A Halloween Wish

DSCN1398“How was it?”


Over a thousand years ago when the Celtic people roamed throughout what we call Europe, a tradition we know as Halloween was born. The Celts broke up their year into four pieces as we do to this day with the seasons. The first day of winter for the Celts lines up with November 1 on our calendar and on this day they celebrated the end of the harvest with the festival of Samhain. On Samhain the ghosts of the dead were able to wander with the living. The Celts would leave offerings of food and drink for the dead, and celebrate the festival with bonfires, games, and the carving of vegetables; sound familiar? As time rolled on, other religions began to take form and dominate the culture of Europe. Christian missionaries began to venture out into Europe trying to convert the “Barbarians” including the Celts.  The Christians made it a habit of theirs to take the festivals of the people they were converting and change the meanings to ones of more Christian values. With that the Christians took Samhain and made it All Saints Day which is still celebrated on November 1. However, as we know today the Celtic festival of Samhain was too important and ingrained into the people that it could not be entirely destroyed by the Christians. Even though the festival of Samhain has changed and become our Halloween, the idea of celebrating death and the dead is still here with us thanks to the Celts.


The original festival of Samhain did not have a focus of evil and the macabre, that was created by the Christians because they believed the gods and spirits of the Celts to be demons and devils. The focus of Halloween is now evil and most importantly getting scared, which I do quite easily, but I remid myself that it’s just a bunch of hocus pocus and then I check under my bed of course. On October 29 I was absolutely terrified thanks to the Ryerson chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, known as Students for Wishes, at their annual haunted house. After running and screaming blindly in the dark, damp, and dingy basement of a dilapidated house on St. George street, with monsters and ghosts creepily stalking and increasing my heart rate, I learned about the foundation. The Make-A-Wish  Foundation has been granting the wishes of terminally ill children for over 30 years beginning in Phoenix, Arizona with the granting of Christopher James Greicius’s wish to become a police officer. In 1983 the Make-A-Wish  Foundation came to Canada thanks to Nigel Brown and Robb Lucy from British Columbia who personally made the wish of a girl named Debbie come true. Since then, chapters of the Make-A-Wish  Foundation have been established all over Canada including student run chapters at Ryerson and the University of Toronto.


Students for Wishes is a fundraising arm for the Make-A-Wish  Foundation at  post-secondary schools. The Ryerson chapter has been in operation for the past three years and every October they put together a terrifically terrifying haunted house in partnership with the University of Toronto chapter. Students for Wishes has the same goal as the Make-A-Wish  Foundation in that they operate to fundraise money so that the wishes of more children can be granted. At Ryerson specifically, Students for Wishes wants to raise $10,000 by the end of the upcoming winter semester. The haunted house was just one of their major events, the next is their Hairaser which is another opportunity to contribute to their cause and get a haircut. On February 4 from 1:30pm to 4:30pm in Cara Commons which is on the 7th floor of the Ted Rogers building, Students for Wishes will be hosting Hairaser where for just $10 (for guys) or $15 (for girls) you can get your hair cut or for $5 have it styled or dyed blue to show your support for the association and all the good work they do. The hair will also be collected and donated to Continental Hair Toronto in support of their wigs for kids program. For all of the events Students for Wishes hosts they donate 100% of the money they collect to the Make-A-Wish  Foundation of Canada. If you are interested in volunteering or becoming a member of Students for Wishes you can contact them through their website, Students for Wishes Ryerson University.


I was not aware of the Student for Wishes association at Ryerson and I am very happy to know that they do exist and are working to make children’s wishes come true. It is devastating to think of children who may not have the opportunities that we have all had and knowing that they have the chance for one of their wishes to come true is warming. Halloween is my favorite time of year and Students for Wishes has made it even better, a day that is full of evil has become a little less terrifying and even more full of magic with the knowledge that life does not have to be like Halloween. Evil doesn’t run rampant in our streets, there is goodness in our streets too, you simply have to look for it sometimes.

