Supporting Women’s Habitat 40th Anniversary

Directed by: Oana CR, To:Her / Produced by: Char San Pedro, 920 Films/Good To Be Good 
Featuring: Silvia Samsa, Victoria Roth, Munice Wright, Gia Dejulio, Cecilia Nuñez

On November 2nd, 1978, Women’s Habitat opened the doors to their emergency shelter. Within 2 weeks, they were full and have been ever since. Over the past 40 years, they have grown to expand their services to include supports and programming for women, children and youth at the community outreach centre in the heart of South Etobicoke. They have advocated for better laws, policies and services that respond to the needs of women and children who have experienced violence and oppression. They have created awareness and fought against systemic oppression. They have partnered with their community to deliver inclusive, client centred services and continue to work to break down barriers within our own walls.

In March 2018, Women’s Habitat hosted several events and initiatives to celebrate their accomplishments, reflect of its history and honour the women who have walked through their doors. Women’s Habitat is built on a foundation of committed community members, donors and supporters who for 40 years have championed their mission.

I am proud to be a loud and active advocate for Women’s Habitat. I encourage you to donate generously to help continue the work of the shelter and to contribute the fight against women’s violence.

Here’s to women’s strength, support and solidarity.

 

UNDIVIDED

Featured on Thrive Global: https://thriveglobal.com/stories/undivided/

The encompassing definition of feminism is the advocacy of political, social and economic rights for women equal to those of men. This can also mean that we recognize feminism from different perspectives for different women regardless of race, sexual orientation, economic status, nationality, class or creed.

The essence of being a feminist is not grounded in trendy hashtags and does not need to be consigned to a pseudo-fashionable statement. More importantly, feminists don’t identify with the posited “anti-male” judgment or female power rivalry. These types of radical myopia slander the development itself, leaving us caught in a discourse of misinterpretation while diverting from improving our core goals: humanity, equality, and a place for everyone to thrive wholly.

When we operate from a space that supports and engages this shared principal thinking, we are free to encourage feminine values at home, in the workforce and in our own communities. The foundation denotes an inclusive ecosystem where women have real access to their choices, are free to voice their truth and feel safe to harness personal liberation – unobstructed by repercussion or oppression.

Simply put, FEMINISM is a HUMAN rights issue and a fundamental belief that when equal balance is achieved, together, we are ALL more free.

The female movement has never had such far-reaching support and it’s come a long way – a benevolent journey worth celebrating. But enduring progress isn’t destined; it’s an outcome generated by our continued conscious efforts and diligent determination. Whether propagating feminist terminology or not, there are heroes to unequivocally salute for their effect: Michelle Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt, Oprah, Gloria Steinem, Angelina Jolie, Audre Lorde, Maya Angelou, Malala Yousaf, Kimberly Crenshaw, Anna Julia Cooper, Shirley Chisholm, Frida Kahlo, Alice Walker, Loretta Ross, Angela Davis and other countless women revolutionaries who have championed women’s rights and fought to build a more harmonious humankind.

As a society, we can forward progress by taking critical action on primary issues, by acknowledging that a ‘woman’ can signify many complex, unparalleled things, and by learning the innumerable ways women confront and feel challenged, both subtle and overt. Progress necessitates deep labor in building social movements that are intersectional, especially for the realities of women in marginalized groups. It cannot subscribe to a one-size-fits-all formula, seeing that oppression can be experienced in multitudes: racism, bigotry, sexism, economic status, sexual orientation, violence, health disparities, exploitation, cultural imperialism. In league, we must work fervently in demanding gender justice and respect for not just one kind of woman – but for each women (including non-binary people) who have the liberty to share space in equity discourse.

We exist in a time of great change, where many women are still systematically disadvantaged, living in tough economic circumstances, suffering from abuse, escaping violence and lacking access to education and health. Our global development requires thoughtful input and multifaceted action for any efficacious impact to take flight. Feminism depends on a mind that prioritizes freedom and collective activism from within so that we can dismantle harmful, traditional narratives and reform the very systemic structures that subjugate women. We need allies to do so. If we want to shift our policies, our politics, and civil societies for the better, we must advance spaces for women’s meaningful participation and holistically check our attitudes to help retool the system so that women who are most vulnerable can be seen, heard and ultimately, prosper. A commitment – one that belongs to men and women – to putting women at the front and centre involves inclusion in all fields and promoting a culture of true, earnest diversity beyond the visible. The mutual responsibility that binds us and benefits everyone.

