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In Society

Rusiana Mannarino, A Real Gem of a Woman

We all meet many people throughout the course of our lives  but not many can we call a friend.  Friendship is a value I hold dear and I chose one of my friends to be the first “Unforgettable person I have ever met” not only because I like her but because she has been such an inspiration to me throughout the few years we have known each other. I met Rusiana at a Yoga studio and I liked her right away: her big smile, her twinkly eyes but most of all her friendly disposition.  As I got to know Rusiana I realized that there was much more to this bubbly-smiley- friendly person I was always happy to run into.  She had a background story that I would never of guessed in a million years.

Rusiana grew up  in a poor neighbourhood in Indonesia and had a very difficult childhood. By the age of six she had endured very tough circumstances and was lacking the role models most children have growing up. Those feelings that something was very wrong with her environment, although she didn’t understand what was normal or abnormal, did cost her to lose her innocence.  Not knowing what she was actually doing Rusiana found a way to adapt to her surroundings by building a façade that could  change at her will so as to please everyone and therefore avoiding  the pain of being rejected.  This façade, she believed, was her personality and this ‘act’ worked out for many years. Although Rusiana followed her passion for Marketing and Business Management and graduated from the University of Tarumanagara in Jakarta,  she chose to work as a flight attendant for ten years instead of working in her field. Over the years Rusiana felt completely cornered by her choices and eventually she chose to face reality. Maybe she wasn’t the ‘happy-g0-lucky’ girl and realized she needed to make changes in her life.

That is the reason I believe that Rusiana is such an inspiration for women who are afraid to step out of their comfort zones.  I believe I read somewhere that “Nothing great ever comes out of comfort zones.” Ain’t that the truth! Unfortunately it is easier said than done. Rusiana’s strength is in her ability to step out of herself and take a hard look at who she really is. It takes an enormous amount of courage to face oneself, but it takes even more to be honest with what you do not like about yourself. Rusiana felt that she did deserved peace and harmony as much as others did but she felt nailed down by her fears and limitations.

The first step Rusiana took was to accept the fact that she had been mistreated in the past and the second was that she wasn’t going to be a victim anymore.  She took her power back with the help of what she calls her “Higher Power”: she listened to what her soul was starving for all those years.  No matter how deep the wounds were, Rusiana now had faith. This faith was what she hung onto whenever she felt weak and afraid. Then came the real challenge: she was offered a business opportunity that allowed her to reach her goals and transform herself into the woman she is today although  it meant facing her fears of success, failure, lacking skills, as well dealing with a  language barrier. The offer being in her field and leaning on her newfound faith, she rose to the opportunity. Rusiana never quit. No matter how rocky things got and how depressed she would get. Looking at the bigger picture helped her to stay focused and today, she is a successful businesswoman. When Rusiana feels she is reverting into her old self she uses gratitude, forgiveness, acceptance, and faith instead of the negative opposite such as fear, self-pity, self-hatred and procrastination.

In all humility, Rusiana believes she was put on this Earth to deliver a message of love and wishes that everyone could see the perfection her Higher Power has shown her. She wants to guide others on that road less traveled and that is why I believe she is one truly amazing and unforgettable person. I am without a doubt that she has found her deeper purpose and that as she continues to live her life, will help many others attain freedom from the fears and limitations that lurk in their minds. I am very lucky to count Rusiana as one of my friends and I will always be inspired by her relentless desire to be the best person she can be.

 

Rusiana is an Independent Consultant- Area Manager at Arbonne Canada and is the co-author of “Dear Stress, I’m breaking up with you”  and “Dear limits, get out of my way” from the series of books “Dear Women Guide Book Series” published by Golden Brick Road Publishing House Inc.

 

12 In Animal Rights/ Society

Stop Breed Specific Laws

Since December 2016 Montrealers have had to abide by the new BSL by-law imposed by Mayor Denis Coderre. This breed specific law, known as “the bull shit law” amongst animal activists and most dog owners,  is definitely controversial. Therefore I decided to explore it some more and was quite surprised by my findings.