Volunteering at Holland Bloorview: A Student Perspective

Holland Bloorview- Playroom

At the beginning of 2014 I wrote an article about my volunteer position at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.  I gave a really brief overview of what Holland Bloorview does and what my position entails.  I listed other volunteer opportunities outside of the therapeutic playroom where I volunteer once a week and encouraged others to apply.  I will post a link to that blog below.  Holland Bloorview is recruiting volunteers for its programs and I would like to do my part by spreading the word.  While my last blog was a general overview of the hospital, this one is going to be about the benefits and learning opportunities I have had as a student who volunteers.

I have been volunteering in the therapeutic playroom for a year and a half.  In that time the learning and opportunities have been way beyond my expectations when I first applied.  First, as with any volunteer position, this can go on your resume.  During my interview for my 3rd year social work placement my volunteer experience was the part of my resume that was discussed the most.

Being in the playroom has also given me the opportunity to work with kids who have a wide range of disabilities.  I can say that I’ve worked with kids who have brain injuries, orthopaedic disabilities and disabilities considered complex and that require continuing care.  Not many volunteer positions offer or are even able to offer such a wide range of experiences.  I have learned how best to work with kids with these disabilities which will help me in future placements and my career.  I have also learned how to accommodate for children with disabilities.  For example, one child and I recently created our own version of brain injury basketball (safe for both of us!).

I have also learned how to accommodate on an individual level.  Under neoliberalism, social workers are to have check lists and not provide individualized services.  As anti-oppressive social workers we resist this.  By getting to know individual kids, this becomes a transferable skill to social work and other care professions.  Despite only being at the hospital once a week I learn which toys individual kids like to play with, the lyrics and actions to their favourite songs and how to comfort them when they are upset.  One child who comes to the playroom now recognizes me and is aware I know the words to his favourite song (and he is not shy to ask me to sing it with him).

The playroom has also provided me with the opportunity to gain additional skills that I can use in the future.  By observing the playroom staff I have been able to pick up some sign language that is commonly used such as “yes, “no”, “play” and “all done”.  I have been able to gain experience in communicating through picture symbols and computer technology.

I love my volunteer position in the therapeutic playroom at Holland Bloorview.  Even if I wasn’t presented with all of these wonderful learning opportunities, I would still continue to volunteer because I enjoy helping make kids and families experiences at Holland Bloorview positive ones.  As a student, I am grateful for the learning opportunities and consider them an added bonus to an already amazing volunteer experience.

If you are a student who is looking for a volunteer position with a reasonable time commitment that will look good on your resume and help you develop skills for working with kids with disabilities, I highly recommend applying to Holland Bloorview.

Previous blog post:

Holland Bloorview Volunteer Website:

Photo from: Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital Facebook page

An Ideal Summer


The time we have left to enjoy the summer of 2014 is winding down.  Remember all of those things you wanted to do this summer?  Perhaps your summer bucket list.  You only have a little bit of time left to do those things.  When looking back on the summer so far there is one thing I did that really sticks out to me and that is work.  Like most university-aged students work has consumed the greatest amount of my time this summer.  With university education being as expensive as it is plus the cost of living in Toronto, a summer free of work responsibility is not a luxury many of us have.  As I was thinking about all of the things I want to do before summer ends, I also thought about what I would do with a work-free summer.  My ideal summer.

If I had a work-free summer, I would go through twice as much sunscreen as I do during a working summer.  Despite my tendency to get horrific sunburns while wearing sunscreen, I would be outside as much as possible.  Who knows, I might even get a tan for once!  I would go rollerblading down on the Lakeshore and head to Toronto Island for many beach days.  All of my summer reading would be done in Allen Gardens, by the water and in other Toronto parks that I have yet to visit.  Usually when I sit in Dundas Square it is because I’m killing time.  In an ideal summer I would sit there just because I wanted to.  Finally, I would just walk.  Aimlessly wander the many neighbourhoods of Toronto.

In an ideal summer I would go dancing every Friday and Saturday night without having to wait for my work schedule to come out or worrying about being tired for an early morning shift (or hungover!).  I would also volunteer.  Most of my volunteer work comes to a halt for the summer because I go home to work.  I would keep my volunteer shift at Holland Bloorview and ask for additional shifts.  I would volunteer for new events and organizations.  All of those that I can’t fit into my busy schedule doing the school year.  I would love to volunteer with a program where volunteers rock babies whose mothers are unwell or unable to.  I would also love to coach a little league soccer or basketball team.

