#WATWB, Art, Creativity, Personal Development, Quotes, Writing

Resources to explore and learn during Covid-19 & #WATWB celebrates three years!

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Welcome to the “We are the World Blogfest” (#WATWB ). The #WATWB was inspired by a simple conversation about how all the negativity on social media was weighing on us. Wanting to make a difference we decided to try to do our part to infuse social media with all the good stories that are out there. We hope to share the stories that show kindness, compassion, hope, overcoming challenges and in general, the impressive resilience of the human spirit. For every dark, negative story out there, there is a positive, heartwarming story that will add some light and lift the human spirit.

This month also marks our third anniversary, we send a huge thank you to everyone who has joined us throughout the years.  We feel now more than ever that positive stories are needed to help balance all of the heartbreaking news we’ve been hearing in the wake of COVID-19. Having the internet is helping to keep us all connected, to ease the isolation and to let people know they are not alone.  For now, I hope to continue sharing on the last Friday of every month. This month’s five co-hosts are Sylvia McGrath,
Damyanti Biswas, Shilpa Garg, Dan Antion, and myself Belinda Witzenhausen.

If you are interested in joining us please feel free to check us out on Facebook and Twitter


In the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we are now all facing a life-changing crisis.  Most of us will survive this, it will be difficult, challenging and many of us will have to rebuild but many of our grandparents and great grandparents endured their trials too, World wars, famine, diseases and the great depression just to mention a few…and yet here WE are. Most countries are implementing drastic measures to halt the spread of the virus, including social distancing, closing schools, public venues, bars, restaurants or even, putting the entire communities on lockdown.  As a result there seems to be a shift that despite our isolation thanks to the internet we are seeing that we are not alone.

Good deeds are being spread online too…we are seeing celebrities and organizations making extraordinary donations to charities that are in desperate need. We are hearing positive stories of people stepping up to help their communities and many celebrities are going online providing encouragement to help people in isolation.  Due to pleas online from frontline workers some big manufacturers are stopping production of their usual products to help provide essential medical equipment and supplies. Big or small gestures we can do our parts by social distancing (if you are able) keeping ourselves, our families and our communities healthy. Reaching out to those who might be lonely, by just checking in.

While in lockdown or self-isolation we need to try and keep engaged yet positive but unlike previous generations, we have this wonderful thing called the internet. For as much negativity we see at times it is also a wonderful way to reach out to friends, we can video chat with those we are missing, share resources, learn, pick up hobbies and console each other when we are overwhelmed. Museums and Artists have opened their doors virtually to brighten up those who are isolated.  Experts are offering free online help to students who are now being educated at home. Musicians are holding free online concerts and Authors such as Deborah Harkness, V.E. Schwab to name a few are reading their favourite books online via Instagram Stories to their fans. So many things to occupy our time here of my favourite links, most free are:


Museums

Ten Museums to Visit virtually (Smithsonian) ~  Click here

Guggenheim Museum, New York ~  Click here

British Museum, London ~  Click here

Musée d’Orsay, Paris ~  Click here

Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam ~ Click here

Louvre, Paris~ Click here


Education

190 universities just launched 600 free online courses ~ Click here

NASA has made their entire collection publicly searchable and copyright-free ~ Click here

Scolastic has created a free “Learning at Home” hub for teachers and families which presents 21 days of engaging, knowledge-building learning journeys for different grade levels that can be accessed at home by kids on any device, even phones. ~ Click here

Fun activities and downloadables for kids~ Click here

Teaching kids about coronavirus ~ Click here


Books

Download free books, e.g. Shakespear, Edgar Allen Poe, Frankenstein from Project Gutenburg ~ Click here

Listening books.org  Audiobooks for people with Parkinson’s Disease, visual impairment, fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, mental health difficulty or learning difficulty such as Dyslexia, which impacts the ability to read or hold a book ~ Click here

How to access local libraries virtually~ Click here

Neil Gaiman offers tons of cool stuff for free for you to kill your time with ~ Click here


Music 

Austin City Limits Online Archives and live streaming ~ Click here

Canadian band the Arkells fight COVID-19 social distancing isolation with online music classes via Instagram  ~ Click here

Canadian live streams ~ Click here


Cooking

“Kitchen Quarantine” With Michelin Star Chef Massimo Bottura offering free daily cooking lessons at 3pm EST via Instagram ~ Click here

America’s Test Kitchen posts full episodes of its cooking show, and more than 50 of the most recent episodes are free to stream. ~ Click here


Health and Well-Being

The people behind the Headspace Meditation app are offering a free collection for everyone called “Weathering the storm. It includes meditations, sleep, and movement exercises ~ Click here

Yoga with Adriene my go-to YouTube Yoga instructor has classes for everyone and at every level. ~ Click here

Planet Fitness has a free daily class at 7 p.m. ET on its Facebook Live page. ~ Click Here

The YMCA has a variety of resources for FREE online including Tai Chi, Barre, Youth Sports Performance and Weightlifting. ~ Click here

Even those who aren’t spending every waking moment online but are making the best of it…families are spending more time together, books sales are increasing and even from city blocks, while on lockdown, singers and musicians performing from balconies, fitness instructors are running exercise classes from rooftops, local restaurants closed to the public delivering meals to those on the front lines. Everyone is doing their best!

