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Volunteering on vacation in St Maarten

I love volunteering. It is a simple and amazing way to give back to your community and to help others, especially those in need.

Volunteering is giving your time and effort towards good causes. It doesn’t have to take all of your day, it could be a few hours in the weekend, and that goes such a long way.

My favourite events that I volunteer to help with, are those held for children. I have always enjoyed working with children and this even led me to become a teacher. I especially love working with children with special needs.  While you’re helping others, you’re also learning something new,  utilizing your skill-set, talking to people and working as part of a team towards a common goal.

While vacationing in St. Maarten, in March this year, I noticed an organization called SXM DOET advertising a weekend of island wide events to give back to the community and a call for volunteers. Naturally I contacted them and just like that- I had an opportunity to volunteer with senior citizens. The weekend event was packed with fun activities.

On the first day, I accompanied the seniors on an island tour, which allowed me to also learn and experience the island in a way I hadn’t before!

I had a great time in wonderful company, as I listened to their stories about how the island was in their youthful days.

The next day, there was a Fun Day Barbecue at a local picnic spot. I brought my teenage sister with me to help and it was her first time volunteering. My volunteer team set up seating and food service areas, decorated, served food and started games for the seniors and their families to play. It was an amazing day!

After all the dancing and games, I somehow ended up giving foot massages to two of the old ladies and we relaxed together and chatted. I met some amazing people that weekend, and I will make sure to look them up the next time I am on the island.

They really do appreciate this because as people age, their joints can become more stiff and painful, and a simple massage would help ease that discomfort. The simple truth is that many older folks are really in need of some good company and the visits give them something to look forward to.

Volunteering can be great quality time away from work and a busy life, because the focus shifts from you and onto making someone’s life better and more fulfilling, which is even more necessary if they are less fortunate.

It has been my experience that volunteer work also allows you to enhance your own self-development in ways you may never have thought of.  You can gain confidence and self esteem by working with your team of volunteers to help others. It gives you a chance to meet new friends, be more outspoken and learn more about your community

Helping others always feels good. You don’t have to give money. Giving your time and energy is usually even more appreciated!

 

Met Gala heavenly fashion

One star-studded event I look forward to each year is the Met Gala. No, I’m not an attendee, and I just observe from a distance via social media, but I won’t deny that I often imagine I’m at the extravagant soiree elbow-to-elbow with the world’s  fashionable elite.

Each year guests do their best to dress in alignment with the given theme. This time around, it was  Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination which meant that radiant stars, dazzled in angelic and unique couture.

Blake Lively looked heaven sent in Versace. The mother of two paired her embellished and form-fitting gown with theatrical makeup and a headpiece of jewels.

Rihanna always makes sure to standout. The musical sensation opted to arrive in a sparking silver Pope outfit that was a little more revealing than what the religious leader wears in his day-to-day. The star turned heads and talk about her Margiela ensemble has carried on since the event this past weekend.

A post shared by badgalriri (@badgalriri) on

Hailey Baldwin looked radiant in a soft Tommy Hilfiger gown. Usually Baldwin has opted for heavier attire at the annual gala, but this time stunned in the flowing frock. The model and daughter of actor Stephen Baldwin, spoke about the gown she wore to Vogue:

“When they announced the theme for this year I was actually really excited because I am a church girl. I’m not Catholic but I identify with religion and the church so I was super excited…There is always a lot of build up getting there and then everything just sort of magically works out.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BihodxOAJJZ/?taken-by=haileybaldwin

One of my favourite fashionistas and actresses is Sarah Jessica Parker. The Sex and the City star brought her A-game in a standout ensemble by Dolce & Gabbana at this year’s gala. SJP drew criticism last year when she chose to wear a simple pantsuit to the artistic event. She obviously redeemed herself at last weekend’s occasion.

#metgala #sarahjessicaparker #sarahjessicaparkermetgala #metgala2018

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The Met Gala celebrates fashion as art , and an exhibit following the same theme is now on display, which features pieces by Coco Chanel and John Galliano. Donatella Versace, Amal Clooney and Rihanna hosted the event at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Manhattan which launched the opening of the exhibit in an exquisite way. The gala certainly is a reminder that the creation of fashion is a respected art form.

 

 

Summertime in Toronto: It’s time for Carnival

It’s summertime Toronto! And while there are many festivals being hosted this year, one of the most notable events (and one that shouldn’t be missed) is Toronto’s Caribbean Carnival. This year, the exciting street festival will be celebrating 50 years —50 beautiful years of shared cultures, music, costume, dance, and yummy Caribbean foods.

