Martin C. Winer

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

Photo: From left to right, a local farmer, Evans Akanpol, Joseph Abobtey, Taha Tabish and Misbah-ul Haque

November 30, 2013

It isn’t easy to make a change, whether it be within yourself, the community, the environment or for those in need. It takes dedication, passion and a need to see an improvement for those who need it most. Taha Tabish and Misbah-ul Haque have these qualities.

Taha Tabish and Misbah-ul Haque became a huge part of each other’s lives when they started working to provide change to those in need. They met through their grandmothers, who met at their local Mosque while visiting from Pakistan.

In 2008, Misbah travelled to Ghana with Operation Groundswell, an organization that goes by the motto “backpacking with a purpose.” The knowledge and growth he attained during his travels lit a spark within him.

“The knowledge, the skills … Ghanaians could do things that I couldn’t do!” he said. Upon returning from his trip, Misbah was eager to travel again—and Taha was intrigued to go along.

In 2009, the two set off for Ghana. The trip inspired ideas for how they could meaningfully contribute to communities in need, and small conversations turned into big plans.

“We weren’t trying to come up with a grand idea,” Taha said. “It just happened.”

The two soon became great friends, and in 2010 they registered G-Roots, a not-for-profit organization in Canada and Ghana. Their mission is to help develop communities by instilling sustainable income methods with a focus on sustainable farming and irrigation.

The Canadian team consists of Taha, Misbah, their web developer Yun Sik Shin and the Director of Business Development, Steve Reiss. Evans Akanpol, the Program Coordinator, and Ghanaian Executive Director Joseph Abobtey are both Ghanaian representatives for G-Roots as well as the ambassadors for the Kadema community they work with in the Buliisa region of Northern Ghana.

Joseph had already been doing great things in his community for years before Taha and Misbah contacted him. Taha and Misbah first approached Joseph to discuss what needed the most attention in the region, and he quickly became the liaison between the community and the boys.

“It’s Joe’s baby,” Taha admits when speaking of G-Roots.

Misbah Haque

Misbah Haque working in the field in Ghana.

“Learning on the go” is how the boys describe the experience of creating G-Roots; however, Taha recently finished his Master’s in Public Health and Misbah graduated from York University’s International Development program.

Although the organization is still young, the research and growth that has been seen in Ghana and Canada is enormous. Numerous G-Roots volunteers have traveled to the Buliisa region during July and August over the past couple years to study the land quality and see what the farmers in this region need most. G-Roots aims to instill sustainable solar-based power and products into the community, which will save the farmers a lot of money in the future.

Taha and Misbah have been very fortunate with the help they’ve received from volunteers wanting to support their cause. The Toronto team is in the midst of planning their 100 Days of Change Campaign, a social media-based campaign aimed at raising funds for some of their new sustainable farming strategies such as solar irrigation and livestock while inspiring Toronto to step up and make positive changes in themselves and in their community. Set to launch January 1st, 100 Days of Change Campaign funding will be used to purchase livestock for the community.

Ghana’s dry season will bring many new reports and research for Taha and Misbah to start off the new year with further insight into their sustainable farming project.


Action Items:

1) Visit to learn more about the organization and/or to volunteer.

2) Join us to launch the 100 Days of Change Campaign. Visit or for details.

3) Do some research about the country of Ghana.

November 27, 2013

In Canada, 11,000 homeless youth call the streets home. But Toronto youth worker Jimmy Tobin fights every day to lower this number. While the rules of the city force shelters to turn youth away during daytime hours, Jimmy’s work allows the youth to stay in.

In 2011, Jimmy became the Horizons for Youth day program coordinator. An advocate for social justice, Jimmy’s background in education has allowed him to create both educational and skill-based programs. From 9 am to 4 pm, Jimmy offers youth the tools they need to succeed.

“I know that every day I go to work I have a chance to make someone feel better about their future, or at least about themselves,” said Jimmy. “I have a chance to learn from and be inspired by young people working to overcome some unbelievable challenges. I’m grateful to be in the presence of such resilience.”

