A New Beginning

 

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I went out for Chinese food on the eve of my convocation and got this fortune. I didn’t really know what it meant at the time, or why it would be relevant, but I knew it was special. I carefully placed it in my wallet, and little did I realize that days later I would encounter a group of women who would inspire me to create change. Through a research project in which I was involved, I was able to listen to the challenges faced by immigrant women in the workplace. But much more impactful to me, was their genuine desire to be contributing members of their community. These women are engineers, family doctors, finance ministers, teachers, lecturers and more, but they felt powerless in navigating a unexpected reality in the Canadian economic landscape. They found themselves in “survival” and menial jobs, that laid waste to their wealth of international knowledge and experience.

Just a few short days later, iWMN.org was born. The Immigrant Women’s Mobilization Network was developed in partnership with Arlene Garrick,  a human resources professional, who has lectured abroad in the USA, as well as internationally; her passion, and  vast knowledge and experience invaluable to our success. I also have had the pleasure of partnering with Anna Ghannad, a civil engineer with  a background in knowledge management, and international experience in companies with up to  20,000 employees, and multi-million dollar accounts.

From there we grew; just a few short weeks have passed and we continue to venture on to new heights. An organization built upon the principles of mutual aid, a strengths-based health promotion lens, and the skills and knowledge of the women it serves, iWMN.org has been a new beginning for me as I answer to the calling of promoting social justice and well-being through a grass roots, community-driven vehicle for change.

Follow iWMN.org on WordPress: iWMNorg or visit http://www.iWMN.org

All the best,

Cindy

The Five Factor Finish

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So I have finally found a little piece of  the peace that I have been working very hard towards: the completion of my undergraduate degree. I did an honours thesis and it could still be revised to be published in our campus library but I’m in no rush. But reflecting back to the term, I think of the struggles I encountered with my paper among my other course work.

One particular evening, while buzzed on caffeine and attempting to motivate myself in a lull of discipline, I came up with the Five Factor Finish. Perhaps you will find it useful. When challenged with a goal/task, consider the Five Factor Finish to get you to where you want to be! To achieve difficult challenges it is necessary to face:

1) facts – identify and re-establish what needs to be done and why; know your reasons and resources and start the journey to following through with your goals

2) fears – acknowledge your personal anxieties i.e. perfection, embarrassment etc. > accept your fears and move beyond them

3) faults – know your weaknesses i.e. procrastinating, distracting yourself >find ways to understand your faults and overcome them

4) failure – recognize that failure is part of success; when you fail you succeed if you get up again

5) frame of mind – get yourself into a conducive frame of mind – motivate yourself, be positive, have hope and be confident in your abilities

 

It did actually work for me. In this case, it applied to writing my thesis and keeping up with my heavy course load among other personal challenges. Over the past month or so I had to put my dog down which was a terrible experience. In the end, I had to just keep in mind that soon school would be done and that the pain and hard work would only be temporary. Sometimes people like to think that the pain pays off, but that’s with the expectation that you will be happy with the end result. I just left that door open. Am I happy with the result now that the marks are in? I’m relieved and I feel that I set out a goal and I achieved it, and that is quite good enough for me.

I hope that this may be helpful to you for whatever your goals may be.

All the best,

Cindy

 

 

An End and a Beginning

convocation-programs1All things come to an end—both good and bad. For hundreds of thousands of post-secondary students who are graduating this spring, the pressure is on. Some students are  hoping to pass all their classes and make sure they can graduate on time; while others are doing their best to stay on the Dean’s list, finish their co-op, and land that job. For the majority, the prospect of a job search, long-term employment, or perhaps even a career in your field is a welcome relief after years of time, money, and energy spent, but it is a reality not seen by all.

Described as the “end of a golden age” by Andrew Jackson,  a professor of Social Justice at York University, earning a degree no longer translates into a decent job.  As the last year of my undergrad nears its end, I recall many similar articles  that have sparked doubt in the back of my mind, as job availability has plummeted since the days of yesteryear. Since the 1980′s, high-paying jobs have only increased by 5% while low and middle-wage jobs have seen a 40% increase. Still, you don’t have to go back that far, as the 2008 recession remains palpable. Unfortunately, this means that many students will find themselves mismatched in service jobs, or jobs that have little to do with their area of study. Even worse, they could remain unemployed with great debt to shoulder. While some are quick to suggest that this unfortunate circumstance is merely due to students’  choice in their area of study, there are other other economic considerations. Jackson also notes:

A Statistics Canada study recently reported that between 2000 and 2011, the wages of university graduates rose even more slowly than those of less-educated workers. The pay premium for a university graduate compared with a non-graduate has fallen to 41 per cent from 47 per cent for men, and to 55 per cent from 61 per cent for women. The premium has eroded most for younger workers.”

