A Little More Good » Ottawa http://www.alittlemoregood.com Good Companies, Good Causes, Good Ideas Sat, 27 Jul 2013 05:10:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.2 Building Community With Innovative Solutions http://www.alittlemoregood.com/blog/ottawa/9392/ http://www.alittlemoregood.com/blog/ottawa/9392/#comments Tue, 25 Jun 2013 18:52:01 +0000 megirving http://www.alittlemoregood.com/?p=9392

Over 700 people came together in Ottawa’s Convention Centre to celebrate two notable Canadians who pursue innovative solutions. Keynote speaker Mark Brand and Community builder of the Year award recipient Diane Morrison’s body of work has centered on providing  innovative and lasting solutions to social problems in their respective communities of East Vancouver and central Ottawa.

United Way has developed three areas of focus: Growing up GreatBelonging to Community and Turning Lives Around  undoubtedly, Morrison and Brand embody these values. One is newly retired but never far from the community she has created. The other is a dynamic figure who is reshaping Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Both Morrison and Brand are pioneer problem solvers who specialize in community.

Diane Morrison, former Executive Director of the Ottawa Mission received the evening’s highest honor, Community Builder of the Year. Under her guidance the once humble shelter has grown from 75 to 250 beds. With the tireless dedication she has become known for since first volunteering with the Mission in 1991, countless meals have been served, and many programs added: addiction counselling, job training, medical and dental care, as well as Canada’s first hospice for the homeless providing those who otherwise wouldn’t have access to specialized end of life care.

Like so many others who work in the field of social welfare, they saw a need and knew how to fill it. Brand admits, “I’m a good cook, cooking with very little money.” Instead of seeing social problems as insurmountable, both Brand and Morrison looked them head on, and began doing what they do best: be it cooking food or connecting like minded folks, they make a success out of failure through conversation. Both saw communities worth the effort where others saw infestation and crime.Dignity is a word both Morrison and Brand used frequently; providing dignity with the ability to choose one’s next meal, with clean socks and new underwear, with jobs, with being taken seriously, wholesome and warm food, a handshake, a smile. They both believe in the simplistic yet transformative power of conversation. Providing food and shelter is not good enough. The food must be good, the shelter safe.

At United Way’s Gala, both spoke to past conversations with individuals that affected them deeply: Morrison recounting her experience busking with a shelter patron who insisted eyes be kept downcast to show humility. Brand explained how a truly well known member of the DTES community (who is also his friend and employee) never asked anyone for anything. After hearing a bit about how this friendship of over seven years has progressed, the valuable service and loyalty Mike brings to the Downtown Eastside, the audience of over seven hundred people in attendance warmly and genuinely applauded Football Mike. He’ll never know that sound. He’s too busy keeping his community clean.

The lines between friend, family, and colleague are non-existent for Brand and Morrison. Likewise between work and home, between weekend and weekday. Simply, they both work harder than those who take the time to publicly critique their accomplishments.

Facing one of Canada’s most informal modes of trade, Mark met challenges from all corners in his fight to provide free and cheap nourishing food to his neighbours, “People said there’s enough food in the Downtown Eastside, you just got to line up over there. Well, that’s a really great way to spend the day trying to figure out the rest of your life: spend six hours waiting for soup that might have protein in it. End up spitting it on the ground because you’re so disgusted. That works out right? So I fight that fight.”

Currency is relative, and monetary value is all at once fluid and steadfast: there is more cash passed from one hand to another in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside than a Saturday morning on busy Robson street. So Brand created his own currency. The denominations of the tokens are so small (1.60 for a breakfast sandwich) they have not been absorbed into the informal drug trade. He is the first person to note the irony of a ‘token program’ for the down and out members of his community. But it works. And it’s growing: 80-120 tokens are redeemed every day. That means 80-120 people will have a positive interaction with others, on their own terms that they otherwise would not have: that is the most poignant victory of this program, token or otherwise. There are plans for more programs based on this system of exchange.

