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Civic Impact

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Harbourfront Centre Day of the Dead Festival parties for the departed, with a political twist

“There is a relationship to Halloween, but they’re distant cousins. Day of the Dead is more of a carnival honouring the dead. Oaxacan get dressed up—kind of like Beetlejuice on steroids, and everyone has a party,” explains Alexander Bordokas, artistic associate at the Harbourfront Centre and lead on this year’s annual Day of the Dead event. “It’s more about the reverence for those that have passed.”

Now in its twelfth year, this year’s festival will feature artists and performers from Mexico, including Tibuercio Soteno, a clay artisan who creates elaborate and intricate Trees of Life. “They take a long time to make and even longer to paint, but he’s giving a window into what he works on,” says Bordokas.

usical events will include a mariachi band, a trio leading traditional “line dancing” (“It’s very participation-driven,” laughs Bordokas), and a jam session featuring musicians from all over the country. Children will have a chance to decorate sugar skulls and have their faces painted, and there will be a marketplace of local vendors. It’s a Latin and Mexican-focused event, but everyone is welcome. As a family event, people coming with an open mind will get something from it.”

Scheduled on November 7 so to not conflict with the International Festival of Authors, Bordokas says the date isn’t as important as the sentiments they’re exploring. “The theme is universal and that can happen at any time,” he explains. Holding the festival in November also allowed him to bring in musicians and artists who otherwise might have been booked at other events. “It works in our favour.”

No Day of the Dead festival could be complete without the ofrendas, the traditional offering made to departed friends and ancestors. “We’ll have a boat ofrenda for all the people who have died making migratory voyages this year,” says Bordokas, along with one for Pablo Picasso. “There’s an element that’s joyous and celebratory, and there’s a common theme of remembering the past.”

Nancy Drew seeks same: Literary speed-dating at the TPL

After successful events aimed at straight crowds and the gay community, Literary Speed Dating is returning to the Lillian H. Smith Branch of the Toronto Public Library on November 6, this time focusing on women and trans*-identified matches. “It’s really important to have a women and trans* event, simply because it’s the public library recognizing that these spaces are important, and these library users are also important,” says Rachel Manderfeld, Youth and Adult Librarian at the branch, and one of the event’s organizers.

The free event, which is currently full and running a wait list, will host 20 women and trans* participants who have signed up under literary-inspired pseudonyms, “based on anything from classics to graphic novels to TV shows and movies. There was Imperator Furiosa and Nancy Drew,” explains Manderfeld. Participants are also encouraged to bring a favourite book, film, or TV show, which they can use to break the ice during each four-minute speed date. “If someone can whip out some delightful quotes, someone might find that appealing,” says Manderfeld with a laugh.

After the dates have wrapped up, participants can pass along confidential cards to event organizers, who will then connect potential matches. “All of the previous events have had matches, and we’ve put people in touch with other,” says Manderfeld. “It can be either friendship or romantic matches. We’re billing as a way of meeting potential dates, or potential new friends. Maybe this is just another great way to expand your community—romantic, friendship, or professional.”

After the previous speed-dating events, library staff wanted to organize something specifically for women and trans*-identified people. “We determined that the most interest was coming from [those groups]. It hadn’t been offered before, and it would be a positive thing for women and trans* communities to have an event that really supported them.” And, despite relatively low-key publicity, all twenty spaces have already been filled. Depending on how this event unfolds, others aimed at the same group may be scheduled for the future. “It’s a way of drawing people who have a common interest. It’s either literature, or being a user of the Toronto Public Library.”

Feeding hungry students all part of a week's work

On October 20, Ace Bakery teamed up with Rockcliffe Middle School students and the Toronto Foundation for Student Success to deliver a resounding “snack-down.” As part of the Feed Tomorrow week-long event, junior chefs from 18 after-school snack programs gathered at Rockcliffe to transform six-foot baguettes “mouth-watering creations that were eaten during their snack time,” says Sandra Best of the Toronto Foundation for Student Success.

