Martin C. Winer

This is what happens when Martin gets tired of sending mass emails.

September 16, 2014

Mehak Bhansali already has plans to change the world, and she just entered high school.

This 14-year-old girl is the Mississauga Ambassador for the Peace Welcome Club (PWC), founded in 2012 to help young newcomers to the country find volunteer opportunities within the GTA.

“I got to know the PWC through a newspaper article and thought it would be a great opportunity for me by joining,” Mehak explained, the eagerness in her voice apparent.

The first thing Mehak wanted to do with the club was put together a book drive for kids in third world countries. Along with the students at her school, Mehak was easily able to surpass her goal of 250, collecting over 750 books.

“Every kid needs a book to read, even in third world countries, and having a book to call your own is really great, so I decided that, with my class, we could start a book drive.”

It’s easy to tell that Mehak is passionate about raising awareness for children in third world countries, as well as youth who are new to Canada. With an open mind and an open heart, she finds it easy to overlook cultural boundaries and get involved in anything she wants to.

As for future aspirations, she is interested in started her own company to help other people around the world. “”I want to help them get on their feet, have a good life.”

A newcomer to Canada herself, Mehak and her family came from India about 10 years ago, when Mehak was just four. As the youngest ambassador of PWC, she has accomplished quite a bit within her term and hopes to continue her role into the New Year.

“She has gone above and beyond what her age requires; youth her age don’t normally go out of their way to do community service. She showcases a lot of leadership and initiative and is an integral part of the community,” said Harnoor Gill, founder of PWC, about Mehak.

Harnoor is just as keen as Mehak about renewing her role for 2015.

“We definitely hope that she does renew her ambassador role, as she is extremely giving and caring and extremely powerful.”

Mehak’s long term goal with the PWC is to introduce a fundraiser to raise money and awareness for First Nations by selling art made by the students. Additionally, she wants to sell shirts with the PWC logo as well as a slogan to support people in third world countries.

She has experience working with fundraisers through the Girl Guides of Canada, and, in addition to PWC, her philanthropic efforts run from helping people with disabilities to running a book drive for the children’s book bank to volunteering at the Newcomer Centre of Peel, at the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup and as a helper for her local MPP’s barbecue.

Needless to say, Mehak has the volunteer gene, through and through. She is dedicated to giving her services to people who need it—whether it’s picking up garbage off the shore or giving a book to someone who doesn’t have one, she knows where she is needed, and the best part is that she wants to be there.

“She has put in a lot of effort and has done a great deal of things for such a young age,” Harnoor echoed.

Mehak’s simple goal? “I want to make a change in the community and raise money for people that need help.”

Action Items:

1. For more information on the Peace Welcome Club, visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/PeaceWelcomeClub

2. Listen to Harnoor Gill, founder of PWC, chat about World Peace at We Day in Waterloo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j6Mm9g5oND0

3. Encourage youth to get involved in their community to make a difference – one step at a time

September 16, 2014

Being a resident of the Greater Toronto Area requires a certain level of comfort with public transportation. Fellow Torontonians are no strangers to the sticky, stuffy and often delayed conditions of the YRT, TTC and the like. However, the perks of these methods of transportation are inarguable, and so must be paid their dues.

Given the constant talk surrounding climate change, pollution and global warming, any method of helping clean up the environment helps. The buses and subways work as one giant carpool, taking thousands of people out of their own respective pollution-emitting automobiles and placing them into one elongated vehicle.

Adding to the environmental benefits is the highlight of every voyage: people -watching. It is no secret that Toronto is a city famous for its diversity and rich culture. Predicting who, or what, you’ll see is impossible, and more often than not you’ll be left pleasantly surprised.

***

Already out of breath, I push myself to walk faster. I can feel my heart beating furiously in my chest as I place one foot in front of the other, my skirt billowing around my ankles. I can’t be late. Approaching the end of the street, I can already see the bus stop. I let out a deep sigh of relief. Pausing for a moment to mentally pat myself on the back and catch my breath, I look up just in time to see the 105A pull up to the bus stop that is still several metres away. In a mad dash, I head for the vehicle, reaching it just in time. With lightning speed I flash the driver my GTA pass and make my way toward one of the few available seats.