Let’s be active in our listening – unarmed and in total union – be loud in what we believe and, in our everyday decisions, work to bring us closer to our highest ideals. No matter our differences, tribulations and paths – we build, we support, we fight, we care, we love. We do this side by side. That is our complete power.

Today and everyday, we celebrate the vast glory of a woman’s challenges and her uninhibited possibilities. The female spirit is ceaselessly alive and globally needed more than ever. Change starts with us. We stand UNDIVIDED.

‘UNDIVIDED’ Campaign for Good To Be Good Foundation. Photographed by Tara Noelle. Glam by Kestra Goldman. Clothing by Skylar Yoo and Novella Royale

 

In Love With The Coco

For Kapuluan Coconut in Tulum. Shot by Lisa Jackson.

I have a very special relationship with the COCO. Coming from a Polynesian-Islander-South Asian background, coconut-anything (oil specifically) is an essential component of my lifestyle. You may think it’s merely this health trend but it has actually benefited people around the world for thousands of years. Coconut and its products are no strangers to people in the tropics and its culture, who have been using them for a very long time. Even when the ‘anti-saturated fat war’ waged in America, it never stopped Islanders from benefiting from the multi-faceted healing powers of this super fruit. Islanders have been using the purest forms of coconut (oil) to nourish, heal and enrich their bodies for ages. Consumed in moderation, coconuts can benefit your health by helping fight and prevent infection with its powerful natural anti fungal and anti septic properties. They’re highly nutritious, being rich in vitamins and minerals including iron, vitamin B, C, calcium, magnesium and selenium. In cooking and baking, they work as perfect alternatives to dairy products as it’s lactose free and vegan. Coconuts can be a staple fat source for any diet since it’s high in saturated fatty acids, lauric acid and medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) which are easily burned as fuel by the body and helps boost metabolism. The best part is that it tastes and smells yummy on everything! When choosing a coconut brand, always opt for: organic, fair trade and cold-pressed. You deserve only the best. And the planet will thank you.

Most useful way to consume coconut? Coconut oil to moisturize skin. No parabens, no fragrances, no weird additives – just pure natural goodness and joy on the skin. 

Other ways to use coconut oil? Make up remover, pre and post sun lathers, oil pulling, hair conditioning.

Best thing about coconut oil? How truly versatile it is. Mother nature’s finest. 

 

Woman, A Poem.

Do not underestimate the thunderous words a woman isn’t afraid to speak.
Do not underestimate the powerful gentleness of a woman.
Do not underestimate the vulnerability of a woman’s cry.
Do not underestimate the strength of a woman when she is in pain.
Do not underestimate the smile of a woman.
Do not underestimate the confidence of a woman in a bikini, in a burqa, in a pantsuit, in ripped jeans, in second-hand clothes, in a saree.
Do not underestimate the woman who puts up with a lot of shit.
(Who takes none of it.)
Do not underestimate the love a woman gives, as grand as the ocean, beyond all faults.
Do not underestimate her steadfast intuition.
Do not underestimate the duality of fire and stillness that lives within her.
Do not underestimate the woman who can deal with change and uncertainty,
because she isn’t dependent on what she does or has
— but who she is.

Tara Noelle for Fortnight Lingerie

 

 

“Etobicoke’s Women’s Habitat launches winter campaign with powerful ad”

I am gratified to share with everyone our latest 920 Films x Good To Be Good project for our friends at Women’s Habitat. Directed by James O’Donnell, “Choices”, highlights the special bond between a mother and her child as they seek safety and assistance from Women’s Habitat. We are honoured to have created a vital piece to augment the awareness for women’s abuse and violence through the power of story telling.

Hunger, violence and homelessness never take breaks! Community shelters are in need of your support, especially this holiday season when it is cold and lonely for some, to ensure that these families and kids’ fundamental necessities are taken care of. We hope you contribute to this imperative cause and support WH whether it’s with the smallest or biggest of deeds. It’s always a good time to give abundantly. So please give generously to this vital cause. Greater than that, share love, warmth and time wherever you go.

Full press and video link from Inside Toronto News here:

https://www.toronto.com/community-story/8002945-etobicoke-s-women-s-habitat-launches-winter-campaign-with-powerful-ad/

Sincere Kinships for Change

With everything that is going on, we recognize that a radical change is fundamental in today’s society, in ourselves, in the dynamic of our relationships (work/family/friends/peers/others) and the individual relationship.

How do we take the next steps? Are we doing all that we can to bring this all about? What shall we do? What for? And why?

We live in a world where there are constant problems, there is mistrust, there is suffering, and there is heartache. Life is experience and our relationship with these experiences. We have formed relationships with these problems. And they feel so difficult to solve, especially if we allow them to take root in our minds.

