We just saw a cartoon on Facebook of a man posting a "Happy Holidays" sign, and another man looking up and yelling, "I'm sick of all this political correctness! Can we just call it what it is?" How do we celebrate the spirit of giving without being part of the hyper-consumption that makes us feel uneasy?
Certain people have such boundless inner energy that it seems the whole global deficit might be solved, if only we could tap into their power reserves. Sylvie Fréchette is one of those people. It's not hard to see how this vivacious Québécoise helped Canada bring home the Olympic gold for solo synchronized swimming. We managed to pin down the bubbly Fréchette just long enough for a quick chat in Montreal.
Some people avert their eyes or cross the street to avoid an encounter with a homeless person. Not Hannah Taylor. At age five, she watched a man dig through a dumpster, braced against the unforgiving chill of a Winnipeg winter in search of his dinner. He was the first homeless person she'd ever seen, and Hannah refused to do nothing about it.
As non-scientists, we've been casually observing a trend for some time that we'd initially dubbed: the baffling research phenomenon. We still haven't eradicated polio in all parts of the world. Or malaria, for that matter. Or yellow fever. Every day, people die from vaccine-preventable diseases. So we can appreciate science for the sake of science but our collective time and money, as a species, might be better spent elsewhere.
When we asked Grammy-winning Canadian singer Nelly Furtado to travel with us to Kenya a few years back, we had no idea it would lead to an amazing friendship. Now an ambassador for Free The Children, she launched a matching fund to support the construction of a new all girls' high school in rural Kenya.
It is widely believed Albertan Bill Belsey first coined the term "cyberbullying," a fusion of Sci-Fi writer William Gibson's word "cyberspace" and the offline term "bullying. We spoke to him about the biggest bullying myths, the best intervention strategies, the downside to proposed legislation that would criminalize cyberbullying.
Last month, we came clean and admitted that yes, we have First-World problems. Of course we're not alone. Aside from the #firstworldproblem ubiquity on Twitter, we've gotten plenty of unsolicited advice for this Real World Fixes column -- our attempt to insert some perspective into the trivial complaints of the privileged.
OneRepublic, the pop-rock quintet from Denver, Colorado, has been together since 2002, since they were in high school, or in the band's words, "since forever." They finish each other's sentences like siblings and cite each other as role models. We caught up with Drew Brown, Eddie Fisher and Brent Kutzle at We Day Vancouver last month.
Cody Simpson is not your stereotypical teen star -- self-entitled or shrouded in scandal. Cody is thoughtful and genuine. Even after his rise to super pop stardom, 3.4 million Twitter followers and a sold-out "Welcome to Paradise" headline tour, Cody still travels with his Dad -- he is, after all, just 15 years old.
When we first learned that one beauty brand is joining the battle against bullying by donating to a fund that offers a teen help line for bully victims, our heads turned. There are others. An admirable message, all. But what about the medium? For us, campaigns like these raise more questions than answers. Can a cosmetics company make a sincere plea to stop bullying and plump up the customer's pout or zap a zit? Or are these token donations -- made by companies whose marketing strategies tend to reinforce teens' fixation with physical appearance -- suspect?
Energetic and empathetic and always stylish, Kay Boutilier -- better known by her stage name "My Name is Kay" or MNIK for short -- rocked the We Day stage in Vancouver last week. At We Day, she got the 20,000 young people, and even some of their teachers, on their feet dancing. We got an opportunity speak with the 25-year-old backstage about the issues that matter most to her.
It was an urban restlessness that first drove graphic artist and Toronto native Jonathan Cruz to explore the far reaches of Canada's North. It was the simple pleasure of eating a hardboiled egg that compelled him to stay. But we'll get to that. The 30-year-old founder of Iqaluit-based Nuschool Design Agency, a multidisciplinary graphic design studio, has literally made his mark all over Canada.
First World Problems has become a meme of such epic proportions. Your Laundromat doesn't have Wi-Fi!? The magazines in your dentist's waiting room are from last month?! This week, when "First World Problems Anthem," a video devised by a U.S.-based marketing agency for a charitable campaign, went viral, we could hardly keep up with the backlash.
As a final tribute to this Canadian icon, let's demonstrate the power of the penny and make the wishes of so many around the world come true: let's collect enough pennies to provide clean water for life for 100,000 people. Just $25 in pennies provides a permanent source of clean water for a person in a developing country.
The alleged pork "fiasco" that broke recently about a bacon shortage was not for want of real news: there is a serious conversation to be had. Not just about the perfect storm brewing in the rise of corn, wheat and fuel prices that's poised to increase food costs for the consumer. But also, what's really behind all of this, and where we're headed.
Robin Wiszowaty left the gleaming strip malls, street grids and coiffed lawns of suburban Illinois for the wilds of rural Kenya in 2002. And she's never looked back. What was meant to be a brief exchange from the University of Illinois to the small Nkoyet-naiborr community in Kenya's Maasai Mara has morphed into her life's adventure. Here, Robin Wiszowaty tells us how she fell in sync with the heartbeat of Africa, and how she found her home.
Brent Kreuger was written off as "lazy" and "stupid" in elementary school in the 1960s -- a time before the "distracted student" was a mainstream social problem. So Krueger set out create a learning environment where outside-the-box thinkers were labelled "entrepreneurial" instead of "learning disabled." He founded the Praxis International Institute, the alternative high school he now runs as principal.
Many development projects are the product of the Field of Dreams Syndrome: the naïve belief that if you build a hospital, school or well, somehow, magically, doctors and teachers and maintenance workers will just appear to make the project a success. If we don't empower communities to manage projects independently, we might as well throw our money down the well we just drilled. It's more cruel to promise a better life and not deliver than to never offer aid at all.
The class is part of an innovative project called Kid Powered Media -- the creation of Canadian Alex Heywood. Heywood's career plans lay in the food services industry. In 2007, the chef at the Toronto Indian restaurant Heywood managed urged him to visit India and experience the food first hand. Coming home from the trip, however, it was not the cuisine he remembered but the poverty.
The 13 members of the Slum Drummers -- nine men and four women -- pulled themselves from lives on the streets of Kenya's most desperate slums to perform with instruments made from trash on stages around the world -- including for the Queen. Now they're using their music as an instrument of hope, reaching out to street kids in the communities they came from.
Disappointment, with just a hint of betrayal, is what we're feeling about the Olympics right now. Like you, we read all the typical Olympic stories -- the triumphs, the heartbreaks and the heroes. Behind them, though, are darker stories of labour camps, child athletes and sweat shops. There's no excuse in this day and age for organizers of major events like the Olympics not to be aware of these issues.
In these days of financial crisis and shrinking government budgets for international development, international charities are teaming up with new and sometimes unexpected bedfellows in the business world. Looking to the corporate world is increasingly an option. That said, it's healthy to be cynical about corporate motives when they get involved in humanitarian work.
It's called the Flotilla for Friendship and for 12 years it's succeeded in building bonds between two very disparate groups: police and aboriginal youth. Distrust of police is both common and deep-rooted among many in Canadian aboriginal communities. In the flotilla, the 21 police officers and 47 aboriginal youth pile into their canoes and bond on the water, resulting in a change for the better.