At the helm of the Ottawa Mission, Diane Morrison brought a maternal air to what began as a run down shelter serving just a few ‘grumpy old alcoholics.’ In a recent interview for the Ottawa Sun,  Morrison touched on some of the most simplistic measures she was able to take in the early days, ”It started because of underwear. They had no underwear, no socks. People needed some dignity. You need to have underwear and socks, if you don’t have anything, you feel like you’re nothing. And it’s just all the stuff we take for granted, razors, shampoo, deodorant, the stuff that gets a person together. You’ve got to feel you’re worthwhile.”

Over the course of her 20 year tenure, she steadily built program after program while engaging the surrounding community and creating measurable change. In her much deserved retirement, she looks forward to spending more time with her grandkids and resuming her work on the board of the Ottawa Food Bank.

United Way has a number of programs that aline with Brand and Morrison’s ability to create community, provide nourishing meals and holistic relationships between caregivers, business owners, clients and citizens across Canada. They continue to lead the country’s service providers specializing in disadvantaged populations, affordable housing, food access and skills development.

Brand never finished university, and Morrison went back to school at 50. Innovative solutions to complex social problems do not require post secondary education. It requires the tenacity Brand and Morrison have in spades.

Credit: Image of Mark Brand by Rafal Gerszak// Image of Diane Morrison

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Ottawa Summer Festivals http://www.alittlemoregood.com/blog/good-news/ottawa-summer-festivals/ http://www.alittlemoregood.com/blog/good-news/ottawa-summer-festivals/#comments Thu, 25 Apr 2013 16:34:00 +0000 megirving http://www.alittlemoregood.com/?p=9274 There are a few things about our nations capital that may surprise you, namely, that everyones’ wardrobe isn’t limited to black, navy and beige, that the three of us who don’t work for the federal government make up our own acronyms just to feel involved and that there are more festivals in this town than you could possibly hope to attend. Keep in mind most (if not all) of these festivals need volunteers- it’s a great way to see some amazing talent for free. I’ve rounded up a few of my favourites, but there are many, many more. Check out this handy website for the full list and plan your summer accordingly.

Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend, May 25-26

Ottawa loves running. It’s a serious epidemic here. And even if, like me, you think it’s hard on the knees and would rather just find a nice patio to hold down, ‘Race Weekend’ as it  is affectionately known, is a force to be reckoned with. The city floods with over 40,000 runners and all events take place along the Rideau Canal, of the city’s pretty centrepieces. Ranked by runabroad.com as one of the ’101 races to run before you die’ there is something for everyone in the family to participate in.

Ottawa International Children’s Festival, May 29- June 2

Located at Lebreton Flats, that peculiar stretch of land downtown that lies dormant all winter waiting for festival season, the Ottawa International Children’s Festival promotes art education  through theatre, dance and music. An international cast of artists and volunteers create an amazing environment for those aged 4-15 and their families. Also cool: The festival aims to attract school groups as well as families, meaning classes regularly partake in the events!

Canada Dance Festival, June 8-16

Internationally acclaimed, the Canada Dance Festival is held annually at the national Arts Centre but includes venues around the city- including sidewalks and streets!  Featuring contemporary dance professionals as well as those new to dance. Check out the website for more information and recently released programming.

Amnesia RockFest, June 14-15 Montebello, Quebec. 

Okay, this one isn’t in Ottawa. But under an hours drive north east from the city, pretty Montebello hosts Rockfest, making it more of a commute than a road-trip, really. For those born in the mid 70′s to early 80′s this line up will have you flashing back. Big time. Plus, it was founded in 2005 by a 17 year old. Offspring, Rise Against, Alice Cooper, Marilyn Manson, Deftones, Social Distortion, Rancid, Pennywise, the list GOES ON, my friends.

TD International Jazz Fest. June 20-July 1

Hi David Byrne and St. Vincent. What’s up Aretha Franklin? Welcome to Ottawa, Boz Scaggs and Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Jazz Fest is another huge event here in the Capital. There are so many fabulous musicians packed into this event (including my high school alumni, the charming Leeroy Stagger) and they play at some pretty inspiring venues including the National Arts Centre, and out under the stars. Who wouldn’t want to see Willy Nelson play at dusk on a warm summer night at Confederation Park? Tickets can be purchased by event, or get a pass and see as much as you can before it’s winter again.



