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  • Minimal waste blog: Cook a minimal waste meal with friends

    By Lara Valles and Elana Pakka We hope you all have been enjoying the minimal waste challenges and blogs so far. This week's we are reducing collaboratively. Share these ideas, inspire and connect friends. In the past, have you may have been someone who loves to invite your friends over and order takeout. Have you ever stopped to look at the amount of garbage that comes with it? Or maybe you are a minimal waste savvy food orderer and want to teach your friends how to do the same. No matter which camp you fall under, we hope you join u ms in cooking a socially-distant, minimal-waste meal with friends online. Not only is it fun and more sustainable, but you can also save a lot of money: It is estimated you pay 300 percent more for the same meal by eating out or ordering in than if you made it yourself. Imagine that you are browsing Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and you find an epic recipe. So you set up an online dinner date with your friends and let them know you're going to do things differently: minimal waste style! The first thing you're going to do is send your friends our minimal waste grocery trip article for when you all go shopping for the ingredients. Remind them to bring a reusable bag when they go to (we know they all have at least one!) and that they can use reusable produce bags for fruits and veggies. Do you compost at home? If you don't already, this is the perfect opportunity to start! Maybe you have an old container you can start with, or one of your friends has one they aren't using and can do a porch drop-off for you. While you're cooking, use dish rags for cleaning and wiping counters instead of paper towels to up your minimal waste game even more. Here are a few more minimal waste meal cooking tips for when the days of social distancing are over. If you are having people over and want to get a little something special for the occasion, consider buying yourself a cute set of cloth napkins instead of paper. It will also make the dinner table look extra snazzy instead of that single, last-minute piece of paper towel per person on the table. Make sure to ask everyone to bring a container with them so they can take leftovers home. At the end of the night, everyone will have levelled up in their cooking and minimal waste skills, while leaving with a meal that is ready for the next day. Do you have other tips and ideas for a minimal waste dinner party with friends? Share with us on social media with #RotaractTO and #MinimalWasteToronto or email us at for any ideas or suggestions. Lara Valles is the community service director for the Rotaract Club of Toronto, who started her minimal waste journey a year ago. Elena is a technical product manager and Rotaractor passionate about continuously making small changes that lead to minimal waste living.

  • Minimal waste blog: Try a minimal waste grocery trip

    By Lara Valles Now more than ever, we recognize the importance of our grocery stores, truck drivers and farmers in our daily lives. Going to get groceries has become somewhat of an event. This week we are challenging you to start thinking about ways to reduce waste when it comes to grocery shopping. Some of these suggestions will have to wait until the quarantine is over, but you can also see what you can do safely and give it a try! Step One Check your pantry and fridge and do some meal planning. This will help you avoid wasting the food you do have and make sure you buy only what you need. Another good tip for those with cars, bikes or if you often carry the same bag is to put a reusable bag in there right now before you forget. This helps last-minute trips to the store. You should also wash or sanitize your bags however you can after each use during this time. If you have the financial means, you can purchase reusable produce bags or see if there are any on the Bunz mobile app you can trade for. Step Two Bring your reusable bags, produce bags and hand sanitizer before you head out and brace yourselves for lineups that rivals Canada's Wonderland's on a long weekend. Step Three When you're at the grocery store, try to buy food without packaging or with minimal packaging. Like that spinach that comes in the massive plastic box? Ditch it for the more eco-friendly (and way cheaper) bunch of spinach. If you can, buy the larger container: Instead of buying several small containers, you are purchasing a larger one and reducing waste. However, you should buy smaller amounts if you know you'll end up wasting half of it. Be realistic with yourself on how much food you need. Pick up a "lonely banana:" Single bananas often get thrown away by the grocery stores. Step Four: And once Bulk Barn and other zero waste free stores are able to lift cross-contamination preventive measures, you can bring your own produce bags and jars. You can also swap tea bags for loose leaf tea and other food items you get in packaging for the usually more inexpensive or plastic-free alternative. Do you have other tips for a less wasteful grocery run? Share with us on social media with the #RotaractTO and #MinimalWasteToronto or email us at for any ideas or suggestions. Lara Valles is the community service director for the Rotaract Club of Toronto. She started her minimal waste journey a year ago and is excited to be a part of this community that not only cares about the environment but is doing their best to fix it.

  • When life gives you a lockdown

    By Aditi Kara Throughout modern human history, we endured many challenges collectively. Here are some tips to overcome some of the difficulties brought by social distancing and other pandemic "side effects." Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, the isolation can be hard for everyone. It is a real test of your patience: the pressure can either shatter you or make you stronger. Since you are reading this, we hope these five pointers will propel you in the right direction so you can be the latter, not the former. Uplift your spirit "Why do we fall? So that we can learn to pick ourselves up," said Alfred to Batman when he lost everything his father built for him. You may tend to feel defeated in some situations, and that's okay. The most important is to remember that you picked yourself up in the past, and you can do it again. Remember: this too shall pass. Uplift others Did you know that loneliness is a global problem? Scientists believe that it can be as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being severely overweight! If you are feeling solitary, so is one-third of the world under lockdown. Take this opportunity and use technology to connect to people, especially the ones who need our moral support, friends, family, the young and the elderly. Develop your skills What a fantastic opportunity this is to improve your skills or acquire new ones! You could end up improving your English while binge-watching CBC's "Schitt's Creek" – trust me, Moira Rose's vocabulary is to envy even the most polished naive speakers out there. Language-learning applications, YouTube tutorials for DIYs, sketching, cooking, whatever you can imagine exists and acquiring a new skill can be on your fingertips thanks to the internet. I don't have to elaborate on that, do I? So make sure you find some time in between Netflix shows and do something constructive. Plan ahead The pandemic hit our lives hard, but have you heard how good it has been for the environment? Maybe this is a reminder for all of us to bring a much-awaited change in our lifestyle! Perhaps this is a chance to introspect on how we can make a positive change. Read about how you can make your life environmentally sustainable, discuss it with your family and friends and prepare for it. If you think you can't do anything about it (which is unlikely), the least you can do is prepare yourself mentally for it and set your expectations right. Get creative I sometimes randomly text my friends to make sure they are okay. I recently texted this one friend of mine to check in and he told me about this "Taskmaster" thing he does with his friends. Weekly, people in a group take turns to assign one task for everyone else. For that week he had to recreate a music video. When he showed it to me I laughed so hard my stomach hurt! Hands down, that was the most entertaining thing I saw in the last few weeks, perhaps months! So yes, get creative, get together with friends for fun activities to stay connected and maybe even do some ridiculous. Aditi is a budding lawyer with international legal experience in three different counties. Marathon running during her formative years and other life challenges have helped her build physical and mental endurance.