Formally known as ‘Caribana,’ this Caribbean festival is one of the biggest events in North America with guests from the United States and various Caribbean islands.

If you are unfamiliar with the culture of Carnival itself, traditions date back to the abolition of slavery on August 1 in 1834, in the British Caribbean territories. The first noted display of Carnival in the Caribbean was in the late 18th century, on the twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Trinidad’s Carnival is often held right before Lent on the Christian calendar, as the word Carnival itself means “farewell to meat”. To this day, Trinidad remains a focal point of Caribbean festivities, producing the catchiest Soca beats and featuring the most intricately designed costumes. However, most countries have moved away from the traditional Lenten celebration and have chosen to feature the festival during the summer months.

Carnival yellow blue green

These traditions have spread globally and have made a big impression in Toronto, a city already known for being culturally diverse.  The Caribbean diaspora in Toronto also helps to keep the Toronto Caribbean Carnival season alive with locally-based costume designers that organize events for the public to play Mas in the streets. Some local costume designers and bands that will be displaying their work on the streets during this years festival include, Tribal Carnival , Carnival Nationz, Louis Saldenah, Toronto Revellers, and Venom Carnival just to name a few.

Carnival red outfit

In all, the festival stretches four weeks, with activities starting on July 7 and ending with the final event on Aug. 6.

If you want a true, wild, and exciting taste of Carnival, the grand parade on August 5 will be the main highlight, as colourful bands, costumes, and joyful revellers take over the parade route along the Toronto Lakeshore. This may be overwhelming for some, but Women’s Post has five tips to help you enjoy your first Toronto Caribbean Carnival experience.

  1. Get a costume: Carefully plan and organize the Toronto Caribbean Carnival events you would like to participate in. If you want to play Mas in the streets with a registered band, you must buy one of the designated band costumes and follow their procedures. Paying and registering for a band is better than being a street ‘stormer’ crashing the party. Otherwise dance from the sidelines.
  2. Remember to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate ! This August is marked to be one of the hottest summer months in Toronto and partying in the sun for extended hours can be draining and dehydrating.
  3. Wear sunblock: It’s that simple. No matter your ethnicity.
  4. Monitor your belongings: The streets will be busy and if you will be dancing and having fun, keep the minimal and essential things you need close to your body.
  5. Have Fun! : Put your inhibitions aside for one day and party in the streets to lively Caribbean music, dance, move your hips and don’t be too shocked if a fellow party-er will come to give you a wine or two ( not the drink but an actual dance where you gyrate your hips ).

Let us know how you are preparing for this year’s Carnival and leave some comments below. Enjoy the fetes !

Transit Alliance: financing infrastructure via P3 and AFP

Ontario has an infrastructure deficit — there is a lot of infrastructure that still needs to be developed, but very little money is available. This creates a bit of a challenge. “If we were to build all infrastructure on public balance sheets, we wouldn’t be able to get there,” said Bruce McCuaig, Executive Advisor of Privy Council Office. “Money isn’t free.”

McCuaig was a special guest at the Transit Alliance’s seminar on alternative financing and public-private partnerships. Over 80 people attended the June 20 event in hopes of learning more about the Infrastructure Bank and alternative financing models that can help push municipal projects forward.

The morning seminar began with a fireside chat between McCuaig, KPMG partner Will Lipson, and Transit Alliance Chair Brian Crombie. The conversation centered around the Infrastructure Bank, a crown corporation that will provide low-cost financing for new infrastructure projects. McCuaig is set to help launch the Infrastructure Bank through the Privy Council.

“It’s about finding the best financial model for the project,” McCuaig said. “Each on has different needs.”

Transit will play a big part of the portfolio, although clean water was also mentioned numerous times throughout the discussion. McCuaig stressed that a balance will be needed between public interest and independence within the crown corporation, and that decisions should be made using evidence-based analysis.

The Infrastructure Bank will be complimentary to Infrastructure Ontario, Infrastructure Canada, and other private agencies. KPMG said the corporation will bring about numerous opportunities for municipalities, providing more financing options than before.

“The government has been quite wise in implementing the bank,” Lipson said.

After the fireside chat, Crombie moderated a second panel that dealt largely with financing for smaller municipal projects. Special guests on the panel included Rob Pattison, SVP, LRT, Infrastructure Ontario; Don Dinnin, VP Procurement Services at Metrolinx; Olivia MacAngus, VP Corporate Development at Plenary Group; and Omer Malik, Vice President Project Financing at Stonebridge Financial Corporation.