“Most people know that there is child hunger in other countries, but they are not aware that it exists in Toronto and that 40 per cent of children come to school hungry each day. This can be as high as 60 per cent in some communities,” says Best. The Toronto Foundation for Student Success aims to support Toronto District School Board students by removing barriers like hunger from their path to education.

“Feed Tomorrow is a weeklong series of events that highlight the issues surrounding child nutrition in Toronto. It was created to raise awareness of and funds for child hunger right here is our city,” says Best. Other Feed Tomorrow week events included a “subway takeover,” which saw high school volunteers fundraising on TTC platforms. Donors, local politicians, and local hunger-relief activists were also ferried by bus to two schools in order to survey their breakfast programs. The week wrapped up with a Iron Chef-style culinary challenge featuring high school students enrolled in the TDSB’s Hospitality, Culinary Arts and Tourism program.

Best highlighted Ace Bakery’s involvement with the Feed Tomorrow event, saying “Ace Bakery had been a wonderful partner for five years. Not only do they participate in Snack Down but employees fundraise for the TFSS in support of hungry students across the Toronto District School Board.” The Toronto Foundation for Student Success’s work is in recognition of a simple truism, which Best puts like this: “Why focus on hunger? It’s simple, really. The best teacher in the best school can’t teach a hungry child.”

The Best Person Project bridges the "confidence gap" in the workplace

“We think of the Best Person Project as a boot-camp workshop series aimed at women starting their careers,” explains Robyn Connelly, one of the co-founders of the Best Person Project. “Women excel in university, and they’re in the senior ranks, but there’s a gap in the middle. And there are studies that show that women enter the workforce guns blazing, and then there’s an incredible dip in confidence in the beginning of their careers.”

The Best Person Project wants to smooth out that dip. Graduates of the CivicAction DiverseCity fellowship program, and former participants of the ELN Pitch Showcase, Connelly and her fellow co-founders envision a program that teaches confidence, encourages female-to-female networking, and taps into older women’s workplace experiences to help mentor younger professionals. “We can see the networks that exist among the men, but one of our members asked, ‘Where are the women?' Those networks are less overt. There’s not that model for young women.”

The Best Person Project is currently in its fledgling stages, but the idea is gathering momentum. They’ve been active on Twitter, and have launched a survey looking at how the confidence gap manifests. They’re building towards a workshop series designed to empower young women in their workplaces. “We wanted to broaden our understanding of what people view as the challenges and opportunities, particularly around courage and confidence in the workshops,” says Connelly.

Participating in the ELN Pitch Showcase was, in Connelly’s words, “terrifying,” but the experience reinforced the value of what the group is trying to accomplish. “It was such a diverse room in terms of backgrounds, age, and levels of career, and the number of women who were nodding during the presentation felt very validating.” As a result of the participation in the Pitch Showcase, The Best Person Project was awarded a hotdesk membership at the Centre for Social Innovation and the chance to connect with other innovators. “We wanted to bring more women into leadership. Increasing, we have to have that innovation economy, and we have to have more voices contributing that. The city can only benefit from that.”

Tune In, Trade Up: Are skilled trades music to young people's ears?

The sentence “I want to work in the music industry” might make parents and guidance counsellors cringe; for Sherri Haigh, those words are music to her ears. The Ontario College of Trades has recently launched their Tune In, Trade Up campaign, encouraging young people to consider skilled trades as a backstage pass into the music industry. “Skilled trades people play a big role in the music industry, and the music industry is a big driver for the province’s economy,” Haigh says.

The campaign—which highlights trades like hairdressing, cooking, carpentry, and more—also seeks to correct the coming skills deficit. Haigh cites a study by the Conference Board of Canada saying there will be a shortage of 360,00 skilled tradespeople in Canada by 2025. Part of the campaign’s goals, she says, is reframing the trades as a viable and exciting option for young people and those considering a second career. “The trades have generally been ignored for years, and it’s darn well about time that we give them the credit and respect they deserve. The campaign may influence them to reconsider a career in the trades. It’s a career to be proud of.”