In an ideal summer I would still visit my hometown of Niagara Falls.  I work a 5 minute walk from the falls but cannot remember the last time I actually saw them.  I give directions to them at least 10 times a day but cannot recall the last time I took those directions.  In an ideal summer I would not take for granted that I live near one of the wonders of the world.  I would go be a tourist for the day.

Finally, I would spend more time with my family and friends.  I’ve recently been given “favourite cousin status” by my four year old cousin but had to decline a recent invite because I had a shift at work.

In an ideal summer I would go back to school relaxed and with stories to tell beyond “I worked all summer”.  Although I will have to work every summer to make it financially through the school year, it’s still fun to dream.  Hopefully I will be able to squeeze some of these things in during the last bit of summer.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Rights over Charity

a Crippen Comic wich shows a women using a wheelchair being patted on the head by two non disabled people underneath a sign which reads "Handicapped Charities Inc. Doing it to the disabled." Another wheelchair user off to the side is holding a sign which reads "Rights not Charity" and the nondisabled person patting the wheelchair user on the head has a speech bubble which states "The public don't want anything to do with you ungrateful disabled!"

Charity is not the answer to issues of inequality. Raising awareness usually does nothing more than gloss over issues. It makes us feel good to discuss the issues, like we are involved in the solution, but it does nothing to bring about change. It is a bandaid at best and at worst it perpetuates systemic inequalities.

Someone was recently telling me about a new campaign to ‘raise awareness’ for an Ontario disability charity. When I raised the question, what is the ultimate goal of raising awareness, I got the typical response. The ‘they are a vulnerable population and we must help them with our donations’ type of response. I am sick of those responses. We do not live in a world where people are ‘unaware’ that disabled people exist. How is reaffirming disabled people’s positions as objects of pity and charity helping? Wouldn’t the time put into raising awareness campaigns about specific disabilities and diagnosis be better spent lobbying for a disability rights model approach or campaigning for access to direct funding?

When we position disabled people as objects of charity we are the ones to decide if they are deserving of our support. The charity model supports the dominate narrative in our society: that non disabled people should have the right to choose for disabled people. I would suggest that a more appropriate model would be one of rights over charity. Shouldn’t a person receive personal accommodation supports because it is their right as a human being rather than a perception of being worthy?

The charity model then begs the question: how do we choose who is worthy of support? Those who look cute or pitiable on posters, those who gratefully subsist on handouts? How condescending of us. I used to volunteer on a fundraising committee at a women’s shelter. At one meeting we had an intense discussion about what we could do to raise awareness of the issues facing homeless and marginalized women. A long time volunteer then stated the obvious… homeless women are not an attractive cause. People want to donate to causes that make them feel good. It’s this reason that made the Jerry’s Kids campaign so successful. It was driving force behind years of telethons in which cute poster children starred as the pitiable objects of charity, ones which were worthy of our donations.

Over the years, there has been a lot of work done around the harm that these campaigns cause. I would recommend watching the documentary, The Kids Are Alright and reading Accidents of Nature by Harriet Mcbryde Johnson. So next time you are asked to join a campaign to raise awareness about a disability, think about how much damage the charity model can do.

Employment Opportunities for Nursing Students

As I will be entering my 4th year of nursing at Ryerson University in the fall, myself and my classmates are thinking ahead to a year from now when we will be job searching. Fortunately the nursing job market is quite alive and well, with a diverse range of opportunities as well as new graduate initiatives, so thinking ahead is more exciting than it is stressful. That being said, many nursing students struggle to find employment in the field of nursing during the school year and summer months. As students, we are not qualified to work as regulated health care providers and there only a limited number of health-care related positions that are available for students. I think that the key for students is to apply to as much as possible, and to set yourself up for future success via strong academic performance, effective networking, and gaining experience. Nursing students are lucky in the fact that we are all guaranteed placements, so by the time we are a few years in, we have had the opportunity to network with a multitude of nurses and other professionals. Keeping these professional alliances is key to future success. In some cases, such as my own, placements can turn into jobs. Even if that isn’t the goal or the result of a placement, the experience is nonetheless valuable both for your professional report as well as for your own personal knowledge of preferences.