Naturally, our minds create the problems, and then it develops as the ground in which they take root. And once it’s been planted in the mind, it becomes very challenging to pull up from it. What is essential is for us to have our minds itself realize the problem and not provide it the power to grow. When our mind craves to understand a problem, it must not only understand the problem entirely, but must be able to follow it speedily and thoroughly, because the actual problem is never steadfast. We should pursue them with a clear, ever-changing, swift mind. Cause what the world is, we are. So your problem is the world’s problem and vice versa. So we ought to begin near.

One of the biggest disturbances we face is the problem of cooperation. What does it mean to cooperate? To cooperate is to do things together, to create together, to feel together, and to form bonds with one another so that we can live and coexist freely. Yet, we find that generally people don’t feel propelled to naturally and joyfully work together; and consequently, they are inclined to work together through other incentives: fear, punishment, gain, threat, complacency. These are common exercises throughout our active systems that irrefutably cause some of the rubble that we confront today.

The idea of unity is much different for me. To collaborate, to cooperate, is the fun, joy and love of being and doing things together. Whatever that may be. We normally see this sense in kids, who cultivate the feeling of that togetherness by cooperating instinctively in almost anything. There are no emphasized thoughts of reward, gratification, punishment, disagreements, anxieties, objections, sense of self protection or comfort – they just want to help and be part of something! And as adults, we sometimes forget or corrupt the element of doing things together with spontaneity and sincerity. And when we identify what it truly means to come together, we will also know when it is equally not important to cooperate. It is vital for us to rekindle the spirit and strength of pulling together, for then it will not be only be because of a circumstance or plan that joins us, but that beautiful human feeling of fellowship, the harmony with and in one another.

By virtue of this interconnection, we can build a better world. A world that is not independent of you and me; rather one that freely blossoms from intimacy and complete communion, not fear.

A world we can continue to love.

Good To Be Good Drive #3 x In Support of Women’s Habitat

Often, when we say, “I love you or I care for something” we center mostly on the notion of the “I” who is doing the loving and not so much on the quality of the love that’s being offered. I think this is because, with all of the social coordinates that surround us, we’re sometimes caught by the idea of self and it disrupts interlinked understanding and the flow of love. We think we have a self. And, yes, it is one of the hardest things to outgrow or manage – the hungry ego that just wants to protect us and keep us all warm and fuzzy from significant growth. But I have learned, through experiences and deep reflection, that there really is no such thing as an individual separate self.

For instance, we all comprehend that a flower or say a plant is made up of non-plant elements. Sunlight, water, soil, chlorophyll, etc. If we isolate all of those elements, there would be nothing keeping that flower alive. Just like us humans, a flower cannot be by itself alone. It is interconnected with the world it flourishes in. We can’t exist by ourselves alone as our humanity is bound to others. I mean, we can inter-be, but that would be a very lonely, destructive and unfulfilling existence. But really, who wants and benefits from that? So if we can’t exist by ourselves, that also probably means we can’t make and fortify the change that we all need just by ourselves. Ergo, with this way of seeing things, we go forth with the nature of my happiness is connected with others’ happiness and their difficulties, are mine as well. And from there, what becomes rooted is our responsibility to respond and act. When we put focus on helping others, we are also able to cope with ourselves effectively. Somehow, the move of giving and doing beyond your “self” is both a personal and universal releasing factor.

The fruits of our future values will be able to continuously grow with every small or large act of unrequited love and willingness we sow. And large scale, if they are both generously present in each genuine act – we mold and build our world and ourselves simultaneously. This is what it means to embrace all of humanity and no matter what, work hard towards radical change for its future. So it’s important that we seek the complementary forces of love and sheer will, despite the challenging circumstances, if we want to rise to the problems and injustices of the present that affect the entirety of our earth and the people that draw breath from it. These are our sources of relentless hope and the power of altruism.

The purpose of these Good To Be Good charity drive events is not only to raise donations for an important cause, but also ignite engagement in our community and its supporters with what truly matters in the core of our hearts. Equality and human rights should not be treated with one time bandaids; we must strengthen our morals, commitment and fight to change it positively. Let’s continue to build a world, in which I believe is necessary and possible, where all people can lead free and dignified lives.

We all may be one person, but together we are many. We may believe that we are not well influential as individuals, but together we are humbly powerful. There is always a time to improve and do some good. And there are so many ways to get involved! 

At the end of the day, a better world begins with each and every one of us.