In all fairness I truly understand the gravity of this situation but having looked at both sides of the issue I believe this is a knee-jerk reaction coming from the Mayor’s office. Of course everyone was appalled when Lucifer, a 7 year-old Pit Bull , killed a 55 year old woman in Montreal after he had escaped from his backyard. The Quebec court pressed charges against the owner but he was acquitted; a decision that I struggle with since the dog had lunged at by-standers outside a convenient store,  bitten a cousin and was muzzled at home when guests came over. The owner had also asked the SPCA for help in order to reduce Lucifer’s aggressive behaviour. Who is to blame? Is it the dog’s fault or the owner’s? In this case it seems that the dog was at fault and was killed by the two police officers at the scene. In other cases the owners were not so lucky and were charged with manslaughter and pleaded guilty to criminal negligence. Where do we draw the line?

Apparently by deciding that all the dogs that look like Pit Bulls have to have a special licence, must be muzzled outside the home, be neutered (therefore trying to extinct the breed); also no new Pitt Bull types are to enter our municipality. What does this mean exactly? Any dog that has a square jaw and a muscular body fits that description. Personally I found that this by-law installed more fear then anything else. I will give you an example: I was at the convenient store with my Boston Terrier and someone asked me why my dog wasn’t muzzled? Here is a picture of my dog Tommy.

After more dog digging I found that many municipalities that had enforced this regulation had actually REVERSED it because it was unfair, unenforceable and ineffective. According to the statistics in Canada you are 18 times more likely to be killed riding your bicycle but I don’t see any municipality outlawing bikes?

I believe that any type of dog can be dangerous and that each case should be treated individually. I used to own a Miniature Pinscher named Jack that was a lot more unpredictable then any Pitt Bull and I had to take special precautions in order to restrain him. There are roughly 500,000 dog bites per year in Canada and less than half of them are done by Pitt bulls. According to an article in the Globe and Mail by Stanley Cohen some dog experts have stated that dog bites could be reduced by 89% if dogs received basic obedience training. Now that makes sense to me.

Please help to put pressure on the City of Montreal to stop the BSL enforcement. There are many demonstrations happening around the city and many organizations you can join to fight this ridiculous by-law such as Ma voix pour Eux and the SPCA, for example.

 

 

In Society

The healing power of music

I have always been deeply touched by music. Having studied classical piano I still play and sometimes like to compose. Those have been the best moments of my life. They are the times I have felt the closest to my Creator. As Kasey Kasem once said: ‘Music is the soundtrack of our lives’. Who hasn’t listened to a song and was immediately transported into a world of emotions and memories. Music has the power to touch our souls and to make us feel many different emotions such as happiness, excitement, joy, and sadness.

Music’s healing powers have been the subject of many researches and they have concluded that music not only improves our memory and brain function, it also can lower stress and anxiety, make us happier, lower blood pressure, slow our heartbeat and so on. But the most grandiose benefit of music is that it is divine. It has the ability to keep us alive in very difficult times. Being lodged away in our minds, no one has the power to take music’ s infliction from us.

The most compelling story I ever encountered concerning this ‘miracle’ was that of Alice Sommer- Henz a pianist from Prague who survived the Theresienstadt concentration camp in Czechoslovakia during the Nazi Occupation. Her beautiful vision of life and how music has saved her from being killed is quite compelling. Although the prisoners were not really fed and lived in atrocious conditions, the musicians were the ones who were the most optimistic about surviving the death camps and  to refuse accepting its horrors. The Nazis could take everything for Sommer-Henz but  music remained untouchable in her mind. It was her paradise within hell.  Knowing that she would play at night , even if it was for the Nazis, was her saving grace.

