Happy 2016

Remember when we stayed up until dawn to ring in the new year with a bubbly drink that wasn’t Perrier? There’s still a new year celebration now, but it involves family and raclette cheese and one glass of wine because any more than that and the kids outlast the parents.

We already pull all-nighters when there are projects to finish, work deadlines, and vomit sessions. As much as I would love to toast goodbye to 2015 and hello to 2016 with all my friends and family, the truth is I’d rather meet for coffee next week or grab a pint next month or sit around someone’s kitchen in comfy pants eating salted, chocolate-covered caramels once we’ve all caught up on sleep, so we can make the most of our time together.

Bonne Année à vous tous et meilleurs voeux.


New Year's Eve reality

That Time Jason Priestley and I Went to Dominican Republic

In October 2014 I travelled to the Dominican Republic with Proctor & Gamble Children’s Safe Drinking Water program and, oh yes Jason Priestley. (Yes! THAT Jason Priestley for you 90210 fans.) We saw first-hand how desperate the need for clean drinking water is in many parts of the world and to learn what P&G CSDW is doing to help.

To help create more awareness about the program, P&G CSDW enlisted the help of Jason Priestley — father, actor, Canadian, and longstanding supporter of clean water issues –  and he’s been working with them since April 2014. Priestly hadn’t been to the field to see how the program worked in affected communities, and the new partnership in the D.R. between CSDW and BRA made it the perfect time for him to visit. So, yes, I did travel with Jason Priestley to the Dominican Republic and we had a drink (of clean water) together.

That Time Jason Priestley and I Went to Dominican Republic to take part in a P&G clean drinking water campaign for children and underprivileged communities. |humanitarian|social programs|philanthropy


The world is not black and white when it comes to helping people. When an organization whose business it is to succeed in business becomes involved in environmental or humanitarian causes their motives are questioned, and in certain instances the questions are justified. A business that profits from killing whales, for instance, cannot convince me they don’t conceal a murky agenda if they become involved in an oceans welfare campaign. Can huge, multinational corporations do social good through community outreach initiatives?

I went to observe and write about this initiative to deliver potable drinking water to communities in desperate need. But I went prepared to critique and watch closely, not write an advertorial; I wasn’t about to be wooed by a smooth-talking charlatan. To the huge benefit of the people who need safe drinking water — and for me — there weren’t any charlatans around, just genuinely concerned people, passionate about helping others.

That Time Jason Priestley and I Went to Dominican Republic to take part in a P&G clean drinking water campaign for children and underprivileged communities. |humanitarian|social programs|philanthropy

That Time Jason Priestley and I Went to Dominican Republic to take part in a P&G clean drinking water campaign for children and underprivileged communities. |humanitarian|social programs|philanthropy

I’ve travelled extensively all over the world, visiting remote and sometimes impoverished places to immerse myself in countries and their culture, but the disturbing gulf between the haves and have-nots in the Dominican Republic was eye opening.

The P&G Children’s Safe Drinking Water (CSDW) program began ten years ago using water purification packets developed by P&G in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More children die from diseases caused by drinking dirty water than Malaria, HIV, and AIDS combined and nearly one billion people lack clean water worldwide. To date the CSDW Program has provided seven billion litres of clean, drinking water and saved an estimated 42,000 lives.

The leader of this program is Allison Tummon Kamphuis, who stepped in to lead the program in 2008 after her predecessor’s retirement. Tummon Kamphuis travels extensively to disaster-stricken and under-developed regions around the world, and she is passionate in her desire to see people everywhere have access to potable water. I had three days to talk with her and she’s one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met. You know when someone vibrates with commitment and enthusiasm, yet still retains a realistic view of how the world works and how she needs to navigate it to bring about change? Tummon Kamphuis is exactly like that.

That Time Jason Priestley and I Went to Dominican Republic to take part in a P&G clean drinking water campaign for children and underprivileged communities. |humanitarian|social programs|philanthropy

A quick aside about the water purification packets: In essence it’s a powder that mimics what our water treatment plants do, but on a smaller scale. One packet can clean 10 litres of water — which is what a family of 4-5 uses daily — and make it potable. The powder removes waterborne bacteria, waterborne viruses, and protozoa, eliminates disease-causing microorganisms, reduces diarrheal disease incidences, and removes dirt and other pollutants. Cool, right? Cool doesn’t begin to describe actually seeing this in action or sharing a drink of cleaned water with community members and the rest of our group.

Allison Tummon Kamphuis is a member of the Clinton Initiative and met Ulrick Gaillard, founder of the Batey Relief Alliance (BRA) — members of the Clinton Initiative — when they both attended the Global Health Topic dinner in 2013 at the annual meeting in New York. Gaillard approached the CSDW and proposed incorporating clean water into the batey community programs BRA already had in place. The partnership between the CSDW and BRA began in the summer of 2014; it benefits 31,000 people, and is an ideal partnership, according to Tummon Kamphuis, because the BRA already has existing programs along with the trust of the community.