  • Minimal waste blog: Saving energy today for a brighter tomorrow

    By Reha Mehmet Erol and Lara Valles We are all responsible for doing our best to live more sustainably. A great and easy way to do that is to save and use our energy resources responsibly. Many of us have already started to do this: According to the Financial Times, between 2014 and 2017, household consumption in the UK fell by 19 percent. We can all contribute by taking small steps like buying energy-efficient appliances, switching to LED light bulbs, unplugging electronics, or simply turning off the lights. Lucas Davis, professor at the University of California, Berkeley, pointed out that when you switch from incandescent to LED bulbs, you reduce your energy consumption by 80 percent. Another idea is to get creative with keeping your house cool in the summer and warm in the winter. In the summer, you can close windows and doors when your air conditioning is on, pull shades down during the day and open windows at night to take advantage of that evening breeze. During the winter layer up and turn that heater down! You should also turn the air conditioning or heater off when you are leaving home, not only is it good for the planet, it can save you a lot of money. Even if it is your landlord that pays for it, the Earth doesn’t care who pays for i Lastly, instead of driving, try cycling, walking, taking public transit, or even carpooling. When you live in a big city like Toronto, not owning a car can be a great way to save money. Not to mention that if more people use public transportation, more money could be put into the infrastructure. There is a myriad of other benefits to public transit, like avoiding traffic, getting into shape and never having to worry about car maintenance and other associated costs again. Do you have other tips for reducing energy usage? Share with us on social media with the #RotaractTO and #MinimalWasteToronto or email us at for any ideas or suggestions. Reha Mehmet Erol is an Industrial Engineer and proud Rotaractor for over five years. He is thrilled to have had the chance to contribute back to the community and getting involved in environmental initiatives. Lara Valles is the community service director for the Rotaract Club of Toronto. She started her minimal waste journey a year ago and is excited to be a part of this community of people that not only care about the environment but are doing their best to fix it.

  • Minimal waste blog: End waste now, one app at a time

    by Aditi Kara and Lara Valles Everybody wants to change the world, yet only a few actually do it. What if the ability to change the world was in the palm of your hand? Every year, our planet produces more than enough food to feed everyone, yet somehow, 820 million people go hungry annually. This can be partially attributed to the fact that a significant portion of food is thrown away because it isn't aesthetically pleasing, has passed the "best before" date, among other reasons. Because of our wasteful attitude, 30 percent of our food lands up in landfills globally. When the food waste reaches landfills, it undergoes anaerobic decomposition causing it to produce methane, a very potent green house gas responsible for accelerating climate change. To put things in perspective, if all of international food waste were a country, it would be the “world‘s third largest emitter of greenhouse gasses, behind the US and China,” according to National Geographic. As shocking as it may seem, not much was being done about this truth until Torontonian Josh Domingues found out about the throwaway attitude of the food industry. He decided to bring a positive change that gave all of us a chance to reduce, if not stop, food waste. The result: Flashfood was born. Flashfood is a mobile app that shows you food products in grocery stores nearing their best before date and about to be thrown out. It then offers customers these products at a very low price. The app also lets you pay online so you don't miss them by the time you get to the store for a pickup. Flashfood is not the only app helping tackle unnecessary waste. Bunz and Waste Wizards are also apps you should check out right now. Waste Wizard Toronto enables you to retire your stuff with dignity when they are out of commission (think Andy from Toy Story 4). Just search the item and the Waste Wizard will give you advice on where to donate or recycle it. If your things are broken and could be fixed, look for the local Repair Cafe in your area. And if you don't have one — start one! Bunz makes you ask the question: why buy new when you can sell what you don't want in exchange for what you need? It's bringing back bartering in a big way, all you have to do is download the app, create an account and start trading! Say you need a new kitchen table, just put it into the search bar and all the kitchen tables available for trade will come up. You can even specify if you only want items within a certain distance. Do you have other tips for tackling waste and going minimal waste? Share with us on social media with the #RotaractTO and #MinimalWasteToronto or email us at for any ideas or suggestions. Aditi is a budding lawyer with international legal experience in three different counties and an environmentalist at heart. Lara Valles is the community service director for the Rotaract Club of Toronto. She started her minimal waste journey a year ago and is excited to be a part of this community of people that not only care about the environment but are doing their best to fix it.

  • Minimal waste blog: Switch to online!

    By Lara Valles This week is an easy one: stop receiving mail you probably never even wanted in the first place or wasting time printing that ticket you're only going to use Scotiabank Arena (or whatever they decide to call it next year) once! Advertisements and information 24-7 constantly bombard us; some say we are exposed to 5,000 ads every single day. Take that in for a moment: almost every waking moment you are receiving with information, a lot of it usually quite useless. By taking steps to reduce the amount of unwanted mail you are getting, not only are you helping the environment, but you are also freeing up valuable space for yourself. It's as easy as 1, 2, 3... and then 4! Step one: Tell'em like it is! Post a sign on your mailbox that says "No Junk Mail," and you won't get unaddressed advertising mail. If you live in a condo or apartment, you can tape a note at the front and back to make sure the mail courier sees it. Step two: If step one is not enough Remove yourself from advertising mailing lists. Check out this article from Canada Post on how to get yourself removed from marketing mailing lists. If you keep getting unwanted mail from the same organizations, check out their website to get their contact information and send them an email that you want to be removed from their mailing list. If you still want to keep in touch with them, get on their email list instead. Step three: Don't print it For any tickets, download mobile applications or save a digital copy on your phone instead of printing. The year is 2020, almost everyone is on Eventbrite and the vast majority of services accept tickets on your phone or offer online ticked and Apple Wallet integration. Why won't they let you on that grey coach bus to visit your family outside of the GTA, who knows! But for most cases, there are alternatives! Step four: Keep your online shopping footprint in check Ask for no plastic, recycled or re-used packaging materials for online orders. Sometimes, if you are ordering multiple items on Amazon or other websites, you can pick between getting your items shipped as they become available or getting it all at once in one shipment. Choosing the second option will severely reduce the carbon footprint of your online shopping. Be strategic and wait to get as much of your shopping into order, it's good for the environment, and it may save you quite a bit of money on shipment. It may be harder to find retailers that offer these options, but they are definitely catching up. Do you have other tips for tackling wasteful mail going paperless as much as you can? Share with us on social media with the #RotaractTO and #MinimalWasteToronto or email us at for any ideas or suggestions. Lara Valles is the community service director for the Rotaract Club of Toronto. She started her minimal waste journey a year ago and is excited to be a part of this community of people that not only care about the environment but are doing their best to fix it.