For this campaign, the College has partnered with the WayHome Festival, the Boots and Hearts festival, and bands such as the Road Hammers and Hedley. As a result, Haigh says that they’ve received over one hundred emails from young people who want to learn more. “We’re seeing direct engagement, which is really exciting.” Their YouTube video is also designed to appeal to music fans: action shots of screaming fans are intercut with heartfelt thank-yous to skilled tradespeople from musicians and festival organizers.

For Haigh, the possibility of Tune In, Trade Up doesn’t end when the crowd goes home. “It doesn’t have to be in the music industry. That just gets them in the door. Then they can see that there are so many great jobs out there. It’s a hook to get them in.”

CivicAction announces new cohort of DiverseCity Fellowship winners

It started as a place for rap videos, but over the last ten years, Jane-Finch.com has transformed into a kind of online community center. The brainchild of Paul Nguyen, the son of Vietnamese boat people,the site now hosts a wide variety of media. Videos of community events like barbecues share bandwidth with local music acts, and news coverage explores topics the nightly news only grazes. “Our story is usually told by mass media, but it was time for the kids in the area to start telling their own stories,” says Nguyen.

As part of the 2015-2016 cohort of CivicAction’s DiverseCity fellows, Nguyen now has the opportunity to take the website to the next level. The fellowship, now in its seventh year, acts as a sort of boot camp for rising leaders in the GTA. Fellows are given leadership development, access to mentors and like-minded peers, and teaches them about the emerging issues facing the GTA.

For Nguyen, those issues start off as hyper-local: “For the last ten years, I’ve been focused on Jane and Finch and neighbouring marginalised communities.” The fellowship will give him a chance to stretch out. “I realized it was time to get a bigger perspective, because there was only so much I could do on my own. I think I offer a unique perspective—I think of myself of the street kid—and a lot of the people in the program are highly educated.”

Some of the other fellows come from very different backgrounds. Gracie Goad is the manage of hospitality at the Drake Hotel, while Mrinalini Menon recruits top talent for RBC.  What unites this group of 27 winners is a passion for civic engagement, and the ability to create unique visions of change. Nguyen sees his background as a chance to bond with other fellows: “It would be good to combine my street smarts with the academic side. I’m looking forward to getting other people’s perspectives, and I don’t want to take anything for free and not give back.”

Doors Wide Open: The Toronto Queer Zine Fair balances accessibility and art

“We’re trying to carve out space for queer and trans zine writers and artists in the city. There are no other fairs that focus on this, so our mission primarily is to create a space that feels as safe and affirming as possible,” says Eddie Jude, one of the organizers with the Toronto Queer Zine Fair collective, which is hosting its third zine fair on Saturday October 17. Held at Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church from 11:00 to 7:00, the fair has a dual mission: to provide “a platform for underrepresented voices in zine culture,” who Jude describes as queer, trans, disabled, or people of colour; and to host an event that as accessible as possible.

The Toronto Queer Zine Fair will host about 50 different tablers—artists, publishers, and writers—in their biggest year to date. They’ll also provide a variety of accessibility services, such as gender-neutral washrooms, a wheelchair accessible venue, on-site ASL interpreters, free childcare, and targeting a scent-free experience.

The accessibility services are just part of the mandates for the collective. “The biggest new thing for this year was trying to be more intentional about the way we create environment,” says Jude. They’ve tried to fold the services into the event organically: the ASL interpreters will there to greet attendees, and the childcare area will also offer two free zine-making workshops for kids. “You don’t go into a lot of spaces that prioritize the needs and safety of queer and trans people, especially with disabilities. It’s not impossible. You just have to put a little bit of the work in.”

Hand-in-hand with the making the event accessible is the Toronto Queer Zine Fair collective’s open-minded for-us by-us mentality. “A whole range from the queer community come to the fest, and not everyone who come to the fest are queer or trans-identified. We see lots of people from the art community as well, but there is a niche in this fair for people who are part of the queer community in some way."

