For this month’s JustChange grantee, her introduction to activism hit very close to home: with her own hair. Questioning why she hadn’t felt comfortable wearing her hair naturally, Asma realized the beauty standards we all internalize keep many people from embracing themselves as they naturally are.
Because it’s about hair, but it isn’t just about hair: it’s about the subtle, systematic messages black youth internalize about what is considered beautiful, and the consequences of those messages can be significant. Living in Ottawa, it’s easy to assume our community has no need to engage in discussion on racism; that we’ve moved beyond it. But that kind of thinking can unintentionally silence people’s experiences. Asma wants to shine a light on the issue by giving black youth a chance to hear the stories of those who know first-hand how they feel.
Black Hair: A Documentary is bringing together Asma’s experience as an amateur videographer with what she sees as a need to open a dialogue for and with young black people, who have often internalized negative feelings toward their hair without realizing the underlying causes and consequences of that self-hatred. She’ll be sharing the stories of a diverse group of black Ottawans’ experiences surrounding their hair in an upbeat, colourful, joyful documentary to be shared on YouTube. After seeing the amazing exemplary video she’s made to date, we can’t wait to see the finished product!
Black Hair is just the first step for Asma: she wants to create a virtual community black youth can access to engage further in issues that matter to them and make more documentaries on issues at the intersection of race and beauty, such as colorism, as well as on other social justice issues. Over time, she wants to see Black Hair: A Documentary become a tool supporting self-acceptance for young black students. As a former student and volunteer at Ottawa’s Pathways to Education, Asma hopes to work with such organizations that are already supporting youth.
Our $1,000 grant will support filming of Black Hair and future documentaries through equipment that will increase production values and give Asma greater freedom to explore more filming possibilities.
We invite you to join us in celebrating Asma and her documentary project at our June JustDrinks event, taking place at the Ministry of Coffee and Social Affairs at 1013 Wellington St W from 7:00pm-9:00pm. To connect with Asma directly about Black Hair, you can find her on Twitter @_ahamediaand on Instagram @aha_ok3.
JustChange is thrilled to announce our February 2016 grantee: Kind! Kind is a space for LGBTTQ+ communities in Ottawa. Offering a wide variety of services, from counselling to education programs to the Purrfect Café, Kind is an inclusive and welcoming space for people and communities of all kinds: lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans., non-binary, Two Spirit, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, QTBIPoC, youth, adults, seniors, elders. Kind provides a diverse, protective and nonjudgmental environment for talking, learning, laughing, napping, petting cats, sharing food, hanging out, finding community and simply being.
Kind believes everyone on the human sexuality and gender spectrum should be celebrated and supported. Kind actively works to deconstruct oppressive structures, speaking up loudly and proudly. This means educating students, teachers and parents, talking to the media, and advising government how to ensure the rights of all people.
JustChange is proud to support Kind’s continued activities. This will include a spa day for trans folks involving haircuts, nails, and makeup in support of their mission of inclusion and self-love. The funds will also be used to further support the training and workshops that Kind already provides.
Around half of Canadian women will suffer from some form of an inability to control their bladder according to the Canadian Bladder Survey. We had no idea that these symptoms, called incontinence, affected so many Canadians. JustChange was happy to make Erin Engelhardt of I Wear One our latest grantee after hearing her great idea to tackle bladder control issues through reusable incontinence pads.
Erin was surprised by the number of women suffering from incontinence. She became aware of the issue while sewing reusable sanitary pads for her daughter, and was approached by her mother who asked her if she could do the same to help address her incontinence. After further research and talking to more women, including her own mother who had suffered for years from incontinence, Erin began to understand that the issue was widespread but generally unknown because of the shame people faced.
As a seamstress and researcher, Erin engineered a solution where she quickly ran into challenges. Unlike reusable sanitary pads, reusable incontinence pads require specific materials to keep the pee on the pad and specialized channels to keep the pee in the pad. The lack of reusable incontinence pads became apparent when Erin found out the FDA had no classification for her patent.
Traditional disposable incontinence pads work well, but are not environmentally friendly as the chemicals within slowly degrade within landfills. “There is no alternative to daily incontinence wear that is comfortable, beautiful, and functional”, says Erin.
The pads worked and proved themselves during the Launch Some Good event. One of the judges, Ottawa City Councillor Catherine McKenny, poured a glass of water on the I Wear One pad and turned it upside-down over her iPhone. Luckily for Erin, her ingenuity paid off, keeping Catherine’s phone dry and making her a winner of the Launch Some Good weekend.
I Wear One pads continue to improve with each version. Several prototypes later, Erin is getting close to producing them at scale. JustChange’s $1,000 grant will help to cover the first manufacturing run. I Wear One is pairing up with Eco Equitable, a previous JustChange grant winner, to work side-by-side on the first production run using materials manufactured in Montreal. Erin has also begun work on a male incontinence pad, so keep an eye on the iwearone.com website for these new products and the very first I Wear One pads!
We invite you to come celebrate this idea at JustDrink on Thursday December 17, 2015 from 5:00-7:00 pm at 3 Brewers (240 Sparks St.)Click here for more details.
3 Brewers is an accessible location. If you have any specific questions please contact the venue.
As you may know, today is #GivingTuesdayCA.
For those who don’t know, today is a day is where charities, companies and individuals join together to share commitments, rally for favourite causes and think about others (ww.givingtuesday.ca). Naturally then, there will be lots of discussion and celebration today about giving and volunteering. Stories will be shared, and suggestions will be brought forward about how you can share commitments, rally for causes, and think about others.
But I would like to illustrate why I think that JustChange is unlike any story of giving that you will hear today.
I’ll start with the obvious: Our giving consists of no tax credits, no qualified donees, no grant-making priorities, no invested assets, no operation or administrative or overhead expenses. There’s no reporting requirements, outcomes measurements, or shared value. What we do is take money out of our own pockets, and give it to a person or group of people who have a really great idea that we want to see happen in our community.
We don’t use crowdfunding platforms, other than physically getting together to decide on a winner and put money into a jar. We don’t hold fundraisers or campaigns other than to meet up for drinks (what we have dubbed ‘JustDrinks’) and celebrate that winner with anyone who would like to come and meet them.
The whole structure is remarkably simple, but the reasons behind it’s simplicity is perhaps less obvious. In true blogging form, I will focus on three reasons that I find particularly important.
The first reason is for filling a funding gap for non-profits and social entrepreneurs. A few people have lovingly called it the ‘pat on the back’ gap. Others call it seed-funding or spark-funding. What we do is help get ideas off the ground, give them a vote of confidence and access to community resources, such as the Hub, CISED, media attention (if desired), our own networks and skills (also only if desired). These are ideas that do not receive funding from traditional financing or funding, often because of significant risk (lack of structure, personal guarantees, etc). But for us, the idea is sound and important for the community, whether it is prototyping new business models with a social mission (CigBins, GottaGo campaign) or enabling innovation in non-profit organizations (Sisters Achieving Excellence, Sustainability Bike Tour, COMPASS), then we think it’s worth a shot.
This is important: lacking in Canada is an entrepreneurial spirit and disruptive will for innovation. As the ‘Baby Boomer retirement’ crisis hits the country in full force in this decade and continues into the 2030s, the need for entrepreneurship (to take over for retiring business owners) and innovation (to increase the productivity needed to sustain our country’s current income levels) will become increasingly apparent and alarming. Movements, like Startup Canada, have helped bring national attention to this issue, and have recently put a greater spotlight on social entrepreneurship. At the very local community level of JustChange Ottawa, we hope to foster a greater appetite for this kind of drive. We are doing what we can (and what our purses allow us) to help build this kind of positive and entrepreneurial spirit into the social, environmental, cultural, and development work of our community.
The second reason is for building roots and trust in our community. The lack of structure in JustChange provides us, the board members, with such a wonderful freedom to decide on what we want to see in our community, where our money goes, and how it will be used. There is an incredible sense of connection that results from being able to support community initiatives. Through JustChange, we are weaving into the social fabric of the city, and this remarkable effect both fine-tunes our ideas about what to support, and also builds a greater sense of trust between our applicants and us. We don’t use crowdfunding tools or seek out leveraging private or foundation dollars because for us at JustChange, it is less about the size of the Cheque, than it is actually handing it to the applicant.
So my third and final reason is also an announcement: for encouraging replication. Our model is simple, but effective. JustChange is less a structure than it is a way of engaging with a community, planting roots, and building a society through your own choices. Moreover, it is the grassroots connection with the community that makes the model so effective at supporting social entrepreneurial drive.
Today we launch our 19th Call for Great Ideas. Individuals and organizations with a great idea for social and/or environmental change can submit an application for a $1000 microgrant to help accelerate their idea for social change. Know of anyone who could benefit from this?Share this on Facebook, send out a tweet, or post it on LinkedIn. We look forward to reading the amazing ideas that the people of Ottawa have to make our city the best community in Canada! Apply here: http://www.justchange.ca/apply-ottawa/
“If we can encourage a few new beekeepers, bring pollination back to communities, and give people the opportunity to enjoy their very own honey – well, that’s a great day!”
– Marianne Gee, Gees Bees
We at JustChange are abuzz over our latest grantees, Marianne and Matt Gee of Gees Bees Honey Company! Matt and Marianne will be partnering with the Ottawa Food Bank to set up a beehive next spring, which will increase pollination in the community and will produce honey for the benefit of the Food Bank.
Matt and Marianne became beekeepers by chance seven years ago, when they discovered a colony of bees living in their home. They knew nothing about bees at the time, but weren’t comfortable when it seemed like the only option external companies were offering was to kill the bees. Knowing that declining bee populations are a serious environmental concern (beekeepers in North America saw about a 40% decline in the bee population in the past two years), the Gees moved the bees themselves, and began caring for the colony on their property.
As they learned more about beekeeping and its environmental benefits, the Gees decided to reach out to others, offering bee removal services for homeowners looking for a sustainable option. In 2015 alone, Marianne and Matt were able to “rescue” about 15 bee colonies, bringing them to their rural property where they could continue to pollinate. They also offer a beehive rental service which gives businesses, restaurants, and homeowners the opportunity to have their very own local honey and help Ontario’s declining bee population, while the Gees take care of everything.
As their Host a Hive program grew, Matt and Marianne realized their environmentally-friendly work could also do social good in the Ottawa area. They reached out to the Ottawa Food Bank, which operates a community garden in Goulbourn, to see whether they’d be interested in hosting a hive. They see the partnership as having two major benefits to the community: the bees would increase pollination and all the honey harvested from the hive would benefit the Food Bank.
The $1,000 grant the Gees will receive from JustChange will cover the costs of installing and maintaining a beehive for the Ottawa Food Bank for the 2016 season.