 

Words cannot express what this woman and her family went through but the lesson she left the world are even more powerful than her survival itself. Her life is a service to anyone who is going through a strenuous period in their life. The healing power of music is true wisdom and if you let yourself be carried by its melodies it will touch your heart and change you forever. Thank you Alice  Samson-Herts for inspiring all of us to see beauty everywhere. Your courage and strength as well as your belief in the healing power of music will never be forgotten.

 

 

 

In Society

Where has our humanity gone?

One of the question that seems to rise often these days concerns the whereabouts of our humanity. But what is considered humanity? Although the words human and humanity share the same origin there is a vast difference between being human and being humane.  A human is different from an animal or a plant because of its capacity to rationalize, compute, and communicate through a language for example where as humanity represents the sympathies and frailties of human nature such as kindness and weakness. I have always wondered why we humans believe that we are superior animals when we are the only ones that suffer from inner conflict. This internal conflict between good and evil, logic and emotion is a trait that characterizes us and leads us to make choices between these two paths.

Social medias are being flooded with disastrous stories for the simple reason that those stories have a vaster audience. Loads of people are amused by stupid and disturbing acts of some particular people which in turn makes them more powerful therefore more dangerous. Focusing on the degradation of our collective conscience has become a terrible addiction. Millions of us feel amused and entertained by what is actually the tipping point in our history let alone our survival. The urgency of our situation as a species is well hidden behind the power and greed of corporations, governments and individuals.

The most disturbing fact of today’s collective conscience is the attention we give to the negative aspects of our world without looking for a solution that is humane. Hasn’t history taught us that hatred and violence just breeds more hatred and violence? What is inherently wrong with us that economic and social gains mean more then the survival of our own species? Kick me if I am wrong but doesn’t every religion prone love and kindness towards each other and towards all of God’s creations? History keeps repeating itself like it never happened in the first place. As Albert Einstein famously said : “the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”  It doesn’t matter how rich or how popular you are if there is no more planet for us to live on. This issue should be at the forefront of multi-nation discussions. It’s just common sense. Ronald Reagan once gave a speech at the United Nations where he implied that if Earth was to be attacked by aliens we humans would have to unite.  Christians, Muslims, Jews, Black, White, American, Russian whatever; we would be one at last. No more wars over religion, no more borders, no more differences.

Kindness is not just a quality, it is a necessity. Kindness is the only solution that I believe we humans possess; it not only gives us hope it also gives us peace.  My only hope is that we teach and educate humans kindness and with that, make the world a more humane place for all species to live.

In Society

Giving hope to humanity – The story of Vasilis Tsartsanis

This is not a story about politics. This is a story about courage, love, and kindness. I found it impossible to watch the video about the life of Vasilis Tsartsanis and not feel touched by it. This is a great example of courage and selflessness. A true gem amongst the headlines that are flooding the media today. This is why I felt it was important to share it with you.

Tsartsanis a common man like any other had the courage to stand up and follow his convictions. Although his actions placed him in great danger nothing stopped this gentle giant. This is a story that demonstrates the values that we as people living on one planet need to posses if we want to live in peace and, facing all the wars that are presently ongoing,  also need to survive as a species.

While doing research for this blog there was very little information about this man. Yet he is a true example of what I consider a hero. Unfortunately these are not the kind of articles that sell magazines.  Hence why I felt this man deserved to be showcased. I hope it will inspire you to be kind to others and to follow your heart because after all we are all equal in God’s eyes. I urge you to do an act of kindness everyday because kindness does last forever to those touched by it.

 

In Society

The solidarity of fair-trade shea butter

Whilst the women of the industrialized world reunited and marched against the Trump Government in order to protect and strengthen their inherent rights within a democratic society, forgotten are the West African women who are not only fighting for their education as well as their children’s but for their utter survival.  It is abominable that in 2017  these women remain in the shadows of their sisters from across the ocean.