The Ontario Nonprofit Network helps the sector seize opportunities

On October 20 and 21, The Ontario Nonprofit Network will host its annual conference. Guided by four themes—advocacy, governance, assets and evaluation—the event will connect many of the province’s 55,000 nonprofit and charitable organizations, including volunteers, staff, directors, as well as experts, policy-makers, and others working in the sector. The conference, says ONN Policy Lead Heather Laird, “is a chance for nonprofit leaders and thinkers to step back, examine the bigger systems that affect us all, and take collective action to strengthen the sector for thriving communities."

Built around the theme of “Seizing Opportunities,” the two-day event will kick off at the Allstream Centre at Exhibition Place with a day-long introduction to ONN’s work, and skill-building opportunities in the areas of policy, leadership, and action. The main conference, “Seizing Opportunity,” will follow on October 21. Keynote speakers will include Rick Cohen, a national correspondent for the American publication Nonprofit Quarterly, as well as Henry Mintzberg, the John Cleghorn Professor of Management Studies at McGill. Other panelists and speakers will be drawn from across Ontario’s nonprofit sector, with breakout sessions focusing on, among other topics, rural social enterprise, pension planning for nonprofits, and the sector’s relationship with government.

Laird says that the conference “advances sector-wide strategies to strengthen nonprofits for the long term. Ultimately, a strong and resilient nonprofit sector means thriving communities.” A key part of that will be the event’s Intersection Hub, a lounge-like space dedicated to networking and one-on-one face time with sector leaders and key experts. Laird hopes Toronto’s nonprofit community will use the conference as a chance to have “conversations about our horizons, to build a vision for the future, and lay the foundations for nonprofit leadership in decades to come. [We offer the] skills and tools to engage in strategic work better, making nonprofit organizations and networks across the province stronger.

Who is all and what is complete? The 2015 Complete Streets Forum

“All politics are local, but in DC, politics are hyperlocal,” says Veronica O. Davis. She delivered the lunchtime keynote speech—entitled “Who is ALL and what is complete?” as part of the eighth Complete Streets Forum last week.

Davis, a planner and engineer working in Washington DC, delivered a passionate and rousing speech about innovative ways to engage citizens in infrastructure development consultations. Her work focuses on including segments of the population who aren’t often considered, such as the underhoused.

Davis was just one part of the day-long conference and forum at Hart House on October 1. Devoted to raising the profile of the complete streets movement, the event’s programming was aimed at planners, engineers, architects, and activists who want to reprioritize street use to include pedestrians, cyclists, and other non-motorized street users. Sessions looked at the issue from a technical perspective—evaluation was a major theme this year, with several presenters devoted to assessing the impact and efficacy of different complete streets initiatives—as well as a foundational perspective.

In their session “Evaluating Innovative Pedestrian Intersection Design,” presenter Merisa Gilman of NEw York City’s Pedestrian Projects presented on her department’s updated protocols for uncontrolled intersection design, which includes street markings, visible signage, and a request system for implementation.

Closer to home, Sheyda Saneinejad spoke about Toronto’s three pedestrian priority phase intersections—commonly known as “scrambles”—and how the city assessed their impact on pedestrians, transit users, and motorists. Their findings led to the removal of the Bay/Bloor scramble, but reinforced the usefulness of scrambles at Yonge and Dundas and Yonge and Bloor. “It’s important not to treat pedestrian scrambles as symbolic,” Saneinejad stressed. “They’re a tool in Toronto’s toolbox.”

After lunch, “Navigating the Diverse Landscapes of Toronto’s Streets,” as presented by Sheila Boudreau and Patrick Cheung, looked at Green Streets. As a method of integrating more naturalized areas into the landscape, as well helping to mitigate heat islands and stormwater runoff, Green Streets sometimes means a tailored approach to landscape architecture. Boudreau and Cheung demonstrated a bespoke curb for garden edging that allowed water to flow from the central garden, past the sidewalk, and into the storm drain below. “There was nothing off the shelf that we could use,” Boudreau says, but the detail now allows for better drainage.