  • Minimal Waste Blog: Spring Cleaning

    By Lara Valles The extra time at home during social distancing can be useful for some satisfying spring cleaning that is good for your house and the soul (and to get rid of pesky viruses too). Put some tunes on and get ready for a cleaning that would make Monica Geller proud. Step one is to go through all your things and figure out what you need and what you don't. A good rule of thumb is if you haven't used it in 6 months, you probably won't use it at all. Instead, you can donate it to someone who will through organizations such as Terracycle Fabrics and Clothing Zero Waste Box. You can also check out Donation Town, which will help you find a local clothing donation pick-up services in your area. Bunz is another excellent app to exchange items you don't need for ones you do. One person's junk can really be someone else's treasure! You don't always have to scour garage sales with Grandma anymore to find that vintage poster. Get creative: Instead of giving away clothing, you can also set them aside to be mended by a tailor. A lot of broken things you may have laying around could be fixed or even re-purposed; You would be surprised at how easy this can be. You try DIY courses or other things such as these  DIY bike repair shops in Toronto. You may have to wait until social distancing is over to try some of those, you can make donations anytime, people need it now more than ever. Next, get your cleaning supplies ready. This glass spray bottle from Package Free Shop is great as it has recipes for making your own cleaning products on the bottle itself. You can also simply re-use old spray bottles; check out this website for some cleaning product recipes. Instead of disposable cleaning wipes, take some old t-shirts to make rags and switch to re-washable cloths entirely. In the long run, you'll save money, the environment, and you'll actually know what chemicals you're using in your home every day. Lastly, get into some good habits: This Zero Waste Cleaning Guide has a thorough chore list on how you can stay on top of cleaning your place spic and span. Lara Valles is the Director of Community Service for the Rotaract Club of Toronto. She started her minimal waste journey a year ago and is excited to be a part of this community of people that not only care about the environment but are doing everything they can to fix it.

  • New measures to ensure the quality and security of our Zoom meetings

    By Gus Lopes The Rotaract Club of Toronto is taking new measures effective April 6 to prevent issues with club meetings held online via the Zoom platform in light of recent events. The changes include password protection and an RSVP form for visitors and guests. In light of recent issues reported by the media, our club is taking cautionary measures to ensure the privacy and quality of our Zoom calls. Zoom has communicated users via email that it has "chosen to enable passwords on your meetings and turn on waiting rooms by default as additional security enhancements," to better protect users. With the waiting rooms feature activated, meeting attendees will have to wait to be admitted manually by the moderator. Luckily, our club has not experienced any breaches in our meetings, and we are taking preventive action to keep things that way. In addition to Zoom's measures, we chose to include an RSVP form for guests and visitors before they can access meeting links or ID. This added layer of protection will ensure this sensitive information will not be publicly available online. We kindly request club members do not share the meeting links on social media. Club members and prospective members will receive meeting information via email or other means of communication. Guests and visitors can fill out their RSVP here so they can get the meeting link, password and other details on their email. As we introduce these new changes, some adjustments may be necessary. We will communicate any additional modifications via email, club newsletter and social media. As always, anyone is welcome to reach out to with any concerns or suggestions. Gus Lopes is the Rotaract Club of Toronto's public image director for Rotary year 2019-20

  • Minimal waste blog: Seven documentaries to get informed and get inspired

    By: Lara Valles While we all have to do our part to maintain social distancing, that doesn't mean you can't also get inspired to pursue a minimal waste lifestyle. So keep that Netflix on and check out the following documentaries to educate yourself and help create the positive change we need now more than ever. "Minimalism" Explore how our lives might be better with less by taking viewers inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life. Beware of the instant sensation to start decluttering. "Where Does New York City's Trash Go?" This fascinating and well-done documentary shows where the trash of one of the biggest cities in the world goes every day and gets you thinking about your own waste. "Cowspiracy" Follow the journey of an environmentalist as he explores solutions to current environmental issues in the agricultural industry. This film certainly gets you thinking, but make sure to do your research and verify the facts presented. "Wasted: The Story of Food Waste" This documentary aims to solve the problem of food waste by changing the way people buy, cook, recycle, and eat food. Not to mention the movie is also a cooking lesson form real-life, talented chefs. What more could you ask for? "A Gateway Bug" A film about feeding humanity in an uncertain age, it will make you think seriously about where comes from our food and provides solution on what you can do to help overcome this global issue. "No Impact Man" Colin Beavan swore off plastic and toxins, turned off his electricity, went organic, and started riding his bicycle exclusively for an entire year in New York City. Just think: you never have to depend solely on TTC ever again. "The True Cost" Pulls back the curtain on the fashion industry to give viewers an honest look at the human and environmental costs of producing clothes. Which we're sure your partner will appreciate it when you decide that you don't need that 13th pair of Dr. Martens. "The 11th Hour" This 2007 DiCaprio drama explores how humanity has arrived at the "11th Hour:" the last possible moment that change is possible for our planet and its ecosystems. And did we mention it has Leonardo DiCaprio? Throughout the next few weeks, we will be sharing a new minimal waste challenge to inspire you to either take your minimal waste game to the next level or if you already do it, share any tips you may have. Stay tuned on our News & Features section and our social media for more ideas and minimal waste challenges. Lara Valles is the Director of Community Service for the Rotaract Club of Toronto. She started her minimal waste journey a year ago and is excited to be a part of this community of people that not only care about the environment but are doing everything they can to fix it.

  • Shine for ShelterBox Fundraiser Dinner

    By Kaitlynn Almeida On October 10, 2019, after a couple of months of planning, the Rotaract Club of Toronto's International Service Committee hosted a Shine for ShelterBox dinner in collaboration with Rotarian Saleem Kassum from the Rotary Club of Toronto. The evening was filled with food, fun, and fellowship in support of a great charitable cause: emergency disaster relief through ShelterBox Canada. "ShelterBox works to provide tangible shelter to disaster victims while rebuilding their communities. Its business model uses mainly volunteers as Special Response Team members, and ShelterBox strictly ensures accountability," said Rotarian Saleem Kassum, ShelterBox Canada ambassador. On the day of the event, Saleem welcomed more than 20 Rotaractors, Rotarians and guests into his home, resulting in an excellent opportunity for making new connections. Attendees entered into a room lit up with LuminAIDs: collapsible solar-powered lights that are provided to individuals and families as part of disaster relief support. While they mingled, the wine was poured, and raffle tickets were sold. It was then announced that attendees were going to try their hand at team trivia. The four teams got into the spirit, giving it their best while having some witty banter with opposing teams. In between trivia rounds, dinner was served: a delicious trio of salad, pasta, and chicken. There were many compliments given to the evening's chef, Saleem, on how flavourful the food was. Shortly after that, Saleem's renowned cheesecake was served, and held to its reputation! The host admitted: "in the week running up to the event, I started to get a little nervous, especially about there being enough food. Finally, I made sure there was enough wine around just in case things went south, but with tactical help in the kitchen and the wine, things seemed to work out, and I had fun." Before delving into the cheesecake, the final round of trivia took place, culminating in a classic lightning-style round. It was a tough call to determine the winning team. Ultimately, the trivia and raffle winners were announced and received their LuminAID to take home, so they could remember the evening, light up their home and inspire their own Shine for ShelterBox dinner in the future. Altogether, we reached our goal of raising $1200 through the event, providing a full ShelterBox filled with a family tent and all the supplies people need to recover, such as blankets, solar lights, kitchen sets and more. Many thanks to Saleem for teaming up with us since May and helping turn this idea into a reality. His generosity and passion are a large part of what helped this event come to fruition. Fortunately, the gratitude is a two-way street, with Saleem noting that "it is a joy and privilege to work with the very dynamic Rotaract Club of Toronto. The members are committed Rotary leaders, and I enjoy their fellowship." Big "thank-yous" as well to our club's International Service Committee. More about ShelterBox: ShelterBox works directly with communities to provide customized aid to help families recover. Our aid is more than a canvas roof overhead or a warm blanket to wrap a child in. It's a good night's sleep after what has felt like a nightmare. It's the only home a family may have for weeks, months, or even longer. But most of all, it’s a safe place to call home and the ability to restart. Kaitlynn Almeida is an active member of the Rotaract Club of Toronto’s international service committee, one of the organizers of this Shine for ShelterBox Dinner, and the club’s immediate past co-president.