RBC Ottawa Blues Fest, July 4-14 

This is the big daddy of Ottawa’s festivals, make no mistake. Also, don’t be fooled into thinking Blues Fest limits its self to one genre of music. Located a five minute walk from Parliament Hill, it does not get more central than this. I saw Snoop Dogg play at last year’s fest and it is my current concert to beat. The Black Keys, B.B King, Bahamas, Femi Kumi, She and Him, Flogging Molly, Fun, WU-TANG CLAN! (sorry.) Tegan and Sara, Rush, Mother Mother, Weezer, A Tribe Called Red (I won’t be missing these Ottawa locals play). That is a fraction of the musicians gracing the three stage, ten day event. Did I mention Rush is playing? Tickets are remarkably affordable, the weather is generally beautiful, and the local beers are plentiful. See you there.

This is but a small sampling of what is out there to enjoy, now that the snow has melted and the citizens of Ottawa are thawing out. Get out there and enjoy some of the amazing talent gracing our town this summer!

Ottawa Chamber Festival, Tim Hortons Dragon Boat Fest, Ottawa Folk Fest, Festival franco-ontarien, Music and Beyond, Capitol Velo Fest, Carnival of Cultures, Ottawa Fringe Fest, Summer Solstice Aboriginal Arts Festival, Summer Fling, Ottawa Lumiere Festival, Electric Fields Festival, I’m not kidding, there’s more.


(Images sourced from here, here, here, here, and here. )

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Download and Move to Do Good. http://www.alittlemoregood.com/blog/good-news/download-and-move-to-do-good/ http://www.alittlemoregood.com/blog/good-news/download-and-move-to-do-good/#comments Wed, 17 Apr 2013 13:56:05 +0000 Amy Height http://www.alittlemoregood.com/?p=9234 Avid runners, cyclists, and walkers: listen up! Those miles you’re logging each week at the gym or in the park can do more good than you may know. In addition to reducing stress, maintaining weight, lowering blood pressure, and increasing metabolism, these heart-healthy activities can now warm the ole’ ticker in a new way.

Check out Charity Miles, the brand new app for Apple and Android devices that allows you to log miles for a charity while you workout. It’s motivating, empowering, and an easy way to make a big difference simply by doing what you’re already doing!

Download the app for free… the rest is pretty simple!

Swipe the screen before your workout, select a charity, and get going. The app logs your miles as you go, assigning a dollar value to your distance (10 cents/ mile for cyclists and 25 cents/ mile for runners and walkers). Charity Miles is big on extending its reach – afterall, the more people inspired to move and contribute, the better! – so they ask that after a workout, users share their achievements with the Charity Miles community and sponsors. Not too tough at all, considering you’re now a ‘sponsored athlete’! Users generate more interest, awareness, and commitment from others as they continue to log miles, which amplifies the potential benefit of this app immensely.

Organizations that benefit from miles logged include the ASPCA, Partnership for a Healthier America, Pencils for Promise, Habitat for Humanity, DoSomething.org, Stand Up 2 Cancer, Red (to Benefit the Global Fund), The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, The Nature Conservancy, Ironman Foundation, Wounded Warrior Project, Autism Speaks, and Every Mother Counts.

As Charity Miles says, changing the world is a team sport – so throw on the spandex, grab your smartphone, and inspire big changes just by getting physical.

(The extra movement in your life is a not-so-hidden added benefit. Go to it!)

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Hello Swedish Embassy: Innovative New Swedish Vernacular http://www.alittlemoregood.com/blog/ottawa/9126/ http://www.alittlemoregood.com/blog/ottawa/9126/#comments Thu, 04 Apr 2013 14:39:13 +0000 megirving http://www.alittlemoregood.com/?p=9126  Here in the Nation’s Capital we have no shortage of embassies lying around. I’m going to visit some of them from time to time and share with you their good news, events and general goings on! 