The day also included a tour of the city’s separated bike lanes, several sessions exploring the intersection of health and complete streets frameworks, and looking at complete streets in a suburban context. “What are the needs of the community?” asked Davis as part of her keynote speech; by the end of the day, participants were answer to her question a little more fully.

Toronto Designers Market let up-and-coming local vendors shine

Parkdale’s newest retail experience is a warehouse that’s been carefully stuffed full of artisan and designer goods. A the Toronto Designers Market, you’ll find vintage lamps cozying up to indie-designer yoga wear, handmade bowties sharing space with luxury face cream, and street-art inspired painting hanging near handcrafted jewelry. There’s also healthy dose of Toronto pride: Greater Toronto Apparel’s tank tops borrow New York City public transit iconography and transposes it with local neighbourhoods, while at the back of the space, a glowing sign spells out “416 Love.”

The brainchild of Parkdale Flea owner Joshua James, the Toronto Designers Market is a challenge to the traditional retail experience. Small stalls line the space, usually showcasing vendors specializing in one or two specialty goods. Instead of haggling over commissions or selling wholesale, vendors pay rent—James says it’s a few hundred dollars a month—and the Toronto Designers Market handles their sales. “A lot of these designers dream of owning their own store, but the overhead doesn't make sense, or the capital to start it just isn't there,” he explains. “I believe the Toronto Designers Market is a stepping stone and training facility to prepare a local designer for the real world of business and doing things for themselves.”

This low-cost, low-impact model allows local vendors to have a real storefront with consistent hours, and James’s carefully curated selection of Torontonian artisans and businesspeople creates a one-stop shopping destination. The success of long-running artisan showcases like the biannual One of a Kind show has primed shoppers to interact directly with local and Canadian entrepreneurs. “The concept of DIY lies deep in the hearts of most people, and it's usually the fear of failing that keeps them on the straight and narrow, working nine to five, and collecting a cheque. The younger generation has squashed that fear and become much more self-sufficient,” he says. That generation is also adept at social media, which James credits for its ability to connect vendors directly with their fans.

Wandering the aisles of the Toronto Designers Market, it’s easy to see the local talent on display. “I really hope by having a facility like the Toronto Designers Market we can mix a few brilliant and dedicated minds with a few ‘cowboys’ and really teach them the ropes of what it takes to make it in a real rodeo,” James says. His new market, and its innovative business model, will let vendors test the ropes themselves.


Local filmmakers counter male-centric entertainment with the Bechdel Bill

The Bechdel Test sounds simple: in any given film, are there more than two female characters? Do they have names? And do they talk to each other about something other than a man? Yet only 55% of films currently produced can claim to pass the Bechdel Test. “I’m surrounded by incredible women who have so much to say. We all are. It’s bizarre and curious that it’s not reflected in the films we see,” says Imogen Grace, a Toronto-area actor and filmmaker. Grace and her project partner Joella Crichton launched the Bechdel Bill last Friday at the Spoke Club as both a challenge to the film entertainment industry and a celebration of women’s stories.

Taking the Bechdel Test as inspiration, the Bechdel Bill is a voluntary pledge asking filmmakers and entertainment companies to commit to having four out every five productions pass the Bechdel Test. “The Bechdel Test is an imperfect test, and it’s very simple, but it’s concrete. Rather than just saying “represent women,” which can be difficult, this is a milestone for people to work towards.” Four out five also gives filmmakers—many of which are independent—the freedom create films that don’t pass the test.