My advice for what it’s worth, take this seriously, adhere to advice but maintain a cautious optimism. If in isolation take this opportunity to take up a hobby or pursue an existing one, spend time with your family, read, write and create. You can’t control what’s going on but you can control how you respond. A cute little infograph I found on Facebook via TheCounselingTeacher.com puts it in perspective…

90400940_814505308959093_3742759322073956352_o

For those brave ones on the front lines, the nurses, doctors, essential store clerks, farmers, truck drivers and all of those who are stepping up in this crisis putting themselves at risk I thank you!

“And the people stayed home. And read books, and listened, and rested, and exercised, and made art, and played games, and learned new ways of being, and were still. And listened more deeply. Some meditated, some prayed, some danced. Some met their shadows. And the people began to think differently.
And the people healed. And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways, the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images, and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.”

~Kitty O’Meara

#WATWB, Quotes

Quadriplegic #Photographer Reconnects with his Passion. #WATWB

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Welcome to the “We are the World Blogfest” (#WATWB ). The #WATWB was inspired by a simple conversation about how all the negativity on social media was weighing on us. Wanting to make a difference we decided to try to do our part to infuse social media with all the good stories that are out there. We hope to share the stories that show kindness, compassion, hope, overcoming challenges and in general, the impressive resilience of the human spirit. For every dark, negative story out there, there is a positive, heartwarming story that will add some light and lift the human spirit. The last Friday of every month bloggers will share their stories led by six co-hosts, this month’s co-hosts are Sylvia McGrath, Peter Nena, Shilpa Garg, Eric Lahti, and myself, Belinda Witzenhausen.

Our next post will be on March, 27th 2020.

If you would like to join us please click here!


 “If you have a strong purpose in life, you don’t have to be pushed. Your passion will drive you there.”~Roy T. Bennett


For many, their dreams of pursuing their passions get derailed for one reason or another, often tragically. Many however, find their way to reconnect with their passions and often in unexpected ways.

Loren Worthington at 21 years old dreamed of being a professional athlete when his future changed in an instant. An elbow to the spine during a game left Loren with an injury to his C5/6 vertebrae rendering his legs paralyzed and limited use of his upper body,  Loren knew his athletic career was over.

Almost two decades after he abandoned his dream, he found a way to pursue his passion for athletics, but this time from behind the lens of a camera. Though confined to a wheelchair, he taught himself to adapt using special equipment and he chose to capture others with disabilities to capture their strength, determination and abilities. Worthington has distinguished himself with his photographs of para-athletes and was requested to photograph the Rio 2016 Paralympics.

The video below tells Loren’s story…

 

Check out Lorens’s website to learn more about this incredible photographer. https://www.worthingtonvisuals.com/index

#WATWB, Quotes

When A Negative Turns Into A Positive #WATWB

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Welcome to the “We are the World Blogfest” (#WATWB ). The #WATWB was inspired by a simple conversation about how all the negativity on social media was weighing on us. Wanting to make a difference we decided to try to do our part to infuse social media with all the good stories that are out there. We hope to share the stories that show kindness, compassion, hope, overcoming challenges and in general, the impressive resilience of the human spirit. For every dark, negative story out there, there is a positive, heartwarming story that will add some light and lift the human spirit. The last Friday of every month bloggers will share their stories led by five co-hosts, this month’s co-hosts are  Susan Scott, Peter Nena, Shilpa Garg, Mary J. Giese and Damyanti Biswas.  Our next post is on September 27th, 2019! To learn more about WATWB or to join us click here. For updates, news and monthly reminder notifications please join us on our FB page here or follow us on our new Twitter account: @WATWB


“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” ~ Wendy Mass

This is a quote that I love and it rings so true especially in the case of Randa Ragland. When young Mom of five Randa Ragland received a letter in her mailbox from a neighbour calling her house an “eyesore” because the grass and shrubs were so overgrown she was understandably upset.

Complaint Letter to Randa

Ragland whose three-year-old non-verbal autistic son Jaxsen had recently been diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma, a form of cancer had her hands full. Between taking care of her other children and hospital trips with Jaxsen she didn’t have the time or energy to do much work on her lawn. Frustrated the then took to her Facebook page to explain the state of her house and why it looks the way it does. Little did she know that post, venting her frustration would prompt kind volunteers to unite together and help Randa.