A recent article in The Atlantic featured some startling new Swedish words that we English-speakers would be could benefit from incorporating into our vocabulary. Here in Ottawa, one can’t swing a politically neutral flag without it hitting yet another embassy. Wanting to get as close to the source as possible, I contacted the good folks at the Swedish Embassy to ask what it is about Swedish culture that encourages this type of innovative vernacular.

My favorite? “ Ogooglebar” “Literally meaning “ungoogleable,” the term is used to describe someone or something that doesn’t show up in Google results.” Of course, in the world of Instagram, “Terja” would be helpful, translating to “manipulating a photograph”, the term takes its name from the nature photographer Terje Hellesø who was recently exposed as a fraud for treating his photographs and claiming otherwise.  Quicker than their North American friends, the Swedish adopt new and commonly used words with less debate around how and when they might be admitted to the ever-growing Oxford English Dictionary.

The nice folks at the embassy were quick to pass on even more unique Swedish words. Can we finally incorporate the fika into our North American lives, please?  And suggested that Swedish culture’s fascination with innovative thought begins in childhood. Increasingly, modern Swedish literature for children is less focused on the didactic and more interested in exploring disability, single parenthood, divorce, homosexuality and emotions like shame and guilt.

Invention and innovation starts early in Sweden: check out Finn Upp, a teaching method used to promote new thought amongst students. In three stages: Idea, Design and Realization, students see their ideas come to fruition. This sets the stage early, normalizing filling in the missing pieces of one’s language as the need arises.

Like a great piece of self assemble Ikea furniture, the Swedish language is as complicated as it is beautiful.


(Images from here, here and here.)

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Bringing A Little More Good To Kids In Hospitals http://www.alittlemoregood.com/blog/good-news/bringing-a-little-more-good-to-kids-in-hospitals/ http://www.alittlemoregood.com/blog/good-news/bringing-a-little-more-good-to-kids-in-hospitals/#comments Wed, 20 Mar 2013 15:49:26 +0000 megirving http://www.alittlemoregood.com/?p=9053

Here in Ottawa, residents are lucky enough to have access to CHEO, (the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario) on a daily basis. As well as being available to children have suffered their first burn or toddlers experimenting with gravity, CEHO is an internationally renown research hub, falling in the top 6% of hospitals globally.

On a recent trip to CHEO, which involved above-mentioned toddler experimenting with gravity, I discovered a new and surprising vocation. Child Life Professionals are provided to the hospitals through the Child Life Council, based in Rockville, Maryland, Child Life Professionals can be seen in hospitals throughout North America and Europe. Typically, these men and women are seen in traditional hospital settings such as inpatient, outpatient facilities as well as day program and of course, the ER. Covering all their bases, “child life specialists are employed in hospice programs, camps, early intervention programs, courtrooms, dental practices, support/bereavement groups, community programs, and private practice” as well, according to their website.

After a long intake and waiting process kicked off by a seven year old vomiting into a bag behind me, I was greeted by a warm and vivacious woman who quickly set about entertaining my almost two year old. Armed with bubbles, books, stickers and jokes she was a complete one-woman show. A doctor soon joined us, and unbeknownst to the tiny patient, the entire assessment and follow up instructions were completed in a matter of minutes. Had she actually needed stitches, I can only imagine what would have taken place; it most likely would have involved baby farm animals and cupcakes.

The workday of a Child Life Professional varies. One morning might bring a teenager with a compound fracture, who simply wants to text his friends on the iPhone provided, or upload a picture of their surroundings to Instagram. The following afternoon may be advocating for a child who needs immediate dental care, or simply distracting a little one from the surgery they’ll be receiving. To the new faces they meet, they are always smiling and friendly, and to the children who have more long-term needs, they become close allies.


March is Child Life Month. Here in Ottawa and beyond, various health care professionals and their little patients will celebrate it in a whole lot of ways that will no doubt include games, glitter and very little talk about being sick.


 Child Life Council

Adventures In Child Life

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