Trying to blend into typical commuter fashion, I don my headphones and allow my music to replace the thrum of incoherent conversations. For a while I remain oblivious to what is happening around me, focusing only on the soulful lyrics playing directly into my ears and enjoying the soothing sound of the acoustic guitar. Yet in mere minutes I snap out of my reverie as my curiosity urges me to look around the bus and inspect my surroundings further.

This particular morning, the bus is filled with what appears to be high school students. As I pay closer attention, I realize I can hear their voices over my music, gossiping about the latest back-to-school drama that has clearly captured their interest. Aside from students, there are many well-dressed men and women carrying briefcases and furiously typing on their cell phones. I spot several women travelling with young children, effortlessly making them giggle, which proves to be entertaining enough to keep them in their seats.

The unmistakable ding of the stop request button goes off, and seconds later, the bus comes to a halt. The throng of students rushes off. The remaining passengers look around to realize that the bus is almost empty. Everyone, including myself, shifts in their seats to make themselves more comfortable. It is precisely at this moment that I notice the man sitting across from me.

He appears to be in his mid-50s. Even sitting down, his larger frame appears to be of above average height. He is dressed in a cornflower-blue t-shirt, navy blue shorts with a red streak running down each side and white sneakers. His fair skin is complemented by a full white beard, which draws attention to his bright blue eyes. In his left hand, he grips a long wooden cane. His right hand, trembling slightly, clutches a folded-up newspaper. Keeping to himself, he begins to slowly unfold the paper and immerses himself in the contents within.

I tear my attention away from the man and continue listening to my music. Several stops later, the bus has come to a halt once more. Two young men, likely in their early 20s, are trying to board the bus. The first of the two has no trouble doing so. His skinny frame stands, head cocked to the right, as he impatiently waits for his friend to join him. The second man, visibly larger than the first, appears to be having an argument with the driver. Contrary to his tough, muscular exterior, the second man looks scared, clearly worried that he won’t be allowed to get on the bus.

I watch, unsure of what to do, barely able to hear the driver through my music. Suddenly, a third voice confidently pierces through the crowd.

“Young fellow!” a male voice calls. It is the man sitting across from me. I see him reaching toward the front of the bus from his seat, holding a handful of change in the palm of his hand. “Young fellow, how much do you need?” he repeats.

There is no response from the young man at the front, who likely can’t hear the kind man’s offer over the rest of the noise. A minute later, looking slightly perplexed, the muscular young man is making his way toward a seat at the back, having sorted out his issue with the driver. It is only then that he notices the outstretched arm of the man with the cane. He gratefully thanks him, but lets him know that it has been taken care of. Within seconds, the bus starts moving and everything goes back to normal, as if nothing happened.

Watching the situation unfold before me, I can’t help but feel touched that one man was willing to help out a complete stranger on the bus by paying his fare. Settling back into my seat once more, I feel a smile creep onto my face. I feel rejuvenated, a small bit of my faith in humanity restored.

It is these small, innocent, sometimes seemingly insignificant acts that continue to perpetuate kindness and good in human beings every single day.

The headlines that make the nightly news make it hard to ignore all the negativity that surrounds us. Yet people like this man, who are willing to go out of their way to help out a complete stranger, show that there is still enough good in the world to go around. Even the bus, a service so commonplace and impersonal, is made heartwarming, just because of the unexpected kindness one may find.

September 16, 2014

Being a resident of the Greater Toronto Area requires a certain level of comfort with public transportation. Fellow Torontonians are no strangers to the sticky, stuffy and often delayed conditions of the YRT, TTC and the like. However, the perks of these methods of transportation are inarguable, and so must be paid their dues.

Given the constant talk surrounding climate change, pollution and global warming, any method of helping clean up the environment helps. The buses and subways work as one giant carpool, taking thousands of people out of their own respective pollution-emitting automobiles and placing them into one elongated vehicle.

Adding to the environmental benefits is the highlight of every voyage: people -watching. It is no secret that Toronto is a city famous for its diversity and rich culture. Predicting who, or what, you’ll see is impossible, and more often than not you’ll be left pleasantly surprised.