Each year, Jimmy estimates that there are at least one thousand youth who participate in the day program. Not only do the workshops allow youth to escape the brisk winter, they also provide opportunities and guidance for self-sufficiency. The program has since added yoga, kickboxing, self-realization, song writing and workshops delivered from Toronto Public Health.

“I try and run workshops around their needs,” said Jimmy. “The most rewarding thing for me is seeing the youth take ownership of their lives. It’s when they are ready to go off on their own—that’s the best part.”

If not for Jimmy, many of Horizons’ youth may not have successfully transitioned out of the shelter system. Whether with youth or coworkers, Jimmy’s work makes a difference in Toronto.

“Jimmy has built amazing relationships with external partners to ensure our youth receive a variety of holistic programming, which not only helps improve their quality of life but also provides them with the skills to break out of the cycle of homelessness,” said Gilad Cohen, a Horizons colleague. “Whether it’s connecting our youth with health and fitness services, collaborating with artists or organizing health and employment workshops, Jimmy has really gone above and beyond—not because he has to, but because he cares.”

Action items:

  1. Check out Spotlight: Horizons, a local event on November 27th that will raise funds for Horizons for Youth
  2. Volunteer at Horizons for Youth
  3. Get into the holiday cheer by donating winter items to Horizons for Youth

April 16, 2012

Teenage girl and her family learn to live past diagnosis of terminal illness

The soft rays of the March afternoon sun stream into Emily Yeskoo’s Toronto living room, where she lies in bed.  She wears a white and pink striped t-shirt and her light brown hair falls over her right shoulder. The movie of choice for the day is Walt Disney’s Enchanted–Emily is an avid fan of Disney movies, as her vast movie collection will testify.

Nine years ago, her mother, Lindsey, would have been told that her daughter would not live to see her 19th birthday; in fact, it was predicted that she would not live more than three years. Last month marked the anniversary of when Lindsey first received Emily’s diagnosis–one that would change the lives of her and her family forever.

Emily was ten years old when she was diagnosed with Metachromatic Leukodystrophy (MLD), a neurodegenerative disease leading to the disintegration of white matter in the brain. It was a diagnosis that came in just 36 hours, after Emily had undergone many intensive tests. In no more than a couple of weeks, Emily would start to lose capacities, such as walking, swallowing, eating, and speaking.

The beginning symptoms of MLD were first noted by her mother at the age of eight. Lindsey knew something was wrong, when her normally quite energetic Emily would lose a bit of this energy for some periods in time. “Me being a mother, I knew right away,” She says. “You just know with your own child, if something is not quite right.” It was later turn out to be petit-mal seizures.

Lindsey instantly appreciated the shining qualities that made up Emily’s personality as a child. She says that she sees many of these same qualities present in Emily, to this day. “Anybody who knew Emily before knew that she had a zest for life,” Lindsey says. “In spite of her loss, she has developed and grown as a person incredibly.”

It was Emily’s touching story which would influence the name behind Emily’s House. This would be an expansion of hospice services offered by The Phillip Aziz Centre, to include a children’s residential hospice. It is the first of its kind in Toronto, and just one of six in Canada.

The groundbreaking ceremony on September 15 last year, revealed the specifics behind the planning of Emily’s House. The hospice centre is currently in construction, and hopes to open in November 2012. It will provide care for children in the last stages of an incurable disease, giving them improved quality of life. Emily’s House will provide respite care for family caregivers, pain and symptom management, and spiritual, grief and bereavement support.

Rauni Salminen, executive director of the Phillip Aziz Centre, says that she was deeply influenced by Emily. “I thought the house would appropriately be named Emily’s House, just because of her courage, her strength, [and] her faith,” she says. “It is honouring her, because Emily does represent so many other children and families who face similar challenges that she does and her family does.”

Lindsey has the support of her family. Her fourteen-year-old daughter Madeline, raised $30,000 for Emily‘s House, under what is known the Groundbreaking 18 Campaign, which she started last year. She hopes to get everyone to donate $18 to Emily’s House.