  • 2018-19 co-presidents’ celebratory remarks: a year in review

    By Kaitlynn Almeida and Katherine Kirkpatrick-Wahl Boy! We are sure that we aren't the first, and clearly won't be the last Presidents to say this, but time sure has flown by! We wanted to take some time to reflect on the 2018-19 Rotary year, the year of "Being the Inspiration." With so many club activities and a remarkable amount of enthusiasm over the past year, it is clear that this year couldn’t have happened without an amazing board, club, and the whole community of Rotarians and their families. We hope you will take a few moments to read about our club’s story from the past year, as we celebrated 31 years of continuous service in the community! When did it all begin? Shortly after the 2018 Rotary International Convention in Toronto, we got together to reflect on what we learned, and most importantly, create a vision for our Co-Presidency. We set our focus on UNITY: within our club and the broader Rotary International family. Not to tout our own horn, but we truly believe that the club brought this unity to fruition through service, professional development, and dedication to strengthening the fellowship that binds us all together. We continued traditions, with the goal of stepping up to make a difference. Yet again, we hosted the Rotaract Club of Toronto’s Annual Fundraiser, keeping with everyone’s favourite tradition of throwing a party to show that having fun can be good for the community. For us, it was clear that we wanted to support a charity that we already had a strong partnership with: Camp Scugog. And with us being able to secure The Bata Shoe Museum as our venue, the theme was clear: Let’s "Step Up for Camp." Because of everyone who supported this event, we are proud to say that we were able to donate $3,000 to Camp Scugog! These funds supported renovations to the dining hall at a camp that believes in "opportunities for education in daily living and that the positive development of attitudes and values is paramount to building a strong sense of self and community." Over the year, we donated more than $5,000 in total towards local and international charitable initiatives. Our community service initiatives included a continuation of traditions, such as working with Fort York Food Bank, collecting non-perishable items through Trick-or-Eat, and volunteering with the Rotary Club of Toronto at the Children's Christmas Party. We also came up with new volunteer opportunities to adapt to our community's changing needs, which included participation in a walk to learn about the Fred Victor Shelter, and creating our club’s Minimal Waste Challenge, in addition to many other initiatives! The international service portfolio also had a mix of tradition and innovation. In support of each of Rotary's six areas of focus, we had awareness projects such as learning to salsa dance in support of the victims of the Guatemala volcano. We also had our bottle drive to support "OK Clean Water Project," just to name a few. We strengthened ties with our Rotary and Rotaract family with the district-wide multicultural potluck fundraiser and screenings of the docu-series "First Contact" with the Rotary Club of Toronto, learning more about Indigenous peoples in Canada and their communities. We also partnered with the Rotary Club of Toronto to support youth initiatives. The 2018 Youth Leadership Expo aimed to engage and empower 430 students as they heard from civic leaders and community organizations. They also directly participated in volunteer activities including assembly of care packages filled with toiletries and a pen-pal activity with youth-in-need in India. Ryla involved our club members reviewing 40 outstanding student applications for bursaries, and organizing a lunch to recognize the recipients, who are truly inspiring people! We challenged ourselves to dream bigger, which included the launch of a Mentorship Program with Rotarians. Professional development in the club was elevated to new heights with the Mentorship Program, with the Rotary Club of Toronto, along with several other initiatives. The year-long program in partnership with our sponsoring Rotary Club and several other initiatives included 19 pairs of mentors and mentees, culminating in a dinner with district-wide attendance to celebrate the program and discuss opportunities for expansion. Additional opportunities for professional development included LinkedIn and presentation workshops, networking events with Rotary and everyone’s favourite: "Members Connect," where our members co-presented on a subject of their choice. We sought out ways to enhance unity, within our club and the broader Rotary International family. Throughout the year, several social and wellness activities were held to strengthen bonds between club members. These included a movie screening in the park, visiting the Distillery District Christmas Market, and going to the CNE, along with post-meeting socials and collaboration with the club’s other committees to partner-up on activities! Our club took part in several events beyond the club-level this year. We had five club members build connections with our global family at the Rotary International Convention in Hamburg, Germany. At home, we took part in several District 7070 events, such as the Rotary District Conference, Rotary AIDS Poker Walk, and Rotaract & Interact District Conference. We ended the year with a bang by walking in the Toronto Pride Parade! We were thrilled to see everyone’s efforts and enthusiasm pay off with our membership growing to record heights, ending the Rotaract year with SIXTY-NINE MEMBERS in the Rotaract Club of Toronto! We are fortunate to have continued the club’s legacy of success, and are grateful for the pieces of recognition that came our way! At the Rotaract end of year celebration, our club had the honour of receiving the District Outstanding Club Award and District Socials Award! At Rotary District Changeover, we were overjoyed to be recipients of the District Internal Communications Award for “providing exemplary communications within and between clubs during the current Rotary year”, and to be one of three clubs to win the district-wide Public Image Contest! And for the icing on the cake: the club achieved the Rotary International President’s Citation for Rotaract Clubs with Platinum Distinction, the highest level of Presidential distinction for Rotaract clubs! All our accomplishments must be credited to our amazing Board of Directors, our club members, our sponsoring Rotary club, and all of our supportive family, friends, and community members. Our club has made a positive impact on our local and global communities and demonstrated what it means to "Be The Inspiration" for others while becoming further unified throughout the year. It has been our absolute honour to be the club’s Co-Presidents over this past year! Let’s help Rotary connect the world! Looking ahead to the 2019-20 year we will spend as PAST co-presidents, we are confident that the new presidents Anisa Nazir (until her move to Ireland) and Stacey Chikoto, as well as the 2019-20 Board and club at-large, will continue to drive unity and growth while serving our communities. As our current Rotary International president tells us that "Rotary Connects the World," we look forward to growing our membership and are excited to see what projects will be in store this year. If you are interested in joining us on this journey, we encourage you to reach out to us and join the team as we work to build connections and embrace this year's presidential theme! Kaitlynn Almeida and Katherine Kirkpatrick-Wahl are long term members of the Rotaract Club of Toronto and immediate past co-presidents 2019-20.