Each member of the panel is involved in public-private partnerships or alternative financing, and believes that innovation and creativity are key when it comes to municipal projects. For most, the Infrastructure Bank is a unique opportunity, but not something to depend on. MacAngus and Malik both think there is too much unknown about the Infrastructure Bank. “We don’t need another traditional lender,” Malik said. “It should focus on a gap, where larger equity funds aren’t interested.”

Dinnin suggested the use of an agency such as the Infrastructure Bank to help spearhead the relief line in Toronto. Metrolinx, he said, has a number of funded projects using public-private partnerships, but maybe the Infrastructure Bank can fill the rest of that gap. “There is always more than one way to do something,” he said.

The collective solution to municipal infrastructure, as suggested by the panel, is hybrid-financing models and innovative thinking — partnering with the right investors to see your project completed.

The goal of alternative financing and public-private partnerships is to build and develop a project on time and on budget. According to Pattison of Infrastructure Ontario, the worst thing someone can do is drag out the construction phase.

The seminar also included a networking opportunity, where business and municipal leaders were able to approach these financial firms to discuss their personal projects and seek advice (or offer potential solutions).

“Expertise should always be evolving,” Pattison said.

Here are some photos from the event:

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”7″ gal_title=”P3 Seminar June 20″]

More photos to come.

Photographs taken by Ethan Helfrich.

In Her Voice: reflecting on female writers

Looking for something to do this week? Head to the Scotiabank Community Studio to listen to a number of strong women speak about their experiences writing a variety of fiction and non-fiction works. The conversation promises to be stimulating and controversial, touching on a number of topics varying from the realities of writing and publishing to the struggles of Indigenous peoples in light of Canada’s 150th anniversary.

In Her Voice is a festival that runs from June 15th to June 17th and features three-days worth of talented and inspirational female voices. The event, hosted by independent bookstore Ben McNally Books, is designed to showcase various female identities and perspectives. Each author will be given the opportunity to discuss the themes of their latest works.

Here is the schedule:

June 15
7 p.m. – Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich. The Fact of a Body Presentation.

June 16
7 p.m. – Durga Chew-Bose and Scaachi Koul, interviewed by Fariha Roisin.

June 17
12 p.m. – S.K. Ali, Cherie Dimaline, Jane Oxkowski. Young Adult Writers Presentation
2 p.m. – Patricia Lockwood. Priestdaddy Presentation.
4 p.m. – Myra Tait, Kiera Ladner. Surviving Canada Presentation.

For more information or to get tickets to these presentations, click here.

 

Do you have a favourite female author? Let us know in the comments below!

10 networking tips for introverts

There is a reason I am a writer. I tend to express myself best through the written word, where I can carefully craft my sentences and ensure I use the proper vocabulary.

In person, I’m a bit of a spaz. I tend to ramble and use a lot of “ums” and “ahhs” as I search for the word I’m looking for. The mere thought of edging myself into a group or conversation with people I don’t know sends slight chills down my spin. It’s  only after circling the room numerous times that I can build up the courage to walk up to someone and introduce myself.

Unfortunately for introverts like me, networking is truly the only way to get ahead in business. So, Women’s Post has compiled a few select tips that should help you at that next conference or public event.

 

Do a bit of research before hand

What kind of people will be at the event? Do a little bit of research on the potential players of the industry. This will allow you to find some common ground and potential conversation starters. For example, I heard you merged your business last year — how has the transition been? I find that this research also helps calm me down. The more I read, the more comfortable I feel about networking.

Start small

Set small and reasonable expectations for yourself. For example, get at least five business cards or speak with three executives. This way, the networking event doesn’t seem so daunting. You can also set a time limit for yourself — stay at the event for at least an hour before making an excuse to leave. The more events you attend, the bigger your expectations may be.

Arrive on time

People generally have this innate instinct to arrive fashionably late.  The argument derives from past experience — I arrived on time and no one else was there or the hosts were still setting up. Generally, networking events are well managed and are meant for punctual people. If you arrive late, the other participants may already be huddling in their groups, making it difficult to get in the conversation. If you are part of the select group that arrives on time, it will be easier to

Ask open-ended questions 

Conversation is the most important aspect of a networking event.  Make sure to push those nerves aside and actually listen to what people are talking about. Don’t simply ask what people do for a living. Ask lots of open-ended questions relating to their work, politics, or hot topics being discussed at that moment — anything that will incite further conversation. Always remember, especially upon an initial interaction, it’s best to focus on the person/people you are speaking with instead of becoming the center of attention.

