Good Causes: September + October


One of my favourite personal goals for the year has been making a conscious effort to contribute to good causes. As I wrote on the page where I’ve been documenting the various organizations I’ve contributed to, I was ashamed last year when I was helping my grandmother organize her paperwork relating to her charitable donations for the year. I’d donated only about $20 over the course of the whole year to my friends’ causes, and it was not because I couldn’t afford it. It was just because I didn’t prioritize giving the way I actually believe in giving.

It only recently occurred to me that I should start profiling the organizations I’ve been supporting. These are causes that I really believe in, that I think are doing truly awesome work. So going forward I’m planning to share the organizations I’m supporting here on the blog, just in case you’re looking for a good cause to support as well.

Future Former Millionaire

This was a fun one I heard about from the World Domination Summit. Steven’s big idea is to get a $1 donation from a million people, and then give it all away to good causes. I’m not sure yet what he’ll donate to or even how much he’s donated, but I contributed my $1 even just because I think this idea is totally rad.

Pencils of Promise

I donated to PoP earlier in the year after reading the excellent autobiography of the founder. They build schools, train teachers, and give “scholarships” to children in developing areas of the world. It’s such an awesome organization. I donated again in September because they had an awesome campaign through a sponsor – they were matching donations up to $25,000.


I adore Kiva, and have been donating regularly this whole year. Since it’s all loans, not donations, I usually re-invest the loans as they are repaid to me. I want to eventually donate to a business in every country on Kiva! You can learn more about Kiva here.

Run For the Cure

My aunt was raising money for the run to end breast cancer. I have a few issues with the pink campaigns for breast cancer – a great documentary on the topic is Pink Ribbons, Inc – but regardless I absolutely hate cancer and I think that awareness and fundraising are good things. Plus, I wanted to support my aunt.

The Human Voicebank

I didn’t actually donate money to this cause (there’s no option to, otherwise I would have) but I did donate both time and my voice, so it makes the list. I wrote more about this project here. It looks like the beta recording has been put on hold but I’ll be checking in regularly to see if there are any updates.


I’m always interested in hearing about the causes that are doing awesome work in the world, so if you have any that you’re a big fan of, please let me know in the comments below.

I’ve been doing a lot of listening, learning and thinking about giving this year. Two things that stand out as having shaped my thinking are the book I mentioned above, Thrive by Ariana Huffington, and this excellent episode of the TED Radio Hour about giving. There are some seriously great ideas in all three.

You can see all of the good causes I’ve supported this year right here.

Vocal ID: Donate Your Voice

Just after I first arrived in Korea, I was listening to NPR TED Radio Hour when I heard Rupal Patel being interviewed about her big new idea for synthetic voices. I was so inspired by the story, and I remember tearing up when I heard some of the voices that were created for people with speech disorders. The new technology blends together the speech sounds of a person who is unable to speak with sounds from a voice donor and creates a brand new, unique computerized voice for the individual. Until recently, many people with speech disorders communicated using the same voice – regardless of whether they were old or young, male or female. This idea, while simple, strikes me as so incredibly powerful. Yes, of course, it makes a difference. Imagine only being able to communicate in a voice that doesn’t sound anything like you – I know it would make a difference to me to be able to use a voice that I could recognize as my own.

Ever since I heard the story, I was inspired to help out. I checked on the website every few weeks or so, and signed up for the mailing list to hear news. The people behind this initiative have been working very hard to create a platform for regular people to donate speech sounds from their homes instead of needing to visit a recording studio. I can understand why a project of this scale has taken so long to actualize, and I was just excited for the day it would be ready.

I never did get an email with news, but yesterday when I went on the website, I was finally able to set up an account and start recording in their Beta mode. You can learn more about the voicebank here, and if you are interested you can sign up for an account yourself. They need about 3-4 hours of speech total to create a collection of several voice sounds that they’ll be able to blend with other sounds to make a brand new voice. In case you’d be concerned: the resulting voice wouldn’t be recognizable as your own.

I’ve done a couple sessions so far and while it’s a slow process, I’m enjoying it and happy to be contributing in this small way. I encourage you to check out the website and see what you think!

Happy Monday.

3 Good Things For Today

Just a few quick notes tonight:

1. It’s Match Day on Pencils of Promise today! PoP is a charity dedicated to building schools and improving education worldwide. I read the founder’s biography earlier this year and I really admire his worldview and the work they’re doing. For today only, the organization Common Bond is matching all donations up to $25,000 so you can double your impact.

2. If you haven’t seen it yet, Emma Watson’s speech at the UN was absolutely brilliant. The campaign He For She looks great and it’s exactly the kind of breath of fresh air the “movement” needs right now. I am inspired by how much progressive, awesome work is being done lately regarding women’s rights, men’s rights, human rights!

3. Kiva continues to be awesome! I recently got paid back $20 of my loans and reinvested tonight in a toilet business run by a woman in Kenya. I was inspired by my conversation with my mom about moving to the country and dealing with the trials and tribulations of a septic tank. It reminded me just how much I take running water, flushing toilets and sanitation for granted. If you aren’t familiar with Kiva, their awesome new video above will explain. I’ve decided I want to eventually loan to all 78 countries that Kiva supports.

And that’s all for today! If you’re curious, you can see all the causes I’ve supported so far this year right here. It’s a personal goal that’s been incredibly rewarding for me. Have an awesome and inspiring day.

I Donated My Voice

Last week after Laura and I recorded the Feminism 101 episode of our podcast, she sent me a link to an article about a new initiative the Canadian Women’s Foundation has started regarding sex trafficking in Canada. They’re calling for people to donate their voices in order to tell the stories of victims who are unable to speak for themselves because they are ashamed or because they fear violence against themselves or their families. The campaign asks for other people to donate their own voices in order to tell these stories out loud.

The foundation has made three professionally-done ad spots that are extremely moving, to say the least. You can watch all three (about 30 seconds each) here. Their website has a recording function for you to quickly and easily donate your own voice anonymously, shot in black and white. They have a selection of stories on their website that you can choose from to record.

I think this campaign is extremely smart and very powerful. The cause itself is so important, because this issue is so horrifying. It’s true that these girls are unable to tell their own stories or advocate for themselves, because they’re in situations we can’t imagine (or don’t want to). I think it’s so wonderful (and clever) that the Canadian Women’s Foundation has found a way to crowdsource in order to spread awareness.

I was moved to donate my own voice, which you can see in the clip above. I memorized the short paragraph because I felt it would be respectful to spend a little time internalizing the story. I also recorded it a few times to make sure I was delivering the words in the most respectful way I could.

It’s almost unfathomable, Emma’s story (along with all the others on the website), and it’s hard to really engage with because it’s so upsetting. But of course, as upsetting as it was for me, there’s a little girl out there living that horrible reality and so I think we all owe her and others like her our attention, support and respect. I feel so very lucky that the story I read in the video is not my own, but I know that these girls are just as innocent and undeserving as I am.

I also made a donation to the foundation to help them to continue with their important work. If you don’t feel comfortable recording a video but are inspired to contribute, you can donate here.

PS. This year I’ve been making a conscious effort to donate my time and money to charity at least once per month. If you’re curious to learn more about the organizations I’ve chosen to support, you can find information about them here.