***

Already out of breath, I push myself to walk faster. I can feel my heart beating furiously in my chest as I place one foot in front of the other, my skirt billowing around my ankles. I can’t be late. Approaching the end of the street, I can already see the bus stop. I let out a deep sigh of relief. Pausing for a moment to mentally pat myself on the back and catch my breath, I look up just in time to see the 105A pull up to the bus stop that is still several metres away. In a mad dash, I head for the vehicle, reaching it just in time. With lightning speed I flash the driver my GTA pass and make my way toward one of the few available seats.

Trying to blend into typical commuter fashion, I don my headphones and allow my music to replace the thrum of incoherent conversations. For a while I remain oblivious to what is happening around me, focusing only on the soulful lyrics playing directly into my ears and enjoying the soothing sound of the acoustic guitar. Yet in mere minutes I snap out of my reverie as my curiosity urges me to look around the bus and inspect my surroundings further.

This particular morning, the bus is filled with what appears to be high school students. As I pay closer attention, I realize I can hear their voices over my music, gossiping about the latest back-to-school drama that has clearly captured their interest. Aside from students, there are many well-dressed men and women carrying briefcases and furiously typing on their cell phones. I spot several women travelling with young children, effortlessly making them giggle, which proves to be entertaining enough to keep them in their seats.

The unmistakable ding of the stop request button goes off, and seconds later, the bus comes to a halt. The throng of students rushes off. The remaining passengers look around to realize that the bus is almost empty. Everyone, including myself, shifts in their seats to make themselves more comfortable. It is precisely at this moment that I notice the man sitting across from me.

He appears to be in his mid-50s. Even sitting down, his larger frame appears to be of above average height. He is dressed in a cornflower-blue t-shirt, navy blue shorts with a red streak running down each side and white sneakers. His fair skin is complemented by a full white beard, which draws attention to his bright blue eyes. In his left hand, he grips a long wooden cane. His right hand, trembling slightly, clutches a folded-up newspaper. Keeping to himself, he begins to slowly unfold the paper and immerses himself in the contents within.

I tear my attention away from the man and continue listening to my music. Several stops later, the bus has come to a halt once more. Two young men, likely in their early 20s, are trying to board the bus. The first of the two has no trouble doing so. His skinny frame stands, head cocked to the right, as he impatiently waits for his friend to join him. The second man, visibly larger than the first, appears to be having an argument with the driver. Contrary to his tough, muscular exterior, the second man looks scared, clearly worried that he won’t be allowed to get on the bus.

I watch, unsure of what to do, barely able to hear the driver through my music. Suddenly, a third voice confidently pierces through the crowd.

“Young fellow!” a male voice calls. It is the man sitting across from me. I see him reaching toward the front of the bus from his seat, holding a handful of change in the palm of his hand. “Young fellow, how much do you need?” he repeats.

There is no response from the young man at the front, who likely can’t hear the kind man’s offer over the rest of the noise. A minute later, looking slightly perplexed, the muscular young man is making his way toward a seat at the back, having sorted out his issue with the driver. It is only then that he notices the outstretched arm of the man with the cane. He gratefully thanks him, but lets him know that it has been taken care of. Within seconds, the bus starts moving and everything goes back to normal, as if nothing happened.

Watching the situation unfold before me, I can’t help but feel touched that one man was willing to help out a complete stranger on the bus by paying his fare. Settling back into my seat once more, I feel a smile creep onto my face. I feel rejuvenated, a small bit of my faith in humanity restored.

It is these small, innocent, sometimes seemingly insignificant acts that continue to perpetuate kindness and good in human beings every single day.

The headlines that make the nightly news make it hard to ignore all the negativity that surrounds us. Yet people like this man, who are willing to go out of their way to help out a complete stranger, show that there is still enough good in the world to go around. Even the bus, a service so commonplace and impersonal, is made heartwarming, just because of the unexpected kindness one may find.

September 15, 2014

In this new monthly column Azraa Janmohamed will share inspirational personalities in various realms from a 20-something’s perspective.

Live. Laugh. Love. It is perhaps one of the most simple yet most powerful sayings I know. Today, as I begin this new chapter, I’d like to focus on the second of these three powerful words. Laugh. Look around you: it’s everywhere—at the dining room table, in the classroom, in the workspace and even on the street. While laughter is an integral part of our daily lives, there are a few people that have it down to a fine art: comedians.