So now let’s go back to life as a student. While the post-graduation future looks bright, many people become frustrated that they cannot find employment in the now. My advice is to look beyond the nursing scope, and to broaden goals to the broader field of health and wellness care, or anything that works with people. Health care institutions often post external listings for medical administrative staff. Hundreds of summer camps across Ontario hire counselors each year, which is a great way to gain leadership experience with the pediatric population. By extension, many camps also hire nursing students to work as first aiders in the health centers. It’s up to you to go out and find the positions. Limiting searches to student nurse positions will yield very limited results, however there are options that are relevant to nursing available.


Now that summer has begun, I wish my peers who are still looking for employment the best of luck in the search and I hope that this post offered some insight to you. Don’t give up!

Things one should do if they are unemployed

This week, I will talk about some of the things you could do while you are seeking work to ensure you are becoming more hireable each day. Employers prefer to hire someone with experience vs no experience at all. This is mainly due to the fact that it will take less time to train the new employee as he/she will already know how to do their job properly. If you are unemployed, I have a few tips for you.

Volunteer: Volunteering at a place relevant to your career can increase your chances of getting the interview. Not only you can put volunteer experience on your resume, but also use your volunteer supervisor as your reference for future jobs. If you can’t find something relevant to your career, that’s totally okay too. Any volunteer work will help you improve basic skills such as working in a team setting and communication skills. There are many student groups here at Ryerson. It’s a great way to meet new people and make more friends.

Our very own Ryerson Students’ Union recruits volunteers each year and is a great way to gain volunteer experience and have fun. “Volunteering with the RSU gives you an opportunity to get involved on campus, build and share new skills, make connections with other students, and be a part of the broader student movement” . Connect with RSU through this link http://rsuonline.ca/section/345

Network: Networking is a great opportunity to reconnect with your contacts and meet new industry professionals through existing contacts. For example, every year my school invites industry professionals from Occupational and Public Health to come and share their experiences. It’s a free event for students and a great way to meet new people. If you are still in school, I suggest you go to all the events that are offered by your department. Ryerson’s Career Development and Employment Centre hosts many events throughout the school year and offers workshops and tips on networking.

Are you linked in on LinkedIn?

Are you linked in on LinkedIn?

Online Presence: Having a LinkedIn profile can be a great way to get more exposure and connect with potential employers. You can even showcase your work by creating an online portfolio. However, you should avoid sharing everything about yourself because LinkedIn profiles are indexed by Google and anyone with access to internet will be able to see your public profile. Twitter can also be useful but avoid using language that will make you less hireable. You shouldn’t post stuff you don’t want your employers to see or simply make your account private.

Have a great summer everyone!

My Volunteer Position: Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital


Wednesday is my favourite day of the week.  People tend to have similar responses when asked what their favourite day of the week is.  I think we can all agree that Monday is rarely a favourite day of the week.  Most people would say their favourite day of the week is somewhere between Thursday and Saturday.  Thursday is generally pub nights for universities and colleges, Friday is the beginning of the weekend and Saturday is a day off followed by another day off.  Despite weekends being a time for fun and relaxation, Wednesday beats them all because it’s the day of my volunteer shift at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.

Holland Bloorview is Canada’s largest kid’s rehabilitation hospital.  Their vision is to create a world of possibilities for kids with disabilities.  The hospital serves about 7000 children each year with a range of disabilities including acquired brain injury, cerebral palsy, amputation, autism and other developmental disabilities.  Holland Bloorview also services a number of clients with complex chronic diseases through their inpatient unit.

I currently volunteer in the Therapeutic Playroom, working with children from the three inpatient units: Brain Injury Rehab Team Unit, Specialized Orthopaedic & Developmental Rehab and Complex Continuing Care.  We assist with the play-based program, usually working with kids one on one.

I have been volunteering at Holland Bloorview for almost a year and it’s the best part of my week.  I love working with the kids and seeing them happy.  Whenever I leave the hospital I feel good knowing that the kids had a good time with us.  Many of the Complex Continuing Care clients have long term stays at the hospital.  This has allowed me to develop relationships with individual kids over the past year and I look forward to seeing them every week.  In conversation I often refer to them as my children then have to explain my volunteer position.  I have enough stories from the past year to write a book but I will stop here before I get carried away.