The batey communities we visited are all part of the larger community of Don Juan and approximately 1½ hours from Santo Domingo. They are made up of people who were former sugar cane plantation workers; most of them are Haitians or Dominicans of Haitian descent. They were left without work or resources when the sugar plantations folded or left the Dominican Republic and are some of the most marginalized people in the D.R. Unemployment is rampant, health care is difficult to come by and expensive, and the rate of disease — such as HIV/AIDS — is higher in these communities than elsewhere in the Dominican Republic. As a way to help, the Batey Relief Alliance was founded in 1997 and the community clinic opened in 2005. The clinic currently serves 12,000 families per year.

That Time Jason Priestley and I Went to Dominican Republic to take part in a P&G clean drinking water campaign for children and underprivileged communities. |humanitarian|social programs|philanthropy

We met three families who spoke to us of their experience using the clean water packets. The first family has been a part of the program since its introduction; we met Segunda Abad and her daughter, Odali Almarante at their home. Both women were keen to tell us about improvements they’ve noticed to their skin health as well as having fewer digestive issues and stomach pains. Abad has a spring on her land, which she shares with neighbours, and though the water looked clear when we visited, Almarante — who served as our guide around the property — told us that it is full of particles and pollutants following a rain. The BRA teaches community members how to use the packets and community members, like Almarante, pay it forward by becoming Community Health Promoters who help their neighbours learn how and why to use the packets.

I asked the families with children, “Do your children understand why you’re using the packets?” And they all do, as far as age allows. The moms — it was all moms and young women — who were demonstrating how the packets work and helping their neighbours learn how to make clean water, were just as invested in the why as the how.

To anyone who can’t look past a corporate giant being responsible for this campaign: Isn’t it time to leave thinking in absolutes to the adolescents? We’re adults who have the ability to discern a bigger picture. In this case the bigger picture is that there are people in the world — a few minutes outside that 5-star resort we’ve vacationed at — who cannot provide safe drinking water for their children. That means their children have less of a chance of being healthy, living to adulthood, finishing school, maybe continuing their education, and starting families, than our children do. The corporate giant has a valuable program in place and the clout to partner with governments, local humanitarian agencies, and other corporate giants to provide tangible help.

That Time Jason Priestley and I Went to Dominican Republic to take part in a P&G clean drinking water campaign for children and underprivileged communities. |humanitarian|social programs|philanthropy

What can we do?

Don’t stop going to 5-Star resorts, but be aware of what’s outside the walls and inform yourself of small ways — small measures create big change — you can help before leaving on a trip.

Look for social good campaigns that can easily be incorporated into your daily life. Not everyone can write a big cheque, but everyone can make decisions that have a big impact. P&G CSDW partnered with Walmart Canada Clean Water for one year — April 2014 to March 2015 — and for every purchase of a P&G household needs product from Walmart, a donation of one day of clean water will me made. The added benefit of this partnership is the awareness it raises for this global crisis.

Canada is water-rich and most Canadians have access to safe drinking water. Remember that, and value the resource. The more we value it, the more aware future generations will be that it’s something to protect and something everyone should have access to.

This article was originally published at yummymummyclub.ca.

Scooby Doo! Where Are You?

Have you all watched the new Netflix show Sense8?

I burned through all twelve episodes in a three-night marathon. It’s all about binge watching now. The upside is no more waiting for resolutions; the downside is no more waiting for resolutions. There was fun in the anticipation of what troubles our favourite characters would get into each week — like a first kiss. Would it reward us? Leave us cold? Wanting more? Now we watch until our eyelids burn and our dreams confuse us.

But Sense8 is worth it. There is so much to like about it, although I have to make sure all minors are fast asleep before sitting down to watch. It’s not family viewing, friends. The characters are flawed and the locales are gritty and it’s not mindless viewing, which was the very reason we ditched regular TV last year.

Like any good obsession, I’m telling everyone about it and waiting until friends have caught up so we can discuss story lines. Remember getting together for weekly Melrose Place viewings? Well, Sense8 is like that only better because there’s talent and a script and talent.

I’m not being paid to say these things, I’m only a fan. The show touches on a lot of big ideas: rebirth, sexuality, good, bad, what it is to be human — just your normal dinner conversation — and somehow (sleep deprivation fuels a lot of things) it made me want to write again at Jack Straw Lane. I realized I missed going on about important and not so important things, even if no one read it. It’s not as though I gave up putting pen to paper completely though, I’ve written and edited elsewhere.


Some of you know I’m a food writer for Erica Ehm’s YummyMummyClub.ca where I’m usually finding a way to work cheese into my recipes. There’s also the writing and editing at Life In Pleasantville, which covers travel, hot topics, food, and our contributors’ latest crushes. You should check that out.

These are some of the posts I’ve written recently:

What to Pack in a Carry-On

Top 10 travel Apps

Cheesy Baked Asparagus Fries & Dip – 3 Ways!

Crispy Cheddar Cauli-Tots


Hello again. Nice to see you.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: