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"A thousand mile journey begins with one step"

Archive for April 2011


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Me with the man himself

Today, I went to Downtown Toronto to hear Dr. David Suzuki (got a picture with him and got my book signed! woot) do a speech for the first time. I was so amazed at his ability to articulate things and just get his message across (it may have to do with his status as a global icon but this is the reason why he is one).

He talked about a whole wide range of topics of the usual saving the environment talk but what really captures the essence of his speech is how man has become a “force of nature”. We have become the most disruptive species on the planet and we definitely have to do something about that to sustain our future for our children. What we are doing is suicidal.

He goes to describe how our situation is suicidal as an analogy using bacteria.  One bacterium (human) in a test tube (planet) that exponentially grows every minute. One minute after, there’s 2 bacteria,  minute after again, 4 bacteria and so on. At the 59-minute mark, the test tube is half filled, suddenly at the 60-minute mark it is full. At the 61-minute mark bacteria another test tube is full, and at 62-minutes four test tubes are full.

Unless, we keep finding planets to exhaust resources from, what we are doing is not sustainable. There’s a consensus among scientists that we are past the 59-minute mark, we must start changing our ways or we kill of our own species because our only planet can only take so much.

“So all those leaders saying that we have to keep the economy growing are saying we have to accelerate down what is a suicidal path.”

“We have to put the eco back in economics”

Our survival, sustainability and environment are above making money and we need to realize and act on this.

Fun fact: economy comes from the word ecology


Written by Elvin Madamba

April 9, 2011 at 8:31 PM

Posted in Environmental, Events

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“The mission at Scott Mission” by Nicole Maylor

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Young humanitarians in action!

February 25, 2011


TORONTO, Ontario

The students of the Humanitarian Experiential Leadership Program took on a mission at the Scott Mission serving the homeless and people in need.

“ When we walked through the doors everyone seemed very friendly!” Said Sofia Becerra before the day began.

The students are involved in a number of humanitarian activities but they are very passionate about helping the homeless. They did a number of tasks that day that impacted the lives of others in a greater way then they could ever imagine.

Many students had smiles on their faces throughout the day, loving what they were doing.

“The Scott Mission is a place you can count on for the simplest of things” Said Sarah Smibert, a student in the program.e

All of the students passionately believed in the change they were making and came together to make that change as a team when they divided up the tasks of the day.

The day consisted of helping out in the day care, preparing meals for the homeless, serving meals for the homeless, and cleaning up afterwards.

“I enjoyed being able to spend time serving people.” Said Sofia Becerra at the end of a long day’s work.

The students understood the meaning of the word poverty that day through the different people that came into the Scott Mission for support. Seeing all types of people from all different walks of life really put things in perspective. I was an insightful day for an egar class of students ready to help.


Written by Elvin Madamba

April 8, 2011 at 2:26 PM

“H.E.L.P! up in the air” by Sofia Becerra

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The students of the Humanitarian Experiential Leadership Program put their skills to the test at Adventureworks

February 23, 2011

S. Becerra

HAMILTON, On – Through many exciting activities, the H.E.L.P. students of Romero enjoyed taking on the challenges that they were faced with yesterday at an interactive leadership facility, Adventureworks, to develop their team building, trust and communication skills.

After having been together for only 2 weeks, the students continued to get to know each other a little better through this experience. It started off with some stimulating warm up activities planned by the facilitators, Shawn Stetson and Adam Brown.

They got through these challenges without too much struggle by communicating and working together to achieve the best results in  endeavors such as building a three dimensional cube from pool noodles.

After lunch the students bundled up and headed outside to play some more games and use the lycra tube, similar to a very large elastic band.

“It was fun when we worked together to get the patterns down so we could bounce around really fast inside of it [the lycra tube],” student, Nigel Samaroo said.

the tube was a great way to to build are communication skillls with eachother it was awsoem to see how we call came together not worrying about how close or we were or who we were with we just worked together to complete are taskNext up the greatest challenge of the day came: high ropes.