The family has faced many challenges due to the nature of Emily’s illness, requiring constant care. And, in regards to Emily’s health, there have been quite a few scares over the years. On more than one occasion, Emily had been on the brink of death. This was due to feeding complications.

Despite all this, Emily‘s radiant spirit lives on. “Emily’s life has been such an inspiration. She’s defied the odds at every turn, she has lived far beyond the diagnosis,” Lindsey says. “Emily lives it with such grace. She’s entirely responsive to the fact that something much bigger is happening.”

Action Items:




Episode 1: Examining Cancer Research and DCA. If a promising drug can’t get a patent, it risks never used in a patient.
Guests:  Drs. Akbar and Humaira Khan – Medicor Cancer Centres.

Further Information:


December 8, 2012

Giving Has Never Felt So Good
Being good doesn’t have to be boring. Spoil the people on your list with these trendy must-have gifts our managing editor Sophie Tolias has picked out (including some of your suggestions!) to make this season’s holiday shopping a little easier. The good news? These gifts are eco-friendly, socially responsible, educational, thoughtful, inspiring — and they keep on giving.

Shoes, Shades and Sweaters

TOMS Shoes (Women $55 to $175, Men $55 to $115, Youth $45, Tiny $35 to $38)
Try this on for fit: this holiday season give one and give one. For every pair purchased, TOMS will give a pair of shoes to a child in need. Now that’s the true spirit of giving! Available in botas, classics, cordones and cords, they have styles for women, men, youth and toddlers. TOMS has given over two million pairs of new shoes to children in need around the world. And because one good deed deserves another, TOMS is offering free shipping on all orders through December 31st.

TOMS Sunglasses ($109 To $179)
Give a pair of sunglasses and give the gift of sight. TOMS, known for their one-for-one footwear program, has a new line of pilot and wayfarer-style sunglasses. The one-for-one concept stays the same for these babies, but now each pair of shades gives a blind or sight-challenged person in need medical treatment, prescription glasses or sight-saving surgery. Amazing! And because one good deed deserves another, TOMS is offering free shipping on all orders through December 31st.

Preloved Sweater (prices vary)
This season, give the gift of warmth — preloved style! Preloved creates one-of-a-kind clothing from reclaimed vintage fabrics. Their passion is design; their philosophy is sustainability. Attention to fit, comfort and style has been their driving force. Along with women’s and men’s collections, Preloved has recently created a home line, an accessories line and a super cute children’s line. To further reduce their carbon footprint, the remnants left over from last year’s collections are reused in this year’s collections. Devotees of Preloved include Julia Roberts, Kirsten Dunst, Angela Lindvall, Hillary Duff, Maria Menounos, Anne Hathaway, Christine Horne, Kate Hudson and Daria Werbowy. Preloved, 881 Queen Street West,


Glitz and Glam

Akawelle Necklace ($100 to $250)
After being sent to a refugee camp in Ghana during the Liberian civil war in 1997, Lovetta Conto was chosen to join the Strongheart Fellowship. Through this entrepreneurial group, she created Akawelle (a combination of aka for “also known as,” and wel’le, the word for “love” in Kpelle, Lovetta’s tribal language), a line of jewelry made from the spent bullets of her country’s war. Handcrafted, the leaf pendant is made from melted bullet shells, the part left over after the bullet is fired. The bead is the actual bottom of the bullet shell. The word “life” is inscribed into the leaf to remind her and wearers that new life can begin after hardship. “Even something as ugly as a bullet that was fired in a war can be made beautiful if you are willing to work to change it into something else,” she says on her website. The necklaces have attracted fans like Halle Barry and Angelina Jolie. All profits go to Strongheart House, a home in Robertsport, Liberia for displaced children and other Strongheart fellows. In addition, a man who can no longer be a plumber because there’s no running water collects the casings for her and splits them open by hand, one at a time. She then buys them from him and he uses the money to send his children to school. Akawelle,

