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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!

 

Remote working may not be for you

Social media is full of remote workers exploring and discovering the world, while still managing to rake in sizable incomes but, is being a digital nomad really all it’s cracked up to be?

Will you really be able to relax in a pool while creating websites in Bali one week, and hop over to Germany’s Oktoberfest for a well-deserved beer the next?

Is remote employment the never-ending – work hard and play harder existence that many public highlight reels would suggest?

Those questions really boil down to a simple one – is remote working actually fun?

Before I get into the details, note that remote working doesn’t mean you have to be Instagram’s poster child for some travel network. You can work remotely from your hometown, population ten, if that’s what you want.

Most remote employment opportunities just require you to have a decent computer and an internet connection. Some will ask that you come in at times, but this isn’t a general rule. The idea of freedom and working from home – or anywhere really, has opened doors for people worldwide.

For women, it provides great opportunities as now the housewife or stay-at-home mum can have a job on the side, or the ‘9-5er’ can earn extra income, without having to do much but log on and get to work.

A few truths: It can be a hassle navigating freelance sites, trying to figure out the best way forward for your remote business, which jobs to take, and how much to charge. Basically, all the small print that social media doesn’t share, as it excites to the point that many want to be as free as the people in the pictures. Witnessing the glamour can make it hard to think about the work that comes with it.

My need for work freedom came well before Instagram made it visually enticing, and it truly wasn’t always pretty. As a contract/freelance worker for over five years, after being a journalist for many years prior to that, I can tell you that as with any job, remote work has its ups and downs.

Unless you’re already established in the field you choose and can immediately get new work, or are graced by a lovely bit of luck, it’ll take a little time to build a loyal client list. Even then, depending on your field you may get mainly one-off jobs.

In these cases it’s best to try to find contract work, which means you’ll be in the money while the contract lasts. In my opinion, as a freelancer or contract worker you need to always keep looking for that next job opportunity, even if you’ve already built up a lucrative base.

Why?

Things happen: companies change, contacts move on, and clients can decide to go in another direction. Being prepared can stave off financially lean months. Bonus though? The more you get out there and provide quality work, the better your chances of being discovered and sought after for your services.

Here’s the verdict: Yes, remote working can open a new world that can be pretty fun, just expect the actual work that goes with it.

 

How the weekend shift taught me to be alone

A few years ago, I had a gig at a magazine working the weekend shift. I was a recent journalism graduate living in Toronto and thrilled to be on the masthead of a publication I respected. My work week started on Friday and finished on Tuesday. On Saturdays and Sundays, I manned the website solo. For months, I kicked off the weekend by strolling to work on Saturday mornings with a medium roast in hand and no coworkers present. During those days, the office was silent apart from my typing. With no distractions, the weekend was my most productive time and I grew to really love it.

By the time Tuesday afternoon rolled around, I’d be ready for my weekend. The problem: in my mid-twenties, many of my friends lived the nine-to-five life from Mondays through to Friday. Oftentimes it wasn’t that hard to find a companion for a Tuesday evening post-work beer but when it came to planning a Wednesday afternoon beach day or a brunch on Thursday, I was often on my own. Similarly, when others wanted to head to the cottage for a weekend, I was a no. If a friend’s birthday party was going to run into the wee hours, I had to bounce before midnight.

During those months, I spent mid-week afternoons lounging in solitude at Ward’s Island. I went to movies alone at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, I went for long runs through High Park down to the waterfront and I took books to the banks of the Humber River.

As the months wore on, I learned to appreciate being alone. After getting over the initial intimidation of showing up to places by myself wore off, I learned to appreciate my own company. During my workdays in silence, I did more. And on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons off, I didn’t have to wait on anyone nor did I have to compromise on restaurants or activities. During the spring and summer of that year, I dated someone but by fall it was over – mismatching schedules certainly didn’t help. As breakups go, I wallowed at first and then moved on.

With this relationship in the dust, I had even more time to myself. It was during that time that I learned not to feel constricted to my home just because I was without a companion during any given afternoon or evening. It was an important lesson and a blessing in disguise. From there, I started to plan my time differently and without necessarily needing others every single time, I afforded myself more freedom. I shopped alone, freelanced from cafes and cooked fancy dinners for one.

My schedule eventually changed to the standard Monday-to-Friday flow. But by then, my lifestyle and way of thinking was different because of that weekend shift. I continued to do things with just me, myself and I. Last summer, I spent a week on my own in Vancouver exploring Stanley Park, Wreck Beach and the restaurants of Commercial Drive. Then, soon after the calendar rolled over to 2018, I boarded a flight to Colombia. While I had a close friend to live with, the nature of having moved to a new city meant that again, I’d be branching out alone. I frequented neighbourhood patios, worked out at the track and hiked in the mountains. In the early days, I often didn’t have a choice but to do so on my lonesome. I guess my routine from a few years ago was good practice.

Reforms allow women in Saudi Arabia to be entrepreneurs

The government of Saudi Arabia announced Sunday women will be able to start their own businesses without permissions of a male guardian. The announcement was made over Twitter by the Ministry of Commerce and Investment, saying “No need for a guardian’s position. Saudi women are free to start their own businesses freely. #NoNeed.”

This degree is part of prince Mohammad bin Salman’s Vision3030 plan, which aims to alter the economy so it isn’t so reliant on oil. To do this, the prince hopes to reduce female unemployment in the country and raise the number of women in the workforce from 22 per cent to 30 per cent.

This announcement is intriguing and somewhat startling for a society that has oppressed women for so many decades. Of course, little detail was released about enforcing this new decree and the challenges facing women once they decide to open a business, such as banking, employees, and sales. There is also a lot of pushback from more conservative members of state.

Back in September 2017, King Salman of Saudi Arabia issued a decree allowing women to be given driving licences as of June 2018. Since then, a Middle Eastern taxi app has signed up almost 1,000 female drivers in February. Their goal is to hire 10,000 by the end of the year. The Ministry of Labour is also reportedly looking into subsidizing car sharing for working women, as public transportation is so scarce.

Both of these decrees are positive changes to Saudi Arabian society; however, until they are implemented, it remains unknown as to how much of an impact they will have.