  • Community service committee monthly blog: Reflections on May & June events

    Cat Shelter Event By Wali Zia It’s always a bittersweet moment when you say goodbye to a friend. You want them to be happy, to be successful, to enjoy their new, better life. At the same time, you don’t want them to leave. It’s pretty much the same for me at the AVA cat shelter that I volunteer at. As an animal lover, I fall in love with every single cat that I meet, and they automatically become my best friends. Even though I want them to get adopted and have a happily ever after, as happy as I am for them, there is still a tiny part of me that gets sad that they are leaving. This makes the National Adoption Weekend (NAW), that happens every few months, particularly hard for me. Yet, it is always a successful event for the shelter and for almost every single cat and kitten we have. The AVA Cat shelter at the Stockyard’s village is one of the biggest AVA centers in Toronto and has one of the highest turnovers of all cat shelters in the area. In February, they had over 30 cats adopted in 1 week. For the NAW that took place in May, they had 15 cats. It is quite possibly the lowest number ever since I started volunteering there. It was great that there were quite few cats that needed adopting, but it just meant that I would be losing my friends faster than I would have expected. It made me quite sad just thinking about it, hence, I was not able to bring myself to go and volunteer during this weekend. However, I did connect my team members from Rotaract with the event organizers in order to provide them with any and all assistance that they might need from me. I was informed that the event was a great success. All the cats that needed to be adopted, were adopted. Even though the event generally runs till Sunday night, it was mostly rapped up by Saturday night. The NAW is a relatively consistent event that takes place numerous times over the year. It is definitely something we all should participate in, at least once. You learn so much about the needs of some of the creatures that share this planet with us and the loving, caring people that are willing to adopt them into their forever homes. Fred Victor Walk | June 7 By Lara Valles Fred Walks is a fundraiser where participants walk 7.5km visiting Fred Victor sites to learn about homelessness and poverty within Toronto. I helped organize the Rotaract Toronto team. For me, it was a humbling and eye-opening experience. When you encounter visible poverty, it is impossible to know the stories and systemic barriers that exist until you make a conscious effort to educate yourself. Fred Walks provided such an opportunity to learn about both the visible and invisible poverty that affects families, refugees, adults and seniors. Throughout the five hour tour of several Fred Victor sites, you are guided by a staff member who answer your questions based on their personal experiences and also take you around the city to various shelters to receive presentations from site managers, case workers, nurses and other front line staff whose work is honestly inspiring. You can tell that all of them are compassionate and dedicated to helping people without judgement. Throughout all of their stories a similar theme presented itself; there needs to be more awareness. Every person’s story is completely unique and as such, people who experience poverty and homelessness require individualized care to heal and overcome their trauma. This challenges social workers to search for such specific services and programs; even if you have two people who experienced similar traumas that does not mean they both need the same treatment. If we simply leave people in shelters or treat them as a number rather than as a person, it only compounds the trauma they experienced, thus making them more dependent on a broken system. We learned that people who are homeless are sometimes just searching for a community where they know people care about them and that there needs to be more mental health services. Having the opportunity to donate to an organization that truly does care for those in our community who are the most vulnerable is rewarding and I will certainly be participating in this event next year. Fort York Food Bank | May 19 By Berk On May 19, 2019, our Rotaract team went to the Fort York Food Bank to connect with its visitors and support the Food bank before and during the operating hours. While the first team focused on cooking meals in the morning during their shift, we concentrated on serving the food and cleaning the equipment. What was stunning to see is that Errol, the chef volunteering at the food bank, cooked great meals of amazing quality. We were able to serve spaghetti with delicious beef sauce; various types of vegetables, such as corn, carrots, and peas; a beautiful Mediterranean-style salad and chicken nuggets. Fort York Food Bank was the first community service activity of Rotaract Club of Toronto I took part in. I have to say that it was a great way to familiarize myself with Rotaract as it provided an opportunity to see the impact of the effort all Rotaractors put into touching people’s lives firsthand through people’s smiles as we were serving them the food. Many members and candidates alike will find this experience particularly inspiring as it allows to establish a closer connection with fellow Rotaractors and have a direct and immediate impact on the life of someone. We left the event fulfilled, as we saw many sincere smiles and words of gratitude. After we wrapped up the day, our team headed to the local coffee shop at the Kensington market. We had a lovely chance to reflect on our experience, chat about the future of the club as it transitions into a new year, and go over our common interests. The Fort York Food Bank was the type of experience that reminded me of a plain and easy way to spend my day enjoying what I like to do, connect with new people, and make a direct impact on someone's life.

  • Minimal waste challenge reflections for April

    By Ornella M. I joined the minimal waste challenge because I saw it as an opportunity to take farther the eco-friendly actions that I had already set in my routine. I have been already using reusable bags for a while, I never use small plastic bags for my vegetables I put them as they are in my bag, I also use only compostable pads, eco-friendly laundry made of natural components, we (me and my boyfriend Joshuette) do not buy towel paper anymore, we have loads of dish clothes that we wash every now and again. I am also obsessed with jars, like jars used for jam, pickles, olives, anything! I clean them and re-use it to store spices, nuts. Anyways, all of this to say, I love living consciously, being aware that my behaviors can have negative impacts and adjusting my way of life to minimize these impacts. My dream is to have big garden where I could grow my own food, and chickens to have some fresh eggs and a lot of flowers and possibly beehives. And my kids won’t have iPhones or TV, but they’d read a lot of books and will be super smart. Even though I am already doing few things, there was a lot of room for improvement. I wanted to start recycling my organic waste, I bought a small bucket and organic bin bags, I always leave it on the counter of the kitchen, this way, when I cook, I don’t forget to throw away my vegetables peels in the special bin instead of the regular garbage bin. So far, it has been working great! I feel good knowing that these wastes will go back to the soil, like the “circle” is complete. I wanted to stop using aerosol. I don’t but my boyfriend does, these are mostly shaving cream even though he has no hair on his face, but I think that make he feels good to think that he is shaving, maybe he feels more like a male you know... Anyways, aerosols cannot be tossed with regular garbage or with recycled waste. In Toronto, to get rid of it properly, we must call a special number, and someone would come pick it up. We found alternative products that are not in aerosol :) , I am waiting for him to be done with his old product to call the recycling brigade of Toronto. I managed to convince (persuade by threatening, yelling, getting mad, pressuring…) Joshuette to use reusable bags when he goes grocery shopping. It has been my battle for months! The guy will take a plastic bag even if he would buy one small item! And, on top of it, he always carries a bag back… But I am proud to say that he made a lot of efforts and now he uses the reusable bag :) Things I want to improve for next month: I want to put an organic bin in my bathroom to compost my pads (they’re made of compostable components). replace all my cleaning detergent by natural products (I’ve heard white vinegar could replace mostly of chemical detergents). shop at bulk barn more often By Jessica Besaw I am inspired by the words of the zero waste chef, Anne Marie Bonneau, who says “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly – we need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” This mantra has uplifted my spirits over the past two months, especially when I feel discouraged by how small my contribution is to minimizing the overall waste epidemic. Some-days, it can even feel burdensome to become zero waste because of the difficultly in giving up the convenience of pre-packaged plastic items or it’s just too expensive to purchase the more environmentally conscious alternatives. For the April 2019 month of the Rotaract Minimum Waste Challenge, we created a WhatsApp group to showcase the various ways we reduce, reuse, and recycle. I was impressed by the all the different ways that Rotaractors challenged themselves including packing their own cutlery set, using reusable shopping bags, and purchasing recycled products. I was happy to see that many Rotaractors carried around their own water bottles or coffee mugs. According to Zero Waste Canada, Canadians drink ~14 billion cups of coffee every year, and by bringing our own coffee mugs, we stop single-use cups from being needlessly thrown away. I personally have decided to tackle the minimum waste challenge in three main ways. The first is through composting. There are compost bins both at my home and work, so I take every opportunity to discard any leftover food product in the compost. The second is by keeping a metal straw at work and at home – so that I never have to use a plastic straw for my beverages. Finally, at my work in a biochemistry lab, I try to re-use a lot of ‘single-use’ plastics (i.e. pipettes, syringes, etc.) by labelling them so I can continuously reuse them without worrying about contaminating my samples. Our club's minimum waste challenge is an amazing opportunity to take action to minimize your waste. If you would like to join the Rotaract Club of Toronto's Minimum Waste WhatsApp group, please click here:

  • Community services committee monthly blog: Reflections on April events

    FYBF Reflection By Maaya Yui On April 27, I participated in FYFB, food bank volunteer. The reason that I joined this that I was interested in contributing to society through food and I wanted to meet people who come to get food. There are two shifts, first, cooking food from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m and second, serving food from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. I joined the second one and other members were Lu, Michael and other volunteers. We brought and served food and cleaned out cooperating with each other. Finally, we were able to serve food to 89 people. I thought that this activity is very valuable for me. People who came to get food were mostly suffering from poverty, and I would be happy if I could help them even just a little. And also, It was more rewarding to see their smiles in a trivial greeting when passing food. Although the situation we are in is different, I felt a warm connection between us as humans through food. I learned that a FYFB is more than just giving food. Toronto Clean Up By Wali Zia In order to make the world a better, cleaner, more livable place, we have to take a stand. It’s up to us to make the difference. We often spend our times thinking that someone else will do something so it’s no point in me doing anything. However, if everyone thinks that way, then no one would do anything at all. Hence, we, at the Rotaract Club of Toronto decided to step up and do our part instead of just waiting for someone else to do it for us. As part of our desire to make the world a better place for ourselves and everyone else on this planet, we organized a community clean-up event in partnership with the City of Toronto’s Clean-up Toronto event. Our main focus for this year has been to protect our environment through our 6-month long zero-waste challenge. To take that challenge one-step further, we decided to spend our Sunday morning cleaning up the streets and parks of Toronto. Our day started when we met up near Ossington station around 10 in the morning. From there, we split up into 3 groups and set to work. Two groups walked down Ossington street towards Trinity Bellwoods Park. The third group went through Dovercourt road and then met up with the rest at the park itself. It was an incredibly rewarding and exhilarating experience watching the before and after moments right on the spot. The one thing we found most was cigarette butts, ruining the streets of the city. It was interesting to see just how many cigarette butts were thrown on the floor right next to garbage bins. It was frustrating to see how ugly the streets actually looked when we were paying attention. Though, just as hideous as it was, it was equally as pleasing to see it cleaner right after. Other things we noticed were a lot of random and weird things just thrown out, including bathroom supplies, gardening supplies, broken pots, toys, and house tools. We saw some disturbing things, but we encountered a lot of positive people. Everyone that saw us doing our work was super appreciative and thankful of everything we were doing. I can recount at least 5 people that thanked us for the clean-up work that we did. Once we met at the park, we took a team picture to show just how much garbage we had picked up in just 3 blocks. After that, we split up into two groups and made our way through the park picking up more garbage along the way. It was really nice to see that there were other groups of people in the park as well, cleaning up the garbage just like us. It was heart-warming to watch other people also care about the city we live in. As we made our way to the end, we finally realized the positive change and difference our little morning had made in not just our lives, but the lives of those around us. As a little reward and to enjoy the day, we then walked over to Sweet Olenka’s where some of us devoured some amazingly delicious homemade ice cream while the rest savoured the delicacies and chocolates that they had to offer. In the end of it all, it was an amazing morning filled with incredibly positive people, doing the work, stepping up to the plate and helping to make the environment, this world, our city, a better place for us all. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes from the Robin Hood TV Series produced by BBC in 2006. “For every man there is a purpose which he sets up in his life. Let yours be the doing of all good deeds.” Poker Walk 2019 By Kamil Tasmagambet It was a cold Saturday morning in Toronto. As I approached Toronto beach area, I realized that I am going to start an adventure I enjoyed Poker Walk event on Saturday, because we had interesting outdoors activities where Rotaractors and Rotarians, from all over GTA, walked on the beach trails and learned new info from different non-profit organization booths. People inside these booths represented AIDS/HIV social cause and majority of these volunteers shared with me that they are affected by this illness themselves or their social circle has friends who were directly affected by these conditions. Most of these booths had SWAG items like eco-friendly bags, plastic wrist watches and various contraceptive products. The cloudy weather, cold wind and shivering volunteers inside those booths didn't stop Rotaractors and Rotarians from abandoning their project. Despite bad weather, I was confident that Rotaractors will persevere. I was correct. At the beginning of the Poker Walk, Rotaract Club of Toronto members gathered in circle and wiped their cold noses to start doing tribal dancing which finished with squat exercises recommended by me I was proud for making a difference and raising awareness about HIV/AIDS stigma by holding Rotaract Club of Toronto District 7070 sign throughout this event. I enjoyed participating in this Poker Walk event, because I combined social event with a social cause. I would be happy to do this Poker Walk event next year. I am thankful for motivated volunteers from Phillip Aziz Center, Casey House, Ontario Aboriginal HIV/Aids Strategy, Toronto Latinos Postivos, Dignitas, African in Partnership Against AIDS, Toronto People with AIDS Foundation, and The Stephen Lewis Foundation who continue to offer support to these people who were affected by these diseases and continue to fight to make our society better for the next generations. I am thankful for all people who showed up at this event by sacrificing their Saturday morning and making monetary contributions for this social cause. At the end, Rotaract Club of Toronto donated 485 dollars for this event to PWA organization. As Audrey Hepburn said, "As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands, one for helping yourself, the other for helping others."