With this in mind I contacted a Quebec company, Karité Delapointe,  which I knew dared go down the road less traveled, the fair-trade road, and which I knew held these women close to their hearts. To be fair-trade one must be somewhat inconvenienced but to my astonishment Praxède Lévesque-Lapointe, the co-founder and owner,  clearly explained to me how it wasn’t as difficult as one might think to be a fair-trade enterprise. She also explained how the benefits definitely outweigh the responsibilities. I listened to her talk passionately about the 5000 women Karité Delapointe help in the countryside of Burkina Faso. When I asked her what was her best memory upon meeting these women in person Lévesque-Lapointe responded: ‘ their smile‘ . That being said it was easy to understand her conviction.  “But why aren’t more companies fair-trade“? I wondered. The answer she gave me is quite startling: because it entails organisation on the African side. Even though The Center for International Studies and Cooperation (in Canada) is there to help put everything in place, fair-trade is still a very small part of our economy. Why? Because companies don’t care enough to be slightly inconvenienced. Not to mention that there is barely any economic impact on a company for it to be fair-trade although it means the world to West African women. Without fair-trade once again Africa gets the raw end of the deal. It is without saying that Karité Delapointe pays about 3 times the going rate for shea butter but when you think of the ‘regular‘ rate it is so ridiculously low that it’s no wonder that some families remain poor and hopeless.

Shea butter often called the ‘green gold’ of Western Africa where it grows is their only solution against scarcity. The harvest and transformation of the shea nut has traditionally fallen on the shoulders of the West African women solely due to the false belief that men in contact with shea brings them a lifetime of misfortune. While men harvest crops in the fields women are responsible for the hardest and most lucrative labour, the harvest and transformation of the shea nut into shea butter. This conversion was traditionally done by hand but graced by the economic spinoffs of fair-trade, has permitted these women to purchase industrial equipment in order to lessen this burden. The best advantage I believe remains in their reclaimed dignity and power in the face of the adversities of living their lives in Third World conditions.

Fair trade not only gave these women the freedom to work when they wish, a job that pays them directly through the organisation of a co-operative, but also the opportunity of educating themselves and their children, and the institution of nurseries to take care of their children while they work. Basic women’s rights and well, natural rights and freedoms that we modern-day women take for granted since we have earned them eons ago.

Having made my plea I urge all the women (and men!) that read this article to please hold these women close to your hearts because you too can make a difference. Buying fair-trade is much more powerful then donating money to charities since it can be traced right back to the worker. The evidence is there and so is your choice. As Lévesque-Lapointe said: ‘If everyone had a pot of our balm in their house, imagine what kind of an impact that would have on the living conditions of these women of West Africa.’

Karité Delapointe which is the only Fairtrade Certified shea butter importer in Canada, offers 3 products which mostly contain pure and organic shea butter: a balm which hydrates and regenerates the skin, a conditioning lip balm and a luxurious soap, all offered in 3 fragrances: Douceur, Fruity and Freshness  or in unscented. They are also working with incorporating fair-trade cacao in a new line of Orange-Cacao products which will be available soon. You can visit their site www.karitedelapointe.com to place an order. They also sell in bulk! So whether it’s to soothe your chapped hands this winter or to buy fair-trade shea butter for your own company don’t forget the ones who are at the forefront and are paving the way for other products to become fair-trade. Do the right thing. Buy fair-trade and think of this:  you are also putting a smile on a West African woman’s face…priceless isn’t it

TO PLACE AN ORDER PLEASE CLICK HERE:

www.karitedelapointe.com

 

In Society

Fighting bullies with kindness

When I had the idea of writing this blog I was truly inspired by kindness. Kind people have saved my life and have  installed in me a sense of self that I am proud of.  I believe that we live in a world where we could solve many of our problems with this virtue. Unfortunately and to my own dismay I have been a target of bullies in many shapes and forms: I have been called names, put down, threatened, harassed, and denigrated. I have had spam with horrible messages posted on my personal account all in the joys of someone else trying to disrupt my emotional stability. For what? Because of what I believe in that I have put forward on this blog.

Eventually I had to come to understand that bullying has no age. I have heard of bullying in school yards and on-line but I was unprepared for adult cyber bullying. I now stand before you as a victim of this cyber war. The thing is that I have come so far in my life that nothing will silence my beliefs although I have to admit that I went through difficult times trying to understand why this was happening to me.

After a lot of soul searching I deducted that there is something inherently wrong with the collective consciousness of our world. How could people be so angry that I was an animal activist? a vegan? an environmentalist? How naïve was I to believe that by putting forward kindness I was sheltered. It was a rude awakening and it make me want to promote kindness even more. I will not ever give in and silence myself due to some rage and hatred that does not belong to me.

Here are the different ways you may get bullied online:

. Flaming: fighting on-line using vulgar language,

Impersonation: hacking another’s email or social media to post embarrassing comments,

Outing and Trickery: sharing another’s secrets or tricking someone into revealing embarrassing information,

. Cyber Stalking: repeated threats or online activity that makes a person afraid of his/her safety

Cyberbullies hide under their anonymity and have lots of accessibility on social media. There are many laws depending where you live that protects victims of cyberbullying. If you are being cyber bullied on a specific media site please report the activity. You can also report cyberbullying to the police. I think the best way to conquer ‘trolls’ as they are called online  is to disengage and not give the attacker more power.

Kindness is of the most importance against all types of bullying. Responding calmly and with kindness disarms most situations. There are also links where you can get help with bullying. This kind of action  should start with educating chidren at home as well as in schools. There are more and more programs that teach children to respect each other and to do random acts of kindness. These kids are our future and kindness should be taught to them and hopefully bullying will one day disappear.

Let’s keep the hope, stand strong together and keep spreading kindness!

In Society

A schoolgirl’s odyssey – the story of Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for female education. She is very well know across the world for being a Human Rights advocate for education in her native Swat Valley in Northeast Pakistan. I wanted to blog about her because she is one of the brightest, courageous, and most influential people alive today. She continues to be an inspiration for me as well as for many other people around the world. I see her as the modern day Gandhi.

After being exiled from her town in the Swat Valley, she returned home and continued to be an activist for the education of girls in Pakistan. At the age of eleven years old, pressured by her father, she became a blogger covering the growing presence of the Taliban in her town for the BBC Urdu, using a pseudonym for her own safety. After the BBC diary ended, the New York Times published a documentary in 2009 about Malala. As she became more famous the Taliban continued to oppress the region of Swat and issued a ban on girls attending school. By January 2009, the Taliban had already blown up hundreds of girl’s schools. The Pakistani Government’s Army went into war against the Taliban. Malala, her family, as well as about a million people fled the region only to come back three months later, finding her school damaged by both the militants and the military.

On October 11, 2009 Archbishop Desmond Tutu named her for the International Children’s Peace Prize of the Dutch International Children’s advocacy group Kid’s Rights Foundation. Malala stood up for herself and for other girls using the national and international media to further her plight for girl’s rights to attend school worldwide. On December 19, 2011 Prime Minister Yousaf Raze Gilani awarded her the National Peace Award for Youth.

As Malala’s fame grew she received many death threats at her home as well as on her Facebook page, but she refused to back down and for that reason the Taliban held a meeting in the summer of 2012 in which they conspired to kill her. On October 9, 2012 she was shot three times by a 23 year-old man named Atta Ullah Khan, who was a chemistry student and was part of a militant group called Shuru. The police arrested six other men that were members of Shuru and whom they believed had taken part in the assassination plot, but they were released for lack of evidence in their involvement. Esanullah Ehsan, the main spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack saying that Malala was “the symbol of the infidels and obscenity.”

The assassination attempt got international media coverage and there was an overwhelming outcry of sympathy and support for Malala. Many heads of countries and diplomats showed their support for her such as Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardani, United States President Barack Obama, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and British Foreign Secretary William Hague. Demonstrations were held in many Pakistani cities which resulted in over two million people signing the “Right to Education” petition, which in turn eradicated the first “Right to Education” bill in Pakistan.