So far, the response from Toronto’s film and television industry has been positive, with people like Laurie Finstad-Knizhnik (the showrunner for Strange Empire), Mackenzie Grace (co-producer on Orphan Black), and Alysia Reiner (who plays former warden Natalie Figueroa on Orange is the New Black) taking the pledge. While so far, all the Bechdel Bill co-signers have been female, Grace says there has been outreach into male-led entertainment companies. She stresses, “We love men’s stories and men in film as well. There’s nothing wrong with the way things are now, but there’s room for things to be so much better and exciting for everyone.”

Grace sees Toronto as the perfect launching pad for the project. “When we started, our mission was uniting the Toronto film industry to create powerful representations of women in film. We started with a focus on the Toronto industry, and it’s because of things like TIFF and the growing film and TV industry. It’s an exciting place to be.” Future plans include partnering with organizations like ACTRA and the Writer’s Union, and offering workshops on “how to take advantage of the market of people who want to see women-led films.”

netWORKS connect local youth to the business leaders of today, one coffee at a time

The practice of grabbing a coffee with a potential mentor or employer may be a time-tested networking method, but for some youth, there are barriers that prevent them from reaching out. CivicAction, along with TenThousandCoffees.com and United Way Toronto and York Region, is offering a new way of connecting. The netWORKS initiative, launched last week, uses cutting-edge technology to bring that networking into the modern age.

As Dave Wilkin, the founder of TenThousandCoffees.com, explains, “We saw this growing trend of people who were overlooked because of the traditional way of networking. We wanted to create a one-stop shop for youth with barriers, and employers who wanted to collaborate and tap into that.” Wilkin’s technology forms the backbone of the online platform that hopes to connect youth to employers and community agencies.

netWORKS has already provided opportunities to people like Brooke Write, a 23-year-old student from the Malvern area, who attended the first netWORKS networking group event, held at Virgin Mobile in June. “I know a lot of youth who are struggling to find a job, and taking whatever they can get. They’re miserable because they’re not in the industries they want to be in. This opens up doors. Youth of this generation are often more comfortable behind a screen, but this gives them a chance to break down that wall and not be as nervous.” Youth have an opportunity at these events to connect with people already working in different professional fields, and to make a meaningful relationship that could translate into a career.

Wilkin says that the program’s impact on youth could be quite substantial. He explains that a recent study found that “it wasn’t a lack of skill, it was a lack of networks that kept people out of the workforce. We want to provide that access in a very powerful way, so that youth in the GTA have those conversations. With those conversations come opportunities. Ultimately, we’re working towards secure employment that they're passionate about.”


The Toronto East Bike Festival celebrates Scarborough on two wheels

“We want to show that people do ride bikes in Scarborough, despite the prevailing notion that it’s car-dominant. People ride not just for recreation, but for transportation,” says Marvin Macaraig. As well as being the Scarborough Cycles Project Coordinator at the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation, Macaraig is one of the organizers of the Toronto East Bike Festival happening this Saturday, September 19, near Warden Station in Scarborough.

The Toronto East Bike Festival, a one-day event celebrating bikes and the east-end residents who ride them, will offer programming for kids and adults alike. Safety training, cupcake decorating, live music, and a “bike rodeo” featuring jousting and bike polo all add to the festivities. The festival will also feature a marketplace and a chance for festival-goers to check out bike-related initiatives. “The one I think of is is the Trailblazers Tandem Cycling Club, which allows low-vision people to cycle. This festival allows them to opportunity to broaden their impact,” says Macaraig.

Now in its third year, the TEBF has grown significantly in 2015, thanks in part to a grant from Game On Toronto. The grant was given as part of the celebrations surrounding the 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Games, and allowed the festival to expand. Macaraig says that this year, the festival looked beyond Scarborough into East York. “The response from the local community and businesses has been remarkable. It’s a lot of like-minded community and cycling organizations.”

Most of all, the message that Macaraig wants the festival to send is that cycling is alive and well in Toronto’s east end. “Cycling culture isn’t just the downtown core. We like that the core has a strong support for cycling, but we want to build that out more. We really want to celebrate cycling in Scarborough.” He cites the trails, green loops, and paved trails that have opened in the last year, as well as the Pan Am path, some of which ran through Scarborough. “This festival isn’t the first step to celebrate cycling, but part of an ongoing process for the last couple years.”