Stetson and Brown instructed the students on how to put their harnesses on and tie all the appropriate knots. This would keep them safe once they were up 30 feet in the air secured only by a rope and the belay team on the ground.

Heading into the woods, they reached the courses, and started climbing. Working together in pairs, they climbed up about 30 feet on the steps created on the side of a tree. Shuffling across a thin metal rod with wooden poles spaced out they managed to get to the other tree by using their communication skills and trusting in one another.

“It was scary, I mean, I couldn’t even do it. These guys who went up there, it’s unbelievable,” student, Elvin Madamba, said. “It was fun to watch the team grow as we supported each other,” he said.

Written by Elvin Madamba

April 8, 2011 at 2:25 PM

Posted in "Newspaper" articles, Events

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“Climbing above fear!” by Nicole Maylor

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Romero students take charge

February 14, 2011

N. Maylor

TORONTO, Ontario

Overcoming fear was the main event of the day for the students of the H.E.L.P! (Humanitarian Experiential Learning Program) Program while they rose to the occasion of the rising walls at the Rock Oasis.

“ I always wanted to give rock climbing a shot, but i was afraid and what does rock climbing have to do with leadership? I thought.” said Elvin Madamba, student of H.E.L.P!, before the day began.

A large portion of the H.E.L.P! program is leadership. At the rock Oasis, the students not only learned how to communicate better through directive communication, but they also learned how to be leaders of themselves by pushing past their limitations, before they can take on leadership in others.

“ I was really excited because it was a fun activity, where we all helped each other out and pushed our boundaries.” said Raphaella do Carmo, students of H.E.L.P!, in between climbing walls.

The tasks of the day were created to give the students an opportunity to push themselves to see the potential that we all have inside of us. This was a great lesson for the students to learn, also considering that it was still early in the semester.

Fear is something that can cripple a person. With all of the components of the day being such great lessons, they also fall secondary to the main lesson learned which was overcoming fear which was exhibited through another student.

“What an exhilarating activity! I was nervous at the start but I’m glad that I allowed myself to overcome my fears. I’m really proud of myself!” Said Nigel Samaroo after the experience.

Written by Elvin Madamba

April 8, 2011 at 2:24 PM

Posted in "Newspaper" articles, Events

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“Student leaders ‘HELP’ tend sheep”

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Humanitarian Experiential Leadership Program (H.E.L.P.) students volunteer at the Good Shepherd Centre

February 12, 2011


TORONTO – Students from the Humanitarian Experiential Leadership Program (H.E.L.P.) tackled their first venture of the second semester as they captured the essence of volunteerism at The Good Shepherd Centre in Downtown Toronto yesterday morning.

“We learned about poverty and hunger in class but have never actually seen it in person,” said Raphaella Do Carmo, one of the student leaders. “At the Good Shepherd we get to see that and even help the cause”.

The students were involved in a myriad of activities including, food supply sorting, packing, and lunch preparation.

Students learned the challenging, everyday lives of marginalized citizens. They also witnessed the efforts of The Good Shepherd Centre to alleviate the burden of hunger, homelessness and poverty in the community of Toronto.

“People [at the Good Shepherd Ministries] do not judge,” another student, Sarah Smibert said, “they let anybody in and they try to make a positive change in people’s lives”.

James Scott Neil, the young leaders’ advisor, aimed to physically showcase the true adversities of poverty and homelessness to the students as it had been discussed in class.

“I felt great donating my time to such a great cause” another student, Nicole Maylor said.

Neil planned to take the students back to The Good Shepherd twice more, on April 21 and May 13; immersing the students further in the issues of poverty and hunger in a local setting.

“Experience is the best teacher; and experience in ‘lending a helping hand’ is especially more invaluable. It teaches our kids strong foundations of selflessness. With that said, the future is in good hands,” said Vicente Madamba, parent of a student leader.

The Good Shepherd Centre located at 412 Queen Street East. It is a place that offers food, shelter, clothing and other services to people of need; free of charge.