One of the best parts of Holland Bloorview is that they are always looking for volunteers.  I would highly recommend volunteering at Holland Bloorview, especially for students.  The general time commitment is one 3 hour shift a week which makes it a perfect volunteer opportunity for students.  Programs run at different times so your volunteer shift will fit with your class schedule.  Not only will you make a difference in the life of a child and play a vital role in the hospital, you will have fun and learn skills that will transfer into your profession within the Faculty of Community Services.

There are several different volunteer opportunities at Holland Bloorview including the Bloorview School, Centre for the Arts, Therapeutic Recreation, swimming and more.  Holland Bloorview also offers volunteer opportunities for Summer and March break camps.  More information about each program can be found at www.hollandbloorview.ca/volunteer.  You can also download the volunteer application or pick one up at the hospital’s main reception.

If after reading the website you need more convincing that Holland Bloorview is an amazing place to volunteer, comment below and I will convince you.  It’s a new year, a new semester, why not a new volunteer opportunity that’ll make a difference?

Sources Used:

Lessons learned from being rejected

I hope everyone is having an amazing reading week. Isn’t it nice to have a week off in fall semester? I will be spending my week resting, studying and working on my essay for a liberal course.

Failures and rejections occur in everyone’s life at some point. This week I will be blogging about what you can learn from these failures and rejections and pick yourself up and try again.

A couple of summers ago, I was told about a company which was hiring students for summer jobs. I thought it would be the best way to earn some money for university tuition and get experience. So I applied. I ended up getting an interview and things went well. I was ready to be part of this company until I got a rejection email, which stated that they had chosen another candidate. Considering the fact that they had few positions available and there were other people waiting to be interviewed, who probably had more experience than me. I was shocked and slightly mad.

successHere’s what I did to handle this rejection. Since there was no explanation as to why I wasn’t hired, I looked at this situation positively. One of the things I was told when I was being interviewed that they usually hire students who are in their final years and some of those students come to work with them after graduating. I was entering my first year of university that year. So that could have been the main reason. I realized that there were plenty of areas for improvement such as doing mock interviews with a friend or family member and understanding the role better.

This rejection taught me some things which I probably would have not learned if I was not rejected. I learned that there are always new opportunities available. I just need to look into right place and apply. I realized that networking also plays a big role. If you know someone, you can likely find a job much faster and the fact that there will always be ups and downs in life. You just need to pick yourself up each time and move on. Another thing I realized is that sometimes your involvement in the community makes a difference. Employers want someone who is involved in extra-curricular activities and is not afraid to try new things.

Remember, there will always be other opportunities out there. You just need to find the right one. The same year, I started volunteering to get experience and building contacts. When school started, I also managed to be part of few extra-curricular clubs, which helped me in meeting new people and networking. One of big things about rejection is that it teaches to accept defeat and move on by bettering yourself whether it is through mock interviews, volunteer experience or through networking. I am glad I learned this lesson early on.

Image taken from http://successpenpal.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/fear-and-success.jpg

The volunteer vamp – Why I give it up for free

I’ve spent almost eight years of my life working for free. Not because I wanted to, but because my professors told me it would pay off and land me a job after graduation.

You see, I’m a volunteer vamp. You read that right – I’ve had over twenty volunteer positions between my journalism and nutrition degrees – kinda disgusting, right? But when I graduated from the School of Journalism a few years ago, my volunteer experience totally paid off and it wasn’t long before I scored my first paid contract. One reason why I was hired was because of my hard work as an unpaid intern.

Volunteering is awesome because it lets you apply the skills you’ve learned in class to a real-life setting, and you get a sense of what the average day might be like in that particular profession. But it can also bite the big one – think mindless tasks and sucking up to pretentious supervisors. Not to mention it’s hard on the wallet – I’ve clocked in over 300 hours of unpaid labour over the last three years and I haven’t banked a single cent.