Artisan Glass Nugget Chain Cascades in Gold by Kyler by Joy O ($108)
Surprise the fashionista on your list with effortlessly chic and minimal eco-friendly jewelry worn by celebrities such as Jessica Alba, Anne Hathaway, Cameron Diaz, Eva Longoria and Emily Deschanel. Here, glimmering honey artisan glass nuggets accent a cascade of 14-karat recycled gold-fill chain on hand-formed angled earwires. The sustainable modern jewelry is handmade in the US with delicious recycled and recyclable materials like stainless steel, 14K gold fill, sterling silver, black zinc and artisan glass, all chosen with your closet and our planet in mind. This company is all about the environment, but not at the cost of your fabulous fashion sense! Kyler is the perfect balance of ecological and social responsibility without sacrificing style. Plus, for every order you place on their site, they use Cradle-to-Cradle certified boxes, they plant a tree through Global ReLeaf and you get a free eco-chic reusable shopping bag! Now that’s designer jewelry you can not only feel good wearing, but feel good about wearing. Available at Sustainable Spirit in Oakville, 2239 Blackbird Court, or

Altruette Charm (Silver: $75, Gold: $95)
Change the world with a charm! Half of the net profits from this charm benefit Architecture for Humanity, whose network of 40,000 professionals donate their time and expertise to projects such as constructing a football stadium in Rwanda or a women’s cooperative in India and rebuilding hurricane- and earthquake-damaged homes in New Orleans and Haiti. The Altruette concept is simple: 50 percent of the net profit from the sale of their charms goes to the causes they represent. Beyond financial support, wearing your Altruette charms help spread the word about great causes! Handcrafted from 100 percent recycled sterling silver and 14K gold plating, the charms are designed to symbolize the organization’s great work and each comes with a “cause card” that tells the consumer more about the non-profit it represents. Wear beautiful objects to further beautiful objectives — charming! Altruette,


Tech Toys

The Drop Bedol Water Alarm Clock ($31.99)
Bedol ClockGive the gift of time with an alarm clock that runs only on tap water! This eco-friendly timepiece is even shaped like a drop of water. It features a daily or hourly alarm and is easy to set 12 hour or 24 hour clock. Just unscrew the base and fill with tap water; it keeps perfect time without requiring batteries or electricity. The amazing technology converts ions in the water into clean energy power. A built-in memory chip remembers time so you don’t have to reset. Water is replaced every six months or so, and it’s simple and fun to do. Available in pink, blue, green, charcoal and purple, it measures 6 ½” tall by 3 ½” wide. Available at Grassroots, 372 Danforth Avenue or 408 Bloor Street West,

(PRODUCT) RED Apple Products ($29 and up)
Product RedIt’s likely you’ll be gifting something from Apple this year — maybe an iPod or an iPad case. If so, rather than going with something off the shelf, purchase one of these items from Apple’s (PRODUCT) RED line. (PRODUCT) RED works with companies like Apple to fight for an AIDS-free generation by 2015. A percentage of gross profits from the sale of those products go to the Global Fund to help fund AIDS programs in Africa. Since its introduction, (PRODUCT) RED has generated more than $190 million — more than $50 million from Apple alone — for the Global Fund. Now you can make an impact too, by purchasing a (PRODUCT) RED iPod shuffle, iPod nano, iPod touch, iPad Smart Cover, iPad Smart Case or iPhone Bumper.