Special thanks to our Benefit 3 Collaborators:

Calii LoveAmsterdam BeerFlow Water / OCR Inc. / Ann Pirvu (Reign) / Be Body Aware920 Films / Michael Davidson / Roger Gingerich / Will Ko / VMP Music Group

Women’s Habitat x Good To Be Good

GOOD TO BE GOOD – Movement

Living in the Western world, we have become so busy in life with acquiring things for the benefit of ourselves and seeking things we need, from good food to a decent jacket. Ergo, it is easy to forget about the more important things in life such as selfless giving, kindness, creative altruism and of course, love. These are things that ultimately shape the context of our human being experience and what bring us closer together. Universally, these are investments that never fail and we make a life by what we give not by what we get.

When we do good, we feel good.

How do we exercise our ‘good‘ muscles and work jointly for a greater impact in driving change in the world we inhabit? One act of kindness at a time. When we cultivate sincere generosity and kindness without expectation of reward or reciprocity, we inadvertently discover the great paradox that underlies fuller human flourishing – in the giving of self lies the surprising discovery of a happier and healthier life. So by doing ‘unto others’ we not only help those in need, we help ourselves. Above and beyond, we are all connected and no life is separate from another. No matter how big or small the act is, everything we do as an individual affects the whole.

We all want the same things – peace, justice, love. A life of significance and hope. All of us would like to believe that if we were in an unfortunate situation, someone would help us. And if we have the opportunity to be there for someone, we should have the initiative and courage to take it. With our mutual efforts and assistance, we fulfill our responsibility of cherishing every human life. Charity begins at home but it doesn’t stop there. We hope you continue to do small things with great love and continuing using this life for doing good for the world! We can still create a better humanity with one act of kindness at a time.

Good To Be Good is a community-wide effort to raise social injustice awareness and in-kind donations for various shelters, charities and non for profit organizations.

 

For more information and latest updates, please check out my foundation’s website: www.goodtobegood.ca

Energy

I am often asked how I’m able to maintain my high energy and avoid burnouts considering how frenetic and chaotic life can get. Naturally, I’ve always been a gregarious and very hyper individual since day fetus. Even with all of the hardships and adversity I’ve faced in my life so far, I am thankful that I’ve conquered what I have and still possess an elevated spirit; a spirit that not only constantly fights but believes that life is for living to the fullest and at a wide capacity.

Everything about the modern life is in constant flux from the demands of work, personal projects, commitments to family and friends to environmental factors. Each of these can affect us in different ways, sometimes leaving us feeling lethargic or unable to face the world head on. But I’ve always believed that as human beings, we have a boundless source of universal energy that is available to each and everyone of us. I also trust in the power of mind over matter. An inner belief that you can endure all that comes to you utilizing the resources you have and can acquire.

Let’s start with your body’s fuel. A healthy diet is a huge contributing factor. Something I most definitely credit some of my high energy to. While nutrition is not the only answer to sustaining energy levels, the food you put into your body does have a direct influence on your internal biochemical ground. You are what you eat, right? So if you want to level out those energy levels, a diet is a good place to start.

I eat a strict vegan, gluten/wheat free and refined sugar free diet. That means noshing on lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, complex carbohydrates such as quinoa, brown rice, beans and super foods such as spirulina, green tea (matcha is my favourite), goji berries, maca, raw cacao, flax seeds, chia seeds, the list goes on. If I have a processed food such as a protein bar, I always make sure it fits this criteria: no weird ingredients and unpronounceable preservatives. I stick to eating real food with real ingredients. Other than that, I don’t have cheat days. If I have a craving for something sweet, I’ll munch on frozen fruit, raw desserts made with cashews and dates, or a few pieces of homemade sugar free dark chocolate. If I have a craving for something crunchy, I’ll opt for organic popcorn with black pepper or flax crackers paired with oil-free hummus. I also stay away from chemicals, drugs and alcohol.

One simple technique that can make a significant impact to keeping your energy levels balanced is playing close attention to blood sugar level. Processed foods and refined carbs (white bread, pasta, pastries, etc.) can cause blood sugar levels to jump very high. That can give you a rapid instant boost, like drinking coffee, however, it has psychological consequences. Your body has an efficient and highly responsive system that deals with the sugar spike. That brings us to the hormone insulin – which informs your cells to absorb all of the sugar as quickly as possible to get the blood glucose levels down to safe levels. The outcome is simply the ‘what goes up must come down’ common effect. You go from feeling absolutely fantastic to crashing as your blood sugar level plummets back to the ground leaving you feeling not so good. You can avoid all of that by eating lighter, better meals throughout the day to properly top up that blood sugar. For me, this means a good (BIG!) breakfast, a light midmorning snack, a good lunch, an afternoon snack, and finally a good dinner. Focus on lean proteins, healthy fats, and as much vegetables as you can manage. Especially green veggies. Make those your friends! This will ensure you to be full longer, maintain your blood sugar at an even level, and consequently won’t provoke energy spikes and dips that can affect your mood and behaviour.