Fake confidence

Not everyone can have the confidence of an extrovert, but you can fake it. Stand up straight, hold your head up high, and speak with authority. Be yourself — if you’ve got a bit of a stutter like I do, don’t worry about it. Just be kind, smile, and pretend as if it’s no big deal. Simply walk up to someone and ask if you can join them. If you need a line, try this: “I’m here by myself and your group looked like they were having the most fun. May I join you?” Be sure to tell them to continue their discussion and you will catch up.

It’s okay to use a little liquid courage, but remember this is a professional event. If you drink, don’t get drunk.

Practice your pitch

If someone asks you what you do or what organization you are with, you should be able to answer with ease and a commanding authority. Keep the answer short, between one and two minutes. Quickly outline who you work for and what your responsibilities include. Make it sound impressive and be sure to mention any special skills you may possess. Have a story in mind if someone asks you for an example of your work. You never know who you will meet, and if you happen to be speaking with a potential employer, it’s important to note how invaluable your skills are to your current or past company.

Know your business card etiquette

DO make sure to bring business cards. DO NOT throw them at everyone you meet. Networking opportunities shouldn’t be about gathering as many contacts as you can. Instead, make it about building relationships. Give out your cards only if you feel as if you truly connected with a person and you see a future relationship brewing. Feeling uneasy about whipping out those cards? Try saying this: “I would love to get in contact with you, do you have a card?” By asking them for the card first, it gives you the opportunity to hand one back in return. I find this a lot easier than asking if they want my contact information.

Connect with organizers

Networking events typically follow a theme and are industry specific. Making friends with the organizers of the event will give you a heads up as to when future meetings may take place. They may also be able to introduce you to key players or tell you who to look out for. This type of information can be invaluable.

Follow-up with connections

During the networking event, don’t try to sell anything. Your one job is to be presentable, approachable, and impressive. A few days later, take a look at the business cards you collected or look up the names of the people you met on social media. Send them an email reminding them of who you are and of how enjoyable their conversation was.

Keep the message short and offer to buy them coffee so you can continue the conversation. If you do want to sell something (a product, or yourself for a job), be up front about it.  Say you have a proposition for them, and would love to buy them lunch to discuss it. No one can refuse free food!

Just do it!

Go to networking events and put yourself out there. Sure, it will be incredibly nerve-wracking at first, but, and it may seem cliché, practice makes perfect.

 

Did we miss anything? Tell us your networking tips in the comments below!

Five Toronto events to attend for International Women’s Day

It is time celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8. Here are a few great events going on in the city that celebrate women athletes, politicians, comedians, musicians and women of distinction. Get out there and enjoy yourself — and remember ladies, stay proud and strong!

Daybreaker TO-International Women’s Day

Daybreaker is an international initiative to help people start their day by doing a new type of fun physical exercise. Daybreaker is launching an event at Basecamp Climbing Gym (677 Bloor St. W.) for an early morning dance party. Opening at 6 a.m for an hour long yoga session, a dance party will then follow until 9 a.m. The dance party will be hosted by female DJs and celebrates women worldwide. Breakfast bars and cold brew will also be provided at the event.

Toronto the Just: Stories of Women and the Struggle for Equality

This exhibit will feature the stories of eight local women who have challenged discrimination in the past or present day. Speakers will discuss social justice issues and the importance of female solidarity. The event is hosted by Heritage Toronto and Women in Toronto Politics. It is being run at St. Lawrence Hall (157 King Street East) from 6-8 p.m.

Stand up 4 Sistering II Daria Dance Party

Comedy bar (945 Bloor St. W.) will be hosting a Women’s Day bash showcasing popular women comedians. The line-up includes Dawn Whitwell, Natalie Norman, Lauren Mitchell and Chantel Marostica. All the proceeds from the event will be going to the charity Sistering, which helps women in need.

International Women’s Day Concert

The Mod Club (722 College St. W.) will be hosting an International Women’s Day concert that recognizes female artists including Tanika Charles, LAL, MC Nitty Scott and DJ Ariel. The R&B show is put on by The Academy.

YWCA announces Women of Distinction

The YWCA is announcing eight women of distinction for 2016 and will be hosting a discussion panel. The event will be held in the Lambert Room (54th Floor, 66 Wellington St. W) and is being hosted by TD Bank.