Marley Jammin’ Smile Jamaica In-Ear Headphones ($39.99)
Reggae legend Bob Marley was a master of his craft, and the brand of headphones, earbuds and speaker docks that bears his name carries on that tradition of excellence. The House of Marley headphones are designed to reflect the philosophies of equality, unity, charity and sustainability, with a focus on creating high-quality products in the most ethical and environmentally friendly way. Music sounds even better on these colorful eco-friendly earbuds with noise isolation. Made from recycled plastic and FSC wood, the Smile Jamaica earphones have braided wire cords, which don’t tangle as much as standard plastic-coated ones. They also come with three sizes of ear tips for maximum comfort. The music shines through crisply and the bass vibrates. Marley products support 1Love, the Marley family charitable organization dedicated to supporting youth, planet and peace. Available at your nearest Future Shop location, or


For Foodies

Delight Handmade Organic Fair Trade Chocolate (Box of 12 Truffles: $25, Box of 24 Truffles: $47.50)
Delight ChocolateFor the chocolate lover on your list, Delight is sure to please. Their decadent chocolates are handmade using only all-natural, organic, fair trade and LFP (Local Food Plus) ingredients. Flavours range from classic to unusual: maple butter, vanilla bean, fig and balsamic and Quebec Blue Cheese. Delight chocolate is gluten free, and vegan specialties include almond orange, toasted hazelnut and grapefruit and chili. And it all comes in biodegradable, environmentally sustainable packaging. Double yum! Delight, 3040 Dundas Street West,   

Culinarium Gift Basket ($59 to $199)
This gourmet food store offers all-Ontario products: organic, natural or sustainable food products including cheeses, meats, frozen goods, snacks and more. To help you choose the perfect gift, they’ve gathered their best sellers, unique and exclusive items and staff favourites into a delightful and impressive gift basket collection. The Maple Lovers Tasting Trio ($59) gives the maple lover in your life the ultimate tasting trio: light, amber and dark maple syrups from Picton, Prince Edward County. This tasting experience comes complete with tasting notes, fun maple facts and usage tips. Tour of Ontario ($115) includes artisan foods from around Ontario — a little bit of everything to satisfy all tastes and to wow all eaters. The store uses reusable, biodegradable and recycled packaging. Culinarium, 705 Mount Pleasant Road,

Arvinda’s Indian Cooking Classes ($85)
Spice up your gift-giving this year and treat a loved one to an Indian cooking experience with one of Arvinda’s Indian cooking classes. Arvinda’s popular classes are the pre-eminent destination for learning traditional and healthy Indian cuisine from all regions of India. Mother-and-daughter duo Arvinda and Preena emphasize proper techniques, spices and regionality in their information-dense classes — a blend of cooking and culture not to be missed! There are eight classes to choose from, including Exquisite Indian Vegetarian, Curries, Curries and More Curries, and Rich and Creamy Butter Chicken. Or this holiday season gather family and friends for a memorable and delicious private cooking class (minimum eight people). Arvinda’s classes at Whole Foods Market in Oakville or Nella Cucina in Toronto,


For the Home or the Hostess

Nkuku Lolita Hand Painted Stainless Steel Bowl ($13.89)
These charming bowls look so pretty on display. Each one is hand painted by craftspeople from Kashmir, providing employment for these skilled artisans in their own homes. The vibrant colours and delicate birds make these a beautiful accessory and gift. They make lovely fruit and serving bowls, or they can be filled with bits and bobs, snacks and nibbles, or just for decoration. Available at Grassroots, 372 Danforth Avenue or 408 Bloor Street West,   

Inspirational Quote Eco Decor Pillow ($39.95)
inspirational quotes pillowGood for the environment and good for the soul, these luxuriously soft pillows are cozy and comforting. Hand stamped with antique wooden type, the ink is completely non-toxic. The edges of this pre-loved cotton pillow cover are finished with a tiny flange and an envelope opening allows a standard 12″ x 20″ pillow to be inserted. This company’s eco-practices include giving pre-loved fabric a second life and re-using dye bath and rinse water. And when it can no longer be used for the dye process, it goes in the garden. Goodlines,

Prairie Organic Vodka ($39.95)
Heading to a holiday party? Be social — and socially conscious! Prairie Organic Vodka is certified organic and kosher from field to bottle. It’s one of a handful of spirits certified kosher by the Orthodox Union and certified organic by the United State Department of Agriculture. The award-winning spirit is free of chemical pesticides, herbicides, genetically modified seeds and artificial fertilizers or enzymes. It’s also packaged in an unfrosted, recyclable glass bottle, packed in a cardboard box produced from sustainable forest wood pulp and uses organic ink on their paper labels. To really be the hit of the party, visit for a list of infusion recipes and show up with something really special. Available at an LCBO location near you,