Her first appearance after the attack was on July 12, 2013 where she called for the worldwide access to education. The United Nations named the event “Malala Day” which had an audience of over five hundred young education advocates from all over the world. After receiving many standing ovations for her speech, she presented the Chamber with “The Education We Want,” a youth resolution of education demand.

Here is an excerpt of her speech to the United Nations:

“The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions, but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born … I am not against anyone, neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorist group. I’m here to speak up for the right of education for every child. I want education for the sons and daughters of the Taliban and all terrorists and extremists.”

On October 2014 Malala Yousafzai, at seventeen years old, became the first Pakistani and the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace prize for her struggle against the oppression of children and young people and their right to education. Malala continues her work and remains one of the kindest, brightest, and most beautiful souls that the world has ever encountered.

I am also posting the speech she gave as she received The 2014 Nobel Price for Peace.

2 In Society

My journey into veganism

I was born in 1969. I was 15 years old when my favourite band “The Smiths” came out with the album “Meat is Murder.” This album was literally the soundtrack of my teenage years. We were the cool kids and Morrissey was our God. I listened to this album over and over again completely oblivious to Morrissey’s message. How could we? We were the intimidating kids.  We dressed in black from head to toe, stuck pins through our clothes and bodies, drank and smoked heavily, and wrote anarchy signs all over the subway stations, not realizing what any of it really meant. Now meat was murder?? What the F***!!  Did Morrissey lose his mind? I thought. I must of sang the lyrics to this song a million times over and over in my egotistical  “alternative” teenage head. I was totally unaware of the message. What was Morrissey talking about? Surely he didn’t want us to abandon our anti-establishment mission of anarchy to become vegans!? How dare he mess with us!

Vegetarians, we thought in those days, were hippies in California doing macrame and wearing flowery dresses. I just didn’t identify, even though the God of my World was a vegan. I could not nor would not at the time come close to understanding what was going on in Morrissey’s head.

But the seed had been planted. I pondered the issue and a few years later, without telling any of my friends of course, I read a book called a “Diet for a Small Planet” by Frances Moore Lappé, which was the first major book to note the environmental impact of meat production as a waste and the underlying cause of the global food scarcity. My heart sank and my thoughts changed, but I definitely lacked the courage to follow through with action.

I started buying books about vegetarian cooking and all that good stuff, but I hid it from my friends in the fear of not being so cool anymore. Fearing the unimaginable (not being one of the cool kids anymore), I turned my head the other way lacking the courage to face the reality that I was now aware of. Many years later vegetarian and vegan information was popping up in the social media and I became curious again. This time there were tons of resources where I decided to educate myself on this matter. There were books, documentaries, conferences, and the statistics were bewildering. I finally understood what Morrissey was talking about for all those years, and so began my journey into veganism.

I understood that vegetarians do not eat meat, fish, or poultry. But vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, did not use any animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products. This meant a complete transformation from being a “normal” carnivore into not only a vegetarian but it also meant I had to let go of everything I thought was “normal.” Understanding the impact of being a vegan has on climate change, as well as the health benefits such as the reduction of diabetes and heart problems, as well as giving animals back their right to life and freedoms were my new guidelines.

It took many years for my transformation to happen.  First I cut down my consumption of meat and fish, followed by becoming vegetarian and later on letting go of all dairy products.  About a year later I stopped using any animal product and I was vegan. It took a lot of courage. I faced many critics but armed with a new passion and tons of facts, my journey was well on its way. I couldn’t turn my head away anymore. I wanted to be genuine and although it was not an easy transition I now stand a proud vegan. I have no desire to revert whatsoever. I hope you can relate to my story because my deepest wish today is to carry this message of love and kindness to as many hearts as possible. It is time to face the facts and stop being hypocritical. The planet, animals, as well as the survival of the human species are in a critical state of emergency. We need to take action NOW. Thank you Morrissey, you were right: meat is murder.