With these kinds of prospects, I feel as a student, you just have to put your nose to the grindstone and do your best—in your studies, in your networking, and in looking for creative ways to get noticed in the job market. With brutal competition these days, an undergraduate degree is not often enough, and I find my peers pursuing post-graduate applied studies at the local college, as well as pursuing their master’s degree and beyond. As for me, I’ve decided to postpone any further studies at this time, while I see where my knowledge, skills and experience will take me.

Back to studying!

Cheers,

Cindy

Photo credit: Uwaterloo.ca

The end of the ‘Golden Age’ for university graduates

Out of Sight Out of Mind? How much does your cheap item really cost?

aaaLately there has been a barrage of pollution-related news stories regarding the bad air quality present in China. Much of this is related to a recent news article that purported that  China was televising their sunrises on massive screens due to air pollution. This photograph which was falsely captioned, is actually a tourism ad played daily in Tiananmen Square’s big screen. Unfortunately, there is some truth to this story, as it is now commonplace for Chinese citizens to wear face masks in order to filter at least some of the harmful particulates out of the air. Further, air pollution contributed to over a million deaths in China in 2010, and lung cancer rates have quadrupled over the past thirty years. Knowledge of the impact of air pollution on health is not new, but the international community has not taken much heed to it. That is, until now.

While pollution has been filling the skies in China, we have ignored the fact that we actually live on the same planet. But as China’s pollution begins to lick at North America’s West Coast, the distressing reality is becoming tangible in our minds and busy lives. A recent article in Time Magazine discusses how the pollution in developing countries is from goods exported to West. Fortunately, there has been some discussion about the need to “understand the full life cycle of all the goods and services we are purchasing and selling”. However, I suspect that we are still quick to blame this issue on the readily apparent causes of China’s unhealthy state of affairs: a lack of  effective air pollution policies, heavy reliance on coal, as well as the now widespread use of personal vehicles. Again, while this may be true, there tends to be an area that is left unsaid. That is, the issue of pollution in China is systematic, and a wider sociological lens is useful in identifying the problems and solutions.

China’s air pollution is heavily related to the mass production of all of the trinkets and toys that consumers here in the North America must have, and then later throw away. As we are pressured under the oppressive economy, more and more of us have had to look at the bottom line in our bank accounts and do what we can in order to maintain our lifestyles and make ends meet. While many people would like to choose to support local businesses and goods, this is becoming more and more out of reach. Products are no longer made to last, rather they are often engineered to be irreparable and easily replaceable. We have seen the closing and merging of small and medium businesses as they have been cannibalized by big box giants. Surely, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who has not purchased something at one of the many conveniently-located Walmarts or dollar stores. Furthermore, over the past 20 years, the socioeconomic inequality in Canada has only widened despite being one of the OECD countries to not only weather the recession of the 1990′s, but excelled. Unfortunately, the majority of the population did not experience this promised “trickle-down” effect.

We can try to do our best to select what we buy wisely, but our greatest role would be in influencing policy to promote fair trade. Our consumerism is easy when the effects don’t happen to us or are not readily visible. Out of sight, out of mind, as they say. However, as the Global North, we are enforcing and supporting a modern form of colonialism, that is founded upon the oppression of other humans and nations in order to acquire cheap goods. Those in the Global South who must compete in a global market are faced with contract conditions under which they lack the negotiating power, since the competition for these contracts are foundational to their developing economies.

It is easy to blame China and other developing nations that produce and supply cheap goods for exhibiting an extreme lack of environmental responsibility. However, as a member of the OECD nations, we have a responsibility in international business to enforce and apply the pressure needed to ensure safe working conditions, as well as ethical business practices that protect the environment. That means that corporations in North America must be willing to make a little less profit, and instead invest and distribute their great wealth through principled business contracts that allow for the building of a strategic plan and infrastructure to protect the environment. In the state of practice as it is now, we are merely exploiting other humans and nations for their labour, their environment, and ultimately their lives.

Photocredit: Wunderground.com

Goodbye 2013!

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Alas, only hours remain before the clock rolls over midnight and I will be enjoying my first few hours of 2014. Some people are out at luxurious soirees and others are enjoying a quiet evening at home. Like many people, I am undeniably excited for a fresh start.

At the denoument of each annum, I like to have a look-see over the list  I wrote for myself the previous New Years Eve. That is, a list that includes inspirational and personal goals for myself, whether relational, emotional, career-related, or other. In December 2012, I had the pleasure of finding that I had either completed or was well on my way to being where I wanted to be after a year’s time. Unfortunately, this year, I can’t say I know where my list has gone to.  I prefer to say confidently that I have been able to check many of them off, but I suspect I haven’t been quite as stellar as I would have liked. Fortunately, I think I can forgive myself—this time!