  • Rotaract Mentorship program reflections

    By Dana Arafeh Living in a world with a plethora of opportunities can leave one feeling plagued by all the choices. Often, we get stuck in a routine and our busy schedules, with little to no time left to reflect on our next steps and life goals. The key to success is guidance, having someone in your life to help you set goals and ensure your way in reaching your full potential and transitioning into certain levels of success. Unfortunately, it becomes difficult to find your right hand; thankfully the Rotaract club’s professional development committee made it happen by launching their brand-new mentorship program. Having a mentor is crucial to personal and professional growth as they hold plenty of experience-based knowledge, can see where improvement is needed when we often cannot. When this program was announced, there was so much interest as to what better way than to connect individuals who already share similar values and passion for being a part of the Rotary club. Rotaract Club of Toronto’s professional development director teamed up with Jayson Phelps, Rotary-Rotaract liaison and paired Rotaractors with Rotarians, aligning them based on industry and career goals. I was fortunate to be connected to my mentor, Shannon Lundquist, who was not only an excellent match for me on a professional level but a perfect fit for my personality. We were able to hit it off, our first lunch meeting. Shannon shared her career journey, challenges and successes in her life experiences, and her activities and hobbies with me. We developed goals together, reflected on my career and opportunities for personal development. Shannon and I met once every three weeks to work on these goals. Every meeting, with her wise perspective, I was able to gain life skills, career advice and develop on a personal and professional level. She moreover, allowed me to think of ways I could become a better person in society. She allowed me to expand my network and introduced me to numerous individuals. I often emailed Shannon with questions and bounced ideas back and forth with her unfiltered opinion. Shannon and I bonded further as we participated in fun activities together. Shannon invited me to an eye-opening dance show, a fun poker night, eventually allowing us to build a relationship beyond serious conversations. Lastly, with her presence, she further encouraged and pushed my involvement in the rotary club, to another level. Directing me to put myself out there and make the most of what this fantastic club has to offer. We attended a lovely talk by Conrad Black at the National Club and will be participating in Camp Scugog. Due to this life-changing experience, I can thankfully say I’ve gained confidence in my personal as well as my career life, and this is something I’d encourage anyone to participate in. Thanks to this opportunity, in the end, I had gained way beyond just a mentor, a friend, and trusted advisor for life.

  • Community service monthly blog: Reflections on March events

    Underwear Drive By Lara Valles It is said that we are limited to knowing 150 people. But living in a diverse world that is becoming increasingly connected, it feels like we encounter so many people every day. And so we compensate with giving them stories, even when we know very little about them. But when such stories are based on generalizations, they become myths. Myths that skew our perspective and result in damaging stereotypes. According to the State of Homelessness in Canada report, homelessness is the failure of society to provide a system where everyone has access to housing. In Toronto the biggest barrier is exceedingly high rent, with some spending more than 50% of their income on rent. Surprisingly, most people who become homeless experience it for less than a month. But for those that are chronically homeless, they are the most vulnerable to mental health issues, addictions, criminal victimization and sexual abuse. It’s easy to think that people don’t have a home as a result of their own actions when in truth it’s because of a system with inadequate support and an adverse economic environment. Initially when the Community Service Committee was brainstorming ideas for how we can help people who are experiencing homelessness, we thought it was as simple as taking them out for a meal and getting to know them. But it became apparent that homelessness is an issue that is both multi-faceted and systemic. Many of these victims require long-term support and services. Organizations like Fred Victor provide these to the 9 000 people in the city without housing, the majority of whom struggle with mental health challenges. We collected and donated close to 100 underwear on March 29 (after our Underwear Drive) for Fred Victor’s Respite Centre which offers 24/7 emergency shelter, food and service referrals. Underwear is a much needed item since it cannot be donated second-hand. Finding this opportunity took contacting quite a few organizations to find one that was the right fit for Rotaract. Throughout the month, we reached out to colleagues, friends and family for their support and posted on social media. We hosted a Comic and Coolers Night at my place (drawing inspiration from the underwear-like superhero costumes and the traditional Wine and Paint Night we hipsters have an affinity for) which required a coordinated effort between Mariya, Rodayna and I. It was a lot of fun learning to cartoon, coming up with our own superhero names and powers, eating and connecting with each other. To promote the event, Mariya and I ran a little superhero skit and Mariya even designed props for a little photoshoot for the event. My hope after helping to run the Underwear Drive is that Rotaract is able to continue partnering with organizations like Fred Victor so we can continue to understand the barriers in our system so that we can help spread awareness and remove the myths surrounding homelessness. Fort York Food Bank By Rodayna Abuelwafa On March 30, the Community Service Committee held its traditional FYFB event that happens on a monthly basis. I always do my best to be present each month, but since I was on a Rotaract Trip, I missed February. It was really nice being back, seeing all the active volunteers participating. I always enjoy cooking, with Errol, our chef, as I manage to learn a lot from his great cooking skills. Additionally, I enjoy leading the event as you always get the chance to be in a different station wherever there is a need. One of my favourite stations is serving food; by the end of my shift, an old man just looked at me with a warm smile saying “the food was really good today.., thank you”. That made my whole day. So looking forward to volunteering again! Volunteering at the FYFB is one of the great ways that shows me an instant result of some efforts that contributes in helping vulnerable people and giving back to our community. We should not wait for the change, as we can always be one ourselves.

  • Effective Leadership

    Recently, I had the opportunity to lead one of the Rotaract Club of Toronto’s recurring monthly event, The Fort York Food Bank (FYFB). Reflecting on the event, I thought of my role as a leader. I made a list of some of the qualities and skills that I believe every leader should possess in order to achieve effective leadership: Communication – as a leader, you must be able to communicate with members of your team. The leader should be able to give clear and concise instructions, clarify any misunderstanding, listen attentively and respond with courtesy. Further, they should be able to ensure that everyone on the team understands the goals of the task at hand. Passion and Commitment – as a leader you should be passionate about the project or activity you are undertaking, as it can radiate positive energy which makes team members feel a profound sense of belonging. The team members would be motivated by the leader’s determination and dedication to ensure the success of the project. The FYFB event is my favourite Rotaract event because I get to interact with patrons from all walks of life. One of the greatest feelings in the world is knowing that you are making a difference, serving others and seeing a smile on their faces is just humbling. Integrity – as a leader, you should lead by example, you must have respect for team members and be honest and transparent with good news as well as bad news. You should also be ethical and fair with regards to matters involving individuals as well as when it comes to making decisions. Confident and a positive attitude – as a leader you must be confident and have a positive attitude because team members look up to you. In order for team members to trust and have faith in your leadership, you have to be competent. The leader must also be positive and help team members to see the positive outcomes that would result from the task. Delegate and be decisive – a great leader should always delegate tasks to the people who can complete them efficiently. Leaders are responsible for teams and therefore should be able to make prompt decisions which would be best for the team. Inclusiveness – as a leader, you should value the opinions of everyone involved in the team. When team members are able to share their ideas and provide feedback on matters, they feel valued, and they are more likely to cooperative and achieve goals. Build Connections – as a leader it is important for you to get to know the individuals you are working with, it would give the leader an insight to the individual which in the long term can strengthen the relationship and make future collaboration motivating for both the leader and the individual. I had the privilege of meeting new persons. We built a great rapport, because of this I am confident that we can work on future projects together. Recognition – a leader should never take all the credit for themselves; you must congratulate and give praises to individuals for a job well done. You must also remember to thank everyone involved in the project or activity for their contribution no matter how small. To conclude, I believe an effective leader has to have the courage to lead members not just to achieve a specific task or goal but at the same time allowing everyone to feel like they are a part of something greater than themselves.