The meal program of the Good Shepherd is the largest in Toronto, serving more than 1,100 meals every day. It has also distributed more than 26,000 items in clothing for free in a year.

Written by Elvin Madamba

April 8, 2011 at 1:34 PM

Wood you take a water sample in that River?

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HELP leaders posing at the Riverwood signage

HELP leaders strike a pose at the front of the Riverwood Conservancy

Nature is, without a doubt, magnificent. It is the roots of our existence. In it we can find the diverse range of beautiful plants and animals. We tap much of our resources from nature; our food, our water, our clothes and literally everything is attributed to nature, our environment. However, you would think we would take extra care of our environment; we unfortunately do not do a sufficient job at this. Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution with the advancements in agriculture, manufacturing, transportation and technology, we have corrupted and degraded our environment. So, when does all the madness stop? The answer is simple; it starts in our own communities.

On March 31, 2011, the H.E.L.P. (Humanitarian Experiential Leadership Program) class (which I am obviously a part of) were accompanied by Mr. James Scott Neil, our advisor, to the Riverwood Conservancy in Mississauga (it is located on 4300 Riverwood Park Lane).

We were there for the purpose of escaping the hustle and bustle of the city; getaway from the pollution, the noise, the lights, the technology. We were there to pay homage to our only planet in all of its natural glory.Through bird watching and counting and bioswale examination, we were able to achieve those intents and more.

Educator Candra Schanck showing HELP the birds existing in Riverwood

Candra Schank, Riverwood’s resident researcher and educator, together with two volunteers showed us around the park, the animals and plants that take habitat there. She led us to bird watching, identifying, feeding and counting and water quality testing in bioswales, ponds, storm drain and river. With those, she also shared with us the city’s initiative on water research and quality improvement.

Besides being able to enjoy and learn about the magnificence of nature, we contributed to the national bird count. By examining the population of different bird species at a given time or season of year, it potentially uncovers the effects of climate change on these birds (ie. some birds migrate earlier or later because birds are heavily affected by climate and the most subtle change can either delay or advance migrations). We begin to understand better that the little changes in our climate that we may deem irrelevant can have huge implications on wildlife (birds for this instance). The effects on birds can ultimately affect us humans. “What happens to the successful pollination of our plants (primary source of food) when the birds are erratically migrating in and out of the country”? Furthermore, We examined the effectiveness of the bioswales in the Conservancy. The bioswale can be means of reusing and recycling waste water. It filters out harmful substances to the environment. More importantly, we learned that there are alternatives and ways in remedying our negative impact on water and the environment itself.

The activities we did at Riverwood spark our drive to educate the people that we need to stop degrading and destroying our environment; we need to sustain it for future generations, so they too can bask in its splendour.

Tom Mills determining the pH level of the water at the Credit River.

Being there, seeing the people that work there enjoy their jobs and having the kick from educating people, it makes me really want to pursue my dreams of doing my part to protect our environment and sustain it for the future. I already do my best in minimizing my ecological footprint and impart my knowledge and wisdom to other people but experiencing nature with like-minded people makes me feel more comfortable that there is a green future awaiting us. The trip down to Riverwood was a reinforcement of what we have already learned in the classroom (but we did learn some new sweet stuff to go with that, like the implications of bird migration patterns on climate change or bioswales can potentially aid our drying clean fresh water supply); but it was also a catalyst for things a-brewing. We have numerous eco-projects coming up and experiencing nature and the environment on a face-to-face interaction and learning our indirect influences on birds and water; it gives us a sense of concrete responsibility. “Oh! This is why we are doing this and that”, “We got to act now”, “Nature is really, really beautiful, it would be a shame for it to get overrun”. These are some of things that are definitely running through our heads right now.

About Riverwood Conservancy:

Sofia Becerra feeding a Chickadee

It was founded in 1985 as the Mississauga Garden Council. However, the name was changed in 2009 to Riverwood Conservancy to better reflect its mission of environmental education and stewardship.