This year, I’m going to share some of my list items with you; at least then they won’t go missing (no 404s please!) Here it goes:

1. Appreciate the present.

2. It’s never too late to turn the page.

3. Be mindful.

4. Don’t be afraid to climb big mountains.

5. Every problem has a solution.

6. Remember: “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.”

In particular, #6 appeals to me.  And so I’ve decided to count out 365 sheets of paper and create a journal. I’ve never been a good “journaler”, but now is a good time to start! There’s that feeling you get when you open a new notebook and you can decide to write anything. But more captivating, is the idea that for each day I decide to write in that journal, I can try to honestly write something positive, whether my day has gone well or not. More than a goal, it’s a mindset.

Wish me luck! Happy New Year everyone!

Cindy

Heart in the Kitchen

il_570xN_265859293Recently, a friend of mine posted a picture on Facebook of a heavy mixing bowl, one of her mother’s most treasured possessions. She has now inherited it and continues to reminisce of the banana bread they would bake together when she was a little girl. How many times has that bowl given nourishment for the body, mind, and soul? It is an object so basic, yet it  transcends its simplicity and holds a blend of memories, love, and a bittersweet reality. What once belonged to her mother, is now shared with her own children, and her children’s children.

I, too, hold dear the act of cooking and baking.  For it is not just about sustenance, but salvation. It is the deliverance from the mundane, the hurts we hold, and  the illumination of all that is good. It is the lighthouse beacon that guides us back to what matters; it is what speaks to our souls and reminds us that love is at once the greatest and most simple denominator. It is the time you take creating something that was not there before.

I never feel closer to God than when I am able to partake in the gift of food that was grown through the hands of people I know, prepared by myself or those I love, and shared around the dinner table. It holds the beauty of creation, and is a nod toward the act of communion. One particular experience remains intangible to me. What I have found, is that while what you place in your mouth is of this material world, the energy vibration you may experience can be spiritual.

One of my favourite recipes to make is a sweet but tangy peach galette or pie, baked at the end of summer when peaches are aplenty (sometimes with some wild apples tossed in for good measure).  As for a favourite memory, I’ll have to say it has to be coming home from school as a child and having my mom waiting with a hot bowl of homemade chicken soup, ready to warm me up on a brisk winter day.

Soon it will be Christmas and I am looking forward to another flurry of baking and cooking. What memories and recipes do you hold close to your heart?

Cindy

Elsipogtog Rally- October 18th Ontario, Canada

WeStandWithElsipogtog2]“On the morning of October 17, 2013, approximately 200 RCMP – some dressed in military fatigues and armed with snipers – stormed a Mi’kmaq anti-fracking blockade and camp near Rexton, New Brunswick. Journalist Miles Howe, on site, described the situation as “RCMP having their guns drawn.” RCMP have confirmed at least 40 arrests, with reports of Elsipogtog Chief Arren Sock as well as Mi’kmaq Warriors being targeted. Media reports have also been pouring in of people being tasered, having police dogs set on them, and rubber bullets being fired – including at young children.”No One is Illegal

If you have been following the news, or as I have, received updates from Leadnow.ca Facebook updates, you will know that there has been incredible solidarity demonstrated by people across Canada after this appalling show of the RCMP, and the Harper government in their quest to continue their Fracking agenda.  Further, Canadians are supporting First Nations in their fight  for their own land and water where they reside, but also OUR land and water against PM Harper’s corporate energy development policies. Not only that, but we are standing up for our RIGHTS as voting citizens of this country. No peaceful rally should result in this kind of violence.

On Thursday, October 18th, I attended one of the many peaceful local rallies across Canada that called Canadians to stand with our First Nations friends in order to show our support and raise our voices; a movement that has been identified as #Elsipogtog or a further development of #Idlenomore. We were called to stand in “national solidarity with Elsipogtog” and all were welcome all to attend. The event included singing, drumming and speakers by candle light, with the voices of Sylvia McAdam Saysewahum, Co-founder of Idle No More Movement and Bridgette Brigette DePape leading the gathering.

While the meeting shared the characteristics of any peaceful rally, it was set apart by the beautiful, spiritual singing and drumming in the Aboriginal tongue, different Native languages from different tribes, and the opportunity to take part in a dance that had over 100 people—strangers who had becomes friends—holding hands and dancing in a circle to the sound and energy of the singing drum group. It was a memorable experience and I feel very fortunate to have been able to share in the goodwill and love of people who want the best for our health, land, water, and future for our children—Aboriginal or not.

A couple of videos from the event:

Other reading:

New Brunswick fracking protests are the frontline of a democratic fight

Cultivating Alternatives – Dear Rex: Colonialism exists, and you’re it