Drink Beer, Do Good: Volunteer Toronto crafts a new approach to volunteering

It’s a rare opportunity to both drink beer and do good at the same time, but Volunteer Toronto’s Craft Your Change event on September 24 is offering a chance to do exactly that. From 7 PM to 10 PM, they’ll be taking over the Loose Moose on Front Street for a volunteer recruitment and connection event that aims to arm young professionals with a pint of craft beer and a lot more information about Toronto’s non-profit organizations.

Camara Chambers, Volunteer Toronto’s Director of Community Engagement, explains: “we ask each of the non-profits to come up and do a one-minute pitch on who they are, why why’re amazing, and why people would want to work with with them.” From there, event attendees—Chambers is expecting about 150 of them—can approach the non-profits directly. “We handpicked them from a network of about 600 organizations across the city, including lots of grassroots organizations. There’s a good good cross-section of the non-profit community—youth, environmental issues, animals—to ensure that anyone who comes can find an organization they’re passionate about.” Organizations will include the Annex Cat Rescue, Women in Toronto Politics, and Maternal Goddess, among others. The event is timed to coincide with Toronto Beer Week, and the Loose Moose was chosen for its wide array of craft beers.

Craft Your Change takes a different approach to traditional volunteer recruitment. “We had been looking to work more with the young professional demographic in Toronto. We’re aware of the increasing switch in how people volunteer. People want something back, whether it’s new skills, meeting new people, building their resume.” A study from Volunteer Canada also found that more and more people are looking to branch out from the skills they do as part of their daily jobs, and Volunteer Toronto wants to foster that. When choosing which organizations to include, Chambers says, “We asked if they’re open to having a conversation and allowing the volunteers to decide how to they want to give back.”

Volunteer Toronto hopes that everyone who comes out to Craft Your Change find an opportunity that they connect with. “Essentially, we would like all of our attendees to volunteer in some way shape or form before the next event. We hope that at, some point, they all get the opportunity to give back to the non-profit community.”

Take a green afternoon in support of the p.i.n.e. project

In the city, it can be tough to truly disconnect: communing with nature isn’t easy to do from the window of a streetcar or from a condo balcony. The p.i.n.e. project has a solution: a “sit-a-thon,” their annual fundraiser. “We believe that a sit-a-thon contributes greatly to Toronto's understanding of the natural world by drawing attention to the fact that, while we live in a society where we are constantly on our mobile devices and rushing around, something deep awaits us in the quiet of the woods,” says Jay Haney, Communications and Program Coordinator for the p.i.n.e. project.

While the official sit-a-thon will take place September 26, participants can schedule their own sit-ins any time before October 5. They’re encouraged to find a spot in a natural setting—anything from a city park to a wilderness—turn off their technological devices, and simply observe the world around them. While it sounds straightforward, Haney hope the event will have a long-lasting impact. “Our participants have always completed their sit-spots with a greater sense of peace, relaxation and a deepened connection to nature.”

Other goals include a heightened sense of environmental stewardship, and a deeper connection to nature. Inspired in part by the Slow Food and Slow Living movements, the sit-a-thon fundraiser also reminds participants that humans, too, are a part of the natural world. Still, the pine project is happy if participants just take time to recharge: their website mentions recent studies citing the mental health benefits of time spent in nature.

Supporters can pledge to support sitters in their time-outs; although there’s no minimum time to sit, the p.i.n.e. project encourages people to “push through the point of being antsy” and past their comfort zone. The funds raised will help support the p.i.n.e. project’s child and youth programming throughout the year, especially on their Best Day Ever bursary for families. Haney explains, “It is our hope that the sit-a-thon will draw draw attention to the plethora of nature connection and wilderness and survival skill programs that we offer in the name of environmental stewardship.”
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