Child’s Play

Earthopoly Game ($39.99)
earthopolyCelebrate the earth one turn at a time and play “monopoly” with an eco-twist. Players become the caretakers of wondrous locations around the planet, and then increase their property value by collecting Carbon Credits and trading them in for Clean Air. Game cards offer interesting property facts and helpful “Go Green” advice. This truly eco-friendly game is made from recycled paper and soy-based ink with natural or recycled game pieces. The glue used for this product is made from animal byproducts, the plastic tray is recyclable PET and the overwrap (shrinkwrap) for the box is a compostable plant-based product. For two to six players, ages eight and up, or six and up with assistance. It’s all fun and games until someone gets sent to the Dump! Choose your token and advance to Go Green. Available at Grassroots, 372 Danforth Avenue or 408 Bloor Street West,

Eco Saucer Flying Disc ($13.39) or Green Jump Rope ($15.99)
You probably never though you would see a flying disc made from recycled plastic milk jugs, did you? This groovy flyer makes that happen while saving energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. And happy jumpers will burn energy while saving energy and greenhouse gas emission with this jump rope made from recycled plastic milk containers and 100 percent cotton rope. BPA and phtalate friendly for environmentally friendly good times. Available at Grassroots, 372 Danforth Avenue or 408 Bloor Street West,

An Amazing Kids! PenPal ($10)
This season give your child the gift of friendship. The Amazing Kids! PenPals Program is a literacy-based traditional letter-writing pen-pal program available to all children ages five to 17 worldwide. It’s a fun way to help your child practice their literacy skills while opening their eyes to a larger world and other cultures and traditions outside their own, all while making a new friend.  Not only will they love getting letters in the mail, it will also help teach valuable interpersonal skills, self-confidence, empathy and understanding for someone outside of themselves. And who knows? It may be the beginning of a life-long friendship. The Amazing Kids! PenPals Program,


Still Stumped? For Those Who Have Everything

Goat from Oxfam Unwrapped ($58)
Why not gift a goat — a life-changing gift? When you buy a goat, sheep, donkey or chicken through Unwrapped, you are supporting Oxfam’s livelihoods programs. These gifts ensure communities have access to marketable products like milk, wool or eggs. Your gift also includes animal vaccinations, animal health training and instruction on marketing. A single goat can create greater self-sufficiency, self-esteem and educational opportunities for recipients and their families. The first female kid produced by your gift is given to another family so the magic can begin again. So how exactly do you gift a goat? You choose the gift on, you get a card to send to your relative, coworker, friend or client and your donation goes to those who need it most. Then you just wait for the phone call when your giftee gets a card that reads: I hope no one else bought you a goat this year! That’d be awkward. Oxfam Canada,

Adopt a Kermode Bear from WWF ($40)
The rare Kermode bear is a subspecies of the American black bear. Known as Spirit bears, one out of every ten has a unique cream-coloured coat. Habitat destruction is the biggest threat faced by the Kermode bear. When you symbolically adopt a species at risk, you’re giving an extraordinary gift while supporting WWF’s conservation efforts. Gift recipients will get a fun and educational adoption kit, including a personalized adoption certificate, a high-quality wildlife plush and collector card, a recycled gift bag and details on the work this gift will help support. WWF,

A Letter From You (Priceless!)
Yes, you read that correctly — a good old-fashioned handwritten letter. Chances are, a handwritten letter will be cherished more than a store-bought gift would be. It’s one of the most personal gifts you can give someone. The letter will be read more than once and cherished for years to come. Worried about writer’s block? Don’t be. Just tell them how you feel about them and what they mean to you. Share your favourite memories of them. Tell them what you admire about them and how they inspire you.

%d bloggers like this: