Westwood Secondary School in Malton, now named Lincoln M. Alexander Secondary School, held its 50th Anniversary Reunion on October 14th, and kindly invited Chawkers to attend and be recognized for the post-secondary scholarships that we funded in the 1990’s. I met some of the scholarship recipients, Kerry Lee Crawford and Claudia Thi, who now make incredible contributions to the community, through broadcasting and teaching. It was a real honour to be part of this event in the Malton community.
We are very pleased to announce our new initiative: in order to actively align our capital with our mission, the foundation has invested in Solarshare Community Solar Bonds and in the MaRS Catalyst Fund. Through these investments, we will not only continue to fulfill our foundation’s mandate of charitable grants, but also support important new work in clean energy and in innovative educational enterprises.
Abilene 600kW installation in Mississauga
Solarshare is a renewable energy co-operative corporation that finances large scale solar installations and sells the power through the Ontario government’s 20-year FIT program. Solarshare was started in 2010 and currently has 39 installations (creating 7 megawatts of installed capacity) and roughly $40 million in capitalization.
The MaRs Catalyst Fund is a project of the MaRS Centre for Impact Investing. It supports innovative Canadian enterprises that include social and environmental goals within their corporate strategies, and aim to address our society’s greatest needs in the area of energy and education. The MaRS Catalyst Fund supports these new firms with financial and management resources.
There was a great event last night that I dropped in on: the young Boot Camp grads at Business in the Streets held their Pitch Night for funding. It was supported by Alterna Savings and the Meighen Foundation as well, and held at George Brown College in Toronto. Grads presented their business models and plans for the future to the panel of judges, and it must have been hard to chose a final winner – they were all experienced and hard-working young entrepreneurs with solid visions for the next steps for their businesses. Past winners came back to judge, as well as members of of the business community. We supported Business in the Streets last year with a grant for continuing to update their curriculum.
On Monday, December 12, I went to the reception for 240 high school students from Greenwood Secondary School and Marc Garneau Collegiate, at the Aga Khan Museum. The students have been creating works of art, at the museum, that personally reflect the theme of Finding Home. Given that the students come from all over the world and have arrived here in all sorts of circumstances, the pieces of art are very powerful and evocative sculptures of how they each define “home” in this part of their lives defined by transition.
This art project is part of the Aga Khan Museum’s outreach and education program with Toronto schools, that we have been able to support, and a wonderful benefit will be welcoming the families of the students in the coming months to see their work in the amazing setting of the museum.
The Toronto Star had a great piece by Judith Timson on the show as well. To find out more about the school outreach program at the Aga Khna Museum, click here.
I caught up with Lyda Salatian at Green Teams Canada this week. Chawkers has funded a strategic planning process for this innovative Vancouver/Victoria community engagement group. In order to get volunteers engaged in outdoor work and environmental connection, GTC co-ordinates community work events in parks and conservation spaces, using social media apps for a lot of their outreach. At this point in GTC’s development, Lyda is running a three-pronged strategic review focussed on communication strategies, event evaluation and leadership development. And just like ecosystems, the goal is to make the organization sustainable and resilient. In the long term, the powerful Green Teams model will be replicated to other Canadian cities. This DSF video summarizes their model: https://youtu.be/XLGxBhSxH7M
For more information on Green Teams, or to register with their Meet-Up app, here’s the link.
Last week, I had a chance to drop in to the new office of Yellowstone to Yukon (Y2Y) in Canmore, Alberta, and have a coffee with Jennifer Hoffman and Stephen Legault. We’ve supported their work in land-use planning, and in wildlife corridor development, and we had a chance to talk about the recently completed work on Highway 3 in southern Alberta. Wildlife mortality was tracked with a new app that was used by land-owners, highway maintenance workers and local volunteers to identify the precise locations for wildlife underpasses. As you can see from the photo of the underpass construction, the big horn sheep are indeed ever present at the Crows Nest Lakes site, and this project is already a huge success story.