Another way I tap into my innate energy power source is by practicing unrelenting hope and enthusiasm on a daily basis. As complex human beings, it’s inevitable that we get flustered, angry and/or irritated from time to time triggered by external coordinates. I can’t even tell you the amount of times my mood goes off course because of something someone said or something that didn’t go right, but eventually, I do my very best to look for the lesson or the opportunity in those moments and to grow from it. Yes, it’s normal to get upset and you should feel things but if you are constantly feeling like you’re in a rut, then that is the world you will inhabit and moving forward with optimism will feel dreadful. Additionally, feeling your feelings helps too! Trying not to feel them creates more anxiety and drains energy. So feel what you need to feel. By doing that, you don’t let it control you and physically your body won’t hold onto all of those stressful emotions or tensions. I mentioned mind over matter. If your thoughts are thoughts that yank low frequency energy to you, you will emotionally deteriorate and physical disease may follow. Thus, shifting the focus from the issue to a possible solution, seeking new avenues to take, and having a greater awareness of what could be possible not only alleviates the energy drain, but also replenishes us with brand new energy without repressing what’s negative. The hope for new possibilities can attribute to our energy going up and our zest for life established. If we are interested, engaged, and willing to live our lives, it will transcend in our overall energy.

Speaking of interest, another rewarding way I like to boost my energy is by connecting with my passions. For me, that includes a lot of time for reading, writing, journaling, listening to music, dancing, travelling, outdoor activities (hiking, swimming, SUPing, walking the city) and going out with friends. Allowing myself to engage and make time with the things that I love the most and energize me can generally prevent my battery from getting low. Moving around more ironically raises my energy. I can’t reiterate this enough: if you train your mind to see the good in what you’re doing, if you overcome the discomfort, your spirit will unexpectedly and magically magnify.

There are also some practical ways to boost your energy which you can try: taking power naps, exercising, drinking more filtered water, focusing on your breathing from time to time, meditation, cutting back on caffeine, taking B vitamins, get some sunshine, laugh more and even cuddling with a loved one.

Commit to your life and watch your energy soar!

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Today’s Reflection

In light of the earth’s current chaos, I invite you to practice loving those around you today. To willingly take care of those closest to you, those at home. To meet everyone you come across with a smile. To make time for more laughter and tears. To not feign affection but embrace the nurturing strength of your spirit’s warmth. To speak up and say your truth with passion, clarity, and grace. To promote integrity, justice, and collective togetherness despite the conditionings. To enthusiastically participate in creative altruism and think beyond yourself. To consistently believe that there is good and beauty to be found in everything. To focus on raising your energetic vibration instead of fighting immorality. To not misplace your faith in humanity and enrich an infinite amount of hope amidst its struggles. To put your love in the cracks of people’s souls rather than shaming them for their faults. To give more than you think you can give especially to those who need it the most. To be thankful for every single moment and experience, favorable and unfavorable, the Universe has entrusted upon you. To lead a compassionate life of virtue, wisdom, and selfless kindness. To let there be room for grief and misery to heal in order to feel the pleasures of joy and relief. To not punish ourselves for not loving correctly. To not to push each other way when we love too hard or love too little. To hug those you love just a little bit tighter. To stay resilient in times of discomfort, challenge and oppositions. To show up and relentlessly try in place of waiting for perfection. To not let fear cripple you but recognize it as a significant sign of what you should do next. To not take for granted those who love you and those you love. To love until it hurts until there is only more love left. To seek the barriers within yourself that you have built against love and surrender your ego. To mean well, commit and take responsibility. To tell your magical stories and listen to others as they speak their own. To really listen, with expansion and empathy. To welcome vulnerability with sheer abundance. To strive for authenticity and devotion more than success and prosperity. To have enough courage to love one more time. To earnestly trust once more. To brave it out. To do small things with great love. To be of service in this life and to dedicate yourself to others. To care enough to understand that there is no better day than today to be the change. To be there for life sincerely and unconditionally. To fully give because giving is receiving and there is nothing as powerful as spilling your heart every day. Because in this life, this is what it means to be completely human.

Underneath the fear, dubieties and circumstances, we can still create a better world. Here’s to you and us.

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