Despite attributing much of my professional successes to volunteering, a lot of students don’t see this growing trend the same way I do. Over the last twelve months, students have been raging against the internship machine, with some suing for wages they feel are owed to them. And because unpaid internships are a relatively new area of exploitation in the workforce, there’s no law protecting us against the bigwigs we’re slaving away for. Although student organizations, like the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA), are demanding tighter enforcement from the government, unpaid internships aren’t going anywhere. In fact, these positions are a hot commodity in almost every industry.

So what’s a girl to do – keep turning tricks in the volunteer circuit or cut the cord and demand compensation for my contributions? Unfortunately, I’m not in the least bit political and I need these unpaid gigs to get the highly coveted dietetic internship – just one in five nutrition students gets it annually – and my volunteer experiences play a key role in the recruitment process, which is why I’m not putting up a fight.

But even if I wasn’t put in this position – where volunteering is a quasi-obligation – I would still do it. It can be an extremely enriching and eyeopening experience, and I would recommend that every student give it a shot because of the amazing people you meet and the sense of fulfillment you take away.

If you’re looking to become a volunteer and you’re not sure where to start, visit www.volunteertoronto.ca to learn more about the Toronto-based organizations who need a helping hand.

Postgraduate Applications – The Reality


We make life out to be nothing but incremental steps that lead to the big PLAN. We plan to go to school, start our career, find a partner, get married, start a family and live happily ever after. But what about when life doesn’t go according to plan? Do we give up or do we preserver? Do we cry and think, “I’m not good enough” or smile and think “I’ll get it next time”. It all depends on the person. We determine how our life will turn out based on our actions and reactions.

Coming out of university, my plan was to apply for a Masters of Social Work, get accepted, complete the program and eventually become a child therapist. But following the theme of life not always going according to plan, I’m sure you can get the idea where this story is going…

The day had finally arrived. My letter from a university was waiting for me in the mailbox. I excitedly picked it up and carefully ripped it open. I pulled out the letter, unfolded the paper and there it was, staring me in the face. A “Thank you for applying” followed with the ugly word “unfortunately”. I had been waitlisted from the two universities I applied to. With the hopes of potentially being accepted off the wait list, I waited. An acquaintance of mine had also been waitlisted but had later been accepted. There was hope for me yet! But reality began to sink in as the months flew by without any acceptance letters. Eventually I received word that the waitlists from both universities had closed. As disappointed as I was, I had prepared myself for the worst, which cushioned the blow.

Luckily, as soon as I got those waitlist letters (as disappointed as I was) I said to myself, “What can I do to get in next year?” I began talking to other students who had been accepted into the Social Work Masters programs, I began to research top Masters programs both in Canada and in the states. I was keeping my options open and would apply to more schools the following year. I decided I would be proactive and refused to give up. I had a GPA in the high 80 percentile. I had great references and lots of experience. So what was keeping me from pursuing my goal? One thing I noticed was I needed more volunteer experience. So I began my quest for volunteer work in the social work field and ended up volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society, AIDS Committee of Toronto, the Ryerson Student Union Sexual Assault Crisis Line and Sick Kids Hospital. Not only would this increase my chances for my next Masters application, but it also brought about great practical and rewarding experiences.

I decided to share this information with you because students need to understand reality if they wish to continue their education after their undergrad. I was an individual who hadn’t planned for not getting in. I thought, “With good grades and good experience, of course I’ll get in!” But this isn’t always the case. And it could be a number of different factors such as being too specific with stating your interests on your application essay, not having enough work/volunteer experience, not having a high enough GPA etc. But think about it, there are TONS of people that are the perfect candidate and out of over 800, only 140 applicants are chosen (in my particular case anyways). The decision of your acceptance could be that yours happened to be on the bottom of the pile of great candidates. There are many reasons why this might happen, but the point is, don’t give up. Keep at it, get more experience, increase your GPA but above all, stay true to yourself and continue to learn through your experiences. If you don’t get in the first year, try again the next! I know that I will continue to apply until I receive the acceptance letter, whether it’s this year or five years from now.

Plans can be tricky because plans can change and thus we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. But plans change and that’s reality. I try to maintain a view of “everything happens for a reason” and maybe I wasn’t meant to get in this year in order to gain more experiences and learn how to cope with rejection. YOU get to choose your path. When faced with rejection, will you stand still or fight even harder next time?