  • Rotaract Collaboration: Safe Cities, Safe Spaces

    One of the Rotary areas of focus is promoting peace and conflict resolution. In December 2018 the Rotaract Club of Toronto teamed up with the Rotaract Club of Borrowdale Brooke from Harare, Zimbabwe to raise awareness for gender-based violence. Through a creative media competition under the theme, “Safe Cities, Safe Spaces”, high school student activists shared how women and girls experience violence in their communities and what their vision for safe cities and safe spaces is. The goal of the story contest was to advance international knowledge on the existence of difference forms of violence against women and girls, challenge the normalization of that violence and inspire communities to action. We had many amazing submissions and we had a tough choice but the poem below by Rumbi a student in Lower 6th form (11th grade equivalent) was the overall winner. Here's the winning post below: In a green dress Dodging bricks and stones Barefoot and afraid Over rocks, stones and thorns Barefoot and afraid Jupiter, evading hurdling meteors aimed to her demise One finds her arm As planed, she’s harmed She falls on the thorns Some skin is torn He’s on her, eyes blazing with scorn His fist Her jaw A cordial union From swollen eyes Mama’s own marriage Comes to mind Bruised and battered Scarlet and scarred Born of a womb with a womb Her only sin When her lashes parted for the world The men chanted It’s just a body Behold, a container for our sons A misogynous shadow creeps She wails and weeps Her sons Taught tyranny as toddlers As she, her sisters and mother Trained: submission not subversion For marriage is sacred Never to be broken So she cooks his food Avoids changing his mood Cleans his clothes Tries not to loathe A man whose violence only forebodes

  • Community Services Committee (CSC) – Monthly Blog – Reflections on February Events

    Talk English Café Reflection – ACCES Employment, Scarborough By Gina Chetram ACCES Employment is a non-profit organization, dedicated to providing employment services to qualified employees from diverse backgrounds who are experiencing barriers to employment, to integrate into the Canadian job market. With five locations across the GTA, ACCES offers many programs and services for employers and employees. On February 19th, 2019, six members from the Rotaract Club of Toronto had the privilege to participate in one of the programs offered by ACCES Employment – The Talk English Café at the Scarborough location. The Talk English Café is designed to provide newcomers to Canada with the opportunity to practice and hone their English conversational and workplace communication skills in an informal setting to succeed in the Canadian work environment. The activities were led by ESL instructor Chelsea. The evening began by Rotaract members introducing themselves; we were asked to say our names, the reason we joined the Rotaract Club and to list one interesting fact about ourselves. During our introductions, some of the key terms used by the Rotaract Members were written on the whiteboard and explain by Chelsea. After the introductions, the Rotaract members were separated into different sections of the room, where the participants had the opportunity to have conversations with us. The participants would converse with members for ten minutes; then they were asked to switch to another Rotaract member and repeat the exercise again. The conversations were based on a wide range of topics which includes; poetry, engineering, finance and travelling, etc. We concluded the evening by gathering together as a group to listen to the feedback from the participants and Rotaract members. Personally, I loved volunteering at the Talk English Café. Being an immigrant to Canada myself, I understand what it is like to be in their shoes, the culture shock, the difficulty of searching for jobs and connecting with other people. It was my greatest pleasure to have the opportunity as a Rotaract member to give back and help people from various backgrounds to improve their English speaking skills and become one step closer to achieving their dreams. FYFB (Feb 23) By Gina Chetram On Saturday, February 23rd, 2019, I have the privilege of leading my fellow Rotaractors at the monthly Fort York Food Bank. It was my first time leading an event as a member of the Rotaract Club of Toronto. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with several members of the clubs and also to develop my leadership skills. The day began with the shift one; the team members were Lu, Diego, Buse, Ali, Amrah, Kimberly and myself under the directions from our Rotarian Head Chef Errol. Shift one which begins at 8:30 and ends at 11:45am is responsible for the preparation of the ingredients, and the cooking of the food to be served by Shift two. We prepared several dishes; the protein dishes were sausages, vegetarian curry, chicken nuggets and meat sauce; side dishes included rice, pasta, glazed carrots, broccoli, etc. After the completion of the scrumptious dishes, the team set cleaned up and set the necessary equipment up for the serving of the dishes to the patrons. At 11:45 am, when the members of shift two arrived, they exchanged places with the shift one members. Our shift two was bigger than normal, as we were expecting a visit from members of the Fanshawe Rotaract Club. Shift two consisted of 12 members. There were seven members from the Fanshawe Club, three members from our club, Ryan, Olena and myself and two members from the community, Nick and Kim. Together as a team, we were able to serve 121 meal to the patrons. After serving the meals, we cleaned up and left the food bank at 2pm. Personally, I learned a lot from this experience. I got to see the event from the leadership perspective, which challenging but very rewarding. The challenges faced were dealing with different personalities and managing a large group so that everyone feels included. The rewarding part of the experiences is getting to communicate and build bonds with my peers. I did not do this even alone; I asked advice from my follow Rotaractors when things seemed too much. Diego was wonderful on the first shift; he reminded me of the importance of relaxing and not letting the pressure get to me. Olena on shift two reminded me that it is okay to delegate tasks and oversee rather than always being involved. Thank you Rodayna for giving me this opportunity. I am so grateful for because it not only gave me the opportunity to develop my leadership skills, but it allowed me the chance to really connect and learn from my colleagues and see things from different perspectives.

  • Community Services Committee (CSC) – Monthly Blog – Reflections on January Events

    Minimal Waste Challenge January Reflection By Tiana Mae Piva I am extremely passionate about environmental sustainability. Since we only get one Earth, my mission is to ensure it stays just as beautiful for generations to come. Because of this, when planning new initiatives with Rotaract, the environment is often at the forefront of my mind. I was very excited when I had the opportunity to lead a Minimal Waste Challenge to educate our team and encourage sustainable choices. Here are some stats that motivated the Minimal Waste initiative: Question: Guess how many disposable coffee cups are used EVERY DAY in Toronto? Answer: 1 Million! This number is startling alone, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Since the 1950s, approximately 8.3 billion tons of plastic have been produced worldwide and only 9% of that has been recycled. In Ontario, about 11.5 million tonnes were generated in 2014 alone. That’s nearly a tonne of waste per person every year! It’s clear that something has to change and that change starts with us! January 14th, 2019 marked the launch of the Rotaract Club of Toronto’s first Minimal Waste Challenge. With the goal of making 2019 a year of less waste and more sustainability, club members rung in the new year with the Minimal Waste kickoff meeting. In addition to launching the Minimal Waste Challenge, we also were proud to host Sophi Robertson: The Zero Waste Event Manager at the Toronto Tool Library, sustainability speaker and Zero-Waste influencer (follow her @yourecofriend on Instagram). In the meeting, Sophi inspired members by sharing the story of her Zero Waste journey since 2016, along with simple tips to minimize waste and live more sustainably. The biggest takeaway from Sophi’s talk was how much impact each of us has on the environment and how simple changes can really make a difference. Since that meeting, Rotaractors have been inspired to make a change. Countless members have approached me boasting how the Minimal Waste kickoff changed their perspective on waste and has encouraged them to make meaningful changes in their habits! It’s incredible to see just how much one person’s passion can cause a ripple effect of change. Minimal waste is a movement where everyone can make simple changes that have large impacts. No matter how small the action is, it's a step in the right direction. It's not about perfection - it's about making better choices. If you’re reading this and would like to join the Minimal Waste movement, be sure to join the community at our FB event and checkout the Minimal Waste Challenge Signup & Goals form for some inspiration on how you can make a difference!

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