence and motivation
increased concentration and improved learning skills
Another organization that my students worked with this semester was the Lifesaving Society – BC & Yukon Branch. This Society has been around since 1911 and its mandate is “to reduce water-related death and injury”. So whether you are swimming in a pool or at the beach or you are out boating or going out on a frozen pond, the Lifesaving Society has resources for you.
They offer all sorts of things, including swimming lessons, lifeguard training, first aid training, public education, research, and consultations. They also “establish aquatic safety standards and consult on aquatic safety issues for the aquatic industry, governments, and the judiciary”.
Of the many program offered by the Lifesaving Society, he program that my students focused on was Swim to Survive, which provides learners with the opportunity to learn how to protect themselves in the water.
The Lifesaving Society – BC & Yukon Branch does not receive any provincial or federal government funding, so they rely on revenue from their courses and donations.
Since knew I was going to be in Ontario for Christmas, we put up the Christmas tree in mid-November to allow me time to enjoy it before I left. But since I was crazy busy up until I left, I haven’t gotten around to blogging about it until now. Though the Christmas tree on its own probably isn’t worth blogging about, as it looks pretty much the same as every other year, except with new ornaments from Hawaii and Scotland. Which I appear not to have taken a photo of before I left. #fail
But then for Scott’s work Christmas party his office went to a ceramics place and painted little ceramic Christmas trees, so now we also have this tree to adorn the condo for the holidays:
And here’s the big tree:
As per usual, Watson enjoys chewing on the branches, and Crick likes to map on the velvet tree skirt. Happily, Watson hasn’t been interested in knocking ornaments out of the tree or trying to eat light bulbs like he has in the past.
Rounding out the New Westminster-based non-profit organizations that my students worked with this semester is New Westminster Family Place, which is “a community hub where families access support, opportunities for engagement, and community resources.”
They run a variety of programs for families with children, including arts, cooking, and nature-based programming, and have drop-in locations around the city. As a community hub, they bring families together so that parents can connect with other parents, children can enjoy a variety of activities and learn social skills – and it’s all free for families!
As we hear more and more about the negative effects of social isolation on mental and physical health, I think that an organization like New West Family Place, which provides opportunities for engagement and community building is well worth supporting!