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Happy Birthday me! Did you know….

Guess what?! It’s my birthday! And that is very exciting!

It’s been a fantastic Year 27 – highlights from the year included Stage Managing Snow White at Village Theatre, an amazing month in Europe to see my cousin Laura marry my new cousin-in-law Matteo on a little island off of Italy, followed by a great trip consisting of Greece, Switzerland, Portugal, Morocco and The Netherlands, a little family camping, a stroll along the top of the CN Tower, my first year directing the Start2finish Running & Reading Club at Bennetto Elementary in Hamilton with a focus on breaking the cycle of poverty in Canada, a great new opportunity with IKEA, and then I bought a condo!

Not bad, but let’s see if we can do better. “What’s next”, right?

Last year on my Birthday I talked about a campaign that was important to me, so you may have seen me mention the Rotary End Polio Now program. This year I wanted to talk about two fantastic organizations that I’m very pleased to be working with soon – the IKEA Foundation and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), so hang in there for a few minutes.

The IKEA Foundation just released their 2014 Annual Review where they highlight some of the amazing and critically important work that they do. They have helped over 178 million children across the globe. As a reminder, the latest estimates put the population of Canada at 35.16 million, and the world population somewhere in the area of 7.125 billion. That’s a lot of kids.

In 2014 they donated 104 million euros, 10 million of those euros given to help in emergencies and disasters. The IKEA Foundation may not be something you hear about every day, but I’m so proud to work for a company that has such a strong global focus, and I wanted to share that with you. While you can’t donate directly to the IKEA Foundation, right now there is a campaign on called the Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign which results in the IKEA Foundation donating 1 euro for every LED light bulb sold in IKEA stores across the world until March 28th.

If you need any LED bulbs, now might be the time to head to your local IKEA and purchase one. Oh, and please grab an extra one and stick it in the bin on the way out – they’re donated to an organization in your local community that needs them. You’ll also be helping our planet a bit, and at the end of the day – your pocket book.

So that’s a fantastic segue to the next organization that I wanted to highlight, which is the UNHCR. The money that’s collected from the Brighter Lives for Refugees campaign goes there – which in 2014 was 7.7 million euros. The IKEA foundation is the second largest private donor to the UNHCR, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help too.

What does the UNHCR do? I’ll borrow a phrase from them – Refugees are people just like you and me. Though they are faced with a grim choice – stay and die, or flee and risk imprisonment, rape, torture and forced recruitment by armed groups. UNHCR is the only organization mandated to act as a safety net and protect over 51 million of the most vulnerable people in the world.

They provide a tent for shelter, clean water, sanitation and vital health care. They could use some money if you’ve got any kicking around – which leads us to the donation page here. And even if you don’t have any money kicking around, now is a great opportunity to find out a bit more about what the UNHCR does!

This year I’m excited to have the opportunity to visit a UNHCR Refugee Camp, learning more about what they do and the impact that the IKEA Foundation has, seeing how I can bring that back and share it. I want to leave a mark on the world, and this year I want to continue and increase my focus on how I can do that. And I think this is a good start.

So thanks for reading this far, here’s to Year 28!

What’s next?

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