The Riverwood Conservancy is a volunteer/member based charitable organization. As mentioned, it focuses on environmental education and stewardship but specifically in areas such as gardening, horticulture, and wildlife and plant preservation.

Its park is open to the public of Mississauga and surrounding areas. Riverwood offers several programs in relation to its mission; some examples are education programs for all ages of people, gardening programs, bird watching, deer tracking and general stewardship.

Check out the rest of the pictures of us at the Riverwood Conservancy.

Written by Elvin Madamba

April 3, 2011 at 10:39 PM

It’s our turn to give Bread

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HELP leaders at the Daily Bread Food Bank

Last February, H.E.L.P. (Humanitarian Experiential Leadership Program) and I were at The Good Shepherd and The Scott Mission to experience firsthand what it is like to serve the poor and the needy. Also, we learned the daily struggles of these people and the importance of acting upon empathy and making a difference in our small ways. With that, we have become quite accustomed of the face of poverty.

HELP leaders busy sorting food

Having said all of that, one of the greater challenges of poverty is the instability of food supply. With lacking food supply there is the possibility of going hungry. Of course, I am not talking about the hungry feeling you get after you had not had something to eat for 3 hours, I am talking about real hunger, going without proper nutrition for days. So, on March 24, 2011, our advisor Mr. James Scott Neil took us down to Toronto (191 New Toronto St.) in the Daily Bread Food Bank to immerse ourselves the topic of hunger in a local setting. Sure, we donate food all the time (I sure hope we all do) and we all feel good about that, but being actually there is a different sentiment altogether. It gives a greater sense of appreciation of how privileged we truly are; it makes us realize that we should share our gifts because everyone has the right to live and food is a prerequisite for that.

Once we were there, we were greeted by Melissa Mascarin, the Outreach and Communications Coordinator at the Daily Bread. She gave us insight as to what they do in the food bank and she gave us information and statistics too. After that, she took us to our stations where we worked; there we:

  • Took donated food and goods out of boxes
  • Sorted the food to its respective categories
  • And repack them

Also, she took us to a tour of the warehouse, showing us around, explaining the other great stuff they do there.

Me and Sofia enjoying our work

As volunteers, we were there not because it was part of the program’s curriculum; we were there because we are youth filled with passion and determined to “end hunger in our community”. By generously giving our time, we contribute to the good intents of the Daily Bread Food Bank. After volunteering for three similar organizations now, it still gives me great hope that there are people out there who are striving so hard to improve other people’s lives. To work with such people, it makes me see that absolutely anyone can make a difference. Giving out a couple cans of food means the whole world to the people benefitting from it. Sure, that may not sound a lot, but I really believe it now that it is more than what we credit it for. In reality, that is a lot, think about it. Remember folks, “the ocean was formed from single drops of rain”. It reminds us that we are never alone and together there is nothing we cannot accomplish.

The Daily Bread Food Bank snippets:

The Daily Bread Food Bank “is a non-profit, charitable organization that is

The Daily Bread's slogan: "Fighting to end hunger in our communities"

fighting to end hunger in our communities”. It was founded in early 1983 after numerous people were concerned at the rising levels of poverty and hunger in Toronto. A central organization was formed to solicit and then distribute food. The first Executive Director was Sister Marie Tramblay. She was also a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph. In the fall of that year, incorporation of the Daily Bread Food Bank was made official and it received its first food at Christmas. Today, the Daily Bread Food Bank is the largest food bank in Canada and it operates through neighbourhood food banks in 170 agencies. It operates solely on donations and fundraising. Thousands of volunteers come through the Daily Bread; they keep the salary costs down and are able to provide support through food sorting and administration. Besides providing relief in food, the Daily Bread Food Bank also houses and shelter, provide ‘Food Services Training’ for people facing barriers in labour, conduct research and do public education. People such as you and I are vital to the success of the Daily Bread Food Banks in its mission to alleviate hunger in Toronto.

Check out the rest of pictures of our ventures at the Daily Bread. Also, be sure to watch the vlog.

Written by Elvin Madamba

April 3, 2011 at 10:20 PM

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