Mindy Kaling: Maybe you’ve heard her name from her role in the famous sitcom The Office (the American version), or perhaps you’re a fan of her newest show, The Mindy Project, which she helps produce, direct and write. The show follows a group of OB/GYN physicians in their trials and tribulations at work, as friends, and within their romantic lives. The inspiration for the show stems from Mindy’s mother’s practice as an OB/GYN. Mindy began her comedic career during her time at Dartmouth as an undergraduate, participating in the school’s comedy troupe and growing to create a comic strip for the college newspaper. Mindy has, over the years, diversified her creative portfolio to include various comic media, including both acting and writing—a feat that is relatively unique for an ethnic women in a male-dominated field to have achieved. So what is it that we can all learn from Mindy? Besides showing us that a contagious laugh will take you far, Mindy shows us that it’s possible to explore your interests, talents and hobbies through various media and to excel in each one. Today, Mindy has been able to conquer the worlds of comedic writing, acting and producing, taking inspiration from anything and everything around her.

Russell Peters: Perhaps one of the most famous Canadian comedians of this day and age, Russell Peters has made his mark both nationally and internationally, being the first comedian to sell out the ACC in 2009. Russell is perhaps best known for his style of observational comedy, using humor as a medium to highlight stereotypes of ethnic, racial and class standards. He is particularly known for his various accents. He has taken inspiration from his own upbringing in an Indian immigrant family in Canada. Russell Peters has had a relatively long career in the world of comedians, and is an inspiration to all people. He reminds us that in a world filled with political correctness and legalities, sometimes it pays to be able to make a little fun of yourself.

No matter where we look, humour is always around us. We can draw humorous inspiration from nearly anything, as illustrated by my personal comedic heroes, Mindy Kaling and Russell Peters.

September 15, 2014

In this new monthly column high school student Lani Uyeno will share her perspective of trending events and happenings.

#ALSIceBucketChallenge. You’ll see this hashtag all over the world, being used on the news and social media. On June 30, 2014, the Golf Channel aired a live performance of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge with people from the Morning Drive show dumping ice-filled cold water on themselves. Since then, #ALSIceBucketChallenge has taken the world by storm, with posts spamming your social media feeds, morning TV broadcasting live challenges and celebrities putting their own spins on the dare.

The #ALSIceBucketChallenge might be trending worldwide, but do you really know what ALS is about? Also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a disease affecting the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. When these nerve cells die, the brain can’t control the muscles, so all movement is lost. Eventually, in later stages of the disease, the patient can become paralyzed. In 2011, only 2,500-3,000 people lived with ALS in Canada. Once diagnosed with the disease, only 10% will live for more than 10 years with it. Most ALS cases are caused by genetics, but 5-10% of ALS cases are caused by head trauma, military service, frequent drug use and contact sports. There is no cure yet.

You probably already know what the challenge is, but if not, here it is. Once nominated, you have 24 hours to do the challenge, which involves filming yourself thanking your nominator, nominating other people and then dumping a bucket of ice water on your head. If you choose not to pour ice water on your head, you are supposed to donate $100 to ALS through their website, http://www.alsa.org. The simplicity of the challenge is probably one of the main reasons it’s so popular—and, made famous in the summer, it’s an easy way to cool off!

While most people just pour water on their heads, some celebrities have taken different approaches to the challenge. Charlie Sheen, instead of wasting water, filled up a bucket with enough bills to accumulate $100,000 and poured that on his head. He then donated all the money to ALS research. Miley Cyrus, mishearing ice for rice, did the “Rice Bucket Challenge,” and dumped a bucket of rice on her head. Quite frequently, celebrities will donate to the cause as well as doing the challenge.

Over $100 million has been raised so far, and the donations are still coming in. The ALS association said that over 30 million people have donated to the cause so far. The ice bucket challenge has proven to be a great method for fundraising. Not only is it different from other fundraising techniques, such as going door to door, but it’s also a fun way to cool down, and it’s funny for you and your friends to watch! Even after the trend slows or stops, I think it’s still important for us to think about these lesser known diseases. Even though not as many people are affected, they still need funding, and a small donation can make a huge difference.

 

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