The strength of this work is the network of commitment that was established with all the community partners: the Ministry of Transportation, the highway maintenance company (Volker Stevin), the municipality, environmental groups and landowners.
This approach means that each project and site requires a lot of leg work and each has its own dynamics, but that said, there will be a lot of carry-over from this successful project. The wildlife-tracking app for example, will be used in northern BC next.
For more information on making Highway 3 wildlife-friendly, and on Y2Y, here’s the link.
On Tuesday, April 19, I spent the day at Osgoode Hall to hear the appeal of an Ontario Divisional Court decision on the Endangered Species Act. The appeal was launched by Ontario Nature, who were represented by Ecojustice lawyers, and we’ve supported both groups in their educational programs. At issue is the right of the cabinet to set regulations that give wide-ranging exemptions to major industries. ON argued that these exemptions are so broad that they gut the power of the Act and contradict the spirit and letter of the Act. We look forward to the decision.
On Saturday, we had a chance to visit the Ontario Nature Youth Leadership Summit where about 40 motivated, articulate young people from all over the province shared a weekend of leadership training and campaign planning.
Intriguingly, when I asked a group of the students if their respective high schools had environment clubs, many said that they did not. That only underlined the need for ON’s Youth Council, which was started in 2010, in giving young people a way to be involved and transformative on environmental issues. The outcome of the weekend (at the beautiful YMCA Cedar Glen camp) will be the choice of a priority issue for the Youth Council work in the coming year. The leadership group will stay in touch by conference calls every month to continue to plan events and campaigns throughout the year. The next big youth event is the Summit in September. We’re looking forward to it already.
For more information on the Youth Leadership program at ON, here’s the link.
One of the most important technical advances of the Industrial Revolution, and the ancestor of binary code use (by punch cards), is the Jacquard Loom, invented in France in the early 1800’s.
On Saturday, two of our directors (the two Jim O’Reilly’s) had a chance to visit one of our old projects: the Replica Jacquard Loom at Lang Pioneer Village Museum, south-east of Peterborough. In 2002 and in 2011, we funded the re-building of Jacquard looms that were used in the Peterborough area in the 1880’s by Samuel Lowry. In the 1900’s they fell into disrepair, came close to being destroyed, and were bought for $10 in 1956, by Mrs. Dini Moes. She in turn donated what was left of them to LPVM in 1973. Incredibly, at the time the re-build project started, there were only 5 Jacquard looms in North America and Lang Pioneer Village Museum had 2 of them! And fortuitously, there was an expert weaver and cabinetmaker, Didier Schvartz, in the community, who committed his skill and hundreds of hours to the project.
What a testament to the imagination and commitment of the LPVM community and the County of Peterborough: what started as the rebuilding of the looms has grown onto the Samuel Lowry Interpretive Centre for weaving, the Festival of Textiles and ongoing Master Classes in fabric arts and technology. Many groups and dozens of people contributed to this program, both financially and with huge amounts of volunteer time, and we are proud to have been a small part of it.
In June, I had a chance to sit in on one of the Animikiig workshops for young playwrights of First Nations/Metis/Innuit backgrounds. It’s a 2 year program with the goal of training playwrights to develop scripts for production. Some sessions are built around exercises, and some are readings and discussions, and I attended the reading/discussion of Blue Moon Girls, by Jessica Lea Fleming – the story of returning to a place of one’s youth, and remembering and confronting the reasons for leaving.
Isaac Thomas, the Executive Director of NEPA, lead the discussion and analysis, helping us examine the strongest images, scenes and themes of the work – a process which is exciting and exhausting at the same time.
All the participants in Animikiig collaborate with a dramaturg as well, and are working towards preparing pieces for the Young Voices night of the Weesageechak Begins to Dance Festival (November 9 – 22, 2015), which is a fantastic chance to see the best work of young indigenous playwrights.