A dedicated group of volunteers including a landscaping company, came to her aid cleaning up her lawn, purchasing supplies for Jaxsen and banding to form a support network for her.

Joey Harding was one such volunteer who showed up to pitch in. He lost his own daughter, Lulu, to the exact same type of cancer that Jaxen is suffering from.

“Words can’t describe what this means to me right now,” he told ABC 7. “It’s helping me cope with losing my daughter, to help another family in need.”

via https://globalnews.ca/news/5735747/mom-son-cancer-gets-spiteful-note/

To see what her neighbours did, watch the video below:

#WATWB, Quotes

Overcoming Failure #WATWB

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Welcome to the “We are the World Blogfest” (#WATWB ). The #WATWB was inspired by a simple conversation about how all the negativity on social media was weighing on us. Wanting to make a difference we decided to try to do our part to infuse social media with all the good stories that are out there. We hope to share the stories that show kindness, compassion, hope, overcoming challenges and in general, the impressive resilience of the human spirit. For every dark, negative story out there, there is a positive, heartwarming story that will add some light and lift the human spirit. The last Friday of every month bloggers will share their stories led by five co-hosts, this month’s co-hosts are Shilpa GargSimon FalkDamyanti Biswas, Lizbeth Hartz  and Eric Lahti.


Life is all about learning, growing often facing failure and adversity along the way. For many we give up, abandon or avoid following our dreams because we are scared to fail. As a writer, I have to admit I have done this too. I have actually destroyed manuscripts in haste because of rejection or self doubt. I have given up on more than one occasion for reasons ranging from not having enough time, to health issues which in all honesty weren’t as much reasons as excuses.   Yet each time I have given up or failed, I have picked myself up, dusted myself off and have tried again, possibly because I am stubborn but more simply because I love writing. 

On one of my “giving up” phases someone once mentioned a quote that was blunt, but rung true:
‘If you’re not failing, you’re probably not trying as hard as you could be’ ~ George Church (Harvard)

I am not the first writer to face rejection and I won’t be the last Stephen King’s first novel “Carrie” was rejected something like 30 times before it was accepted. King gave up and threw his first book in the trash. His wife, Tabitha, retrieved the manuscript and encouraged King to finish it. Now, King’s books have sold somewhere in the neighborhood of over 350 million copies, he’s become a household name, with almost every book making various best-seller’s lists not to mention  many have been turned into major blockbuster movies and television series.
No matter what your dreams are I can pretty much guarantee that someone who is a role model in that field has failed and had to overcome adversity multiple times. Check out this infographic from www.invaluable.com for more inspiration…

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#WATWB, Personal Development, Quotes, Writing

Never Too Old to Learn: Durge Kami’s Return to School at 69 #WATWB #NeverTooOld #LifeLongLearner

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Welcome to the “We are the World Blogfest” (#WATWB ). The #WATWB was inspired by a simple conversation about how all the negativity on social media was weighing on us. Wanting to make a difference we decided to try to do our part to infuse social media with all the good stories that are out there. We hope to share the stories that show kindness, compassion, hope, overcoming challenges and in general, the impressive resilience of the human spirit. For every dark, negative story out there, there is a positive, heartwarming story that will add some light and lift the human spirit. The last Friday of every month bloggers will share their stories led by five co-hosts, this month’s co-hosts are Sylvia McGrathSusan ScottShilpa GargEric Lahti, and myself, Belinda Witzenhausen.

To learn more about #WATWB or to join us click here!


Those who know me well can tell you how much I love learning.  Always interested in improving myself, and to satisfy my love of learning, I am what some may call a “perpetual student”. Often, I have scraped and saved, worked multiple jobs and gone to school part-time just to have the opportunity to learn, but to be honest I have never regretted a second of it.  I have graduated from college, finishing multiple programs over the years:  Art, Counselling, Life Coaching, Writing & Art Therapy.  Each time I have loved and used what I have learned in my professional life most recently by trying to help people heal and find solace through the arts. At almost 50, I am still taking courses, this time to follow a lifetime love of Archaeology, History & Palaeography. When I came across this story about Durge Kami, both his enthusiasm and sheer will, inspired me to keep pursuing my love of learning.

Durge Kami, a 69-year-old widowed father of 7 from Nepal, worked hard all his life to look after his large family. Unable to attend school as a child, after his children grew up and moved on, he decided, finally, to pursue his lifelong dream of formal education. Although old enough to be many of his fellow student’s grandfather and mocked regularly for daring to try, Durge’s hunger for knowledge has driven him to walk for an hour and a half each way just for the opportunity to attend school. Below is Durge’s story, proving you’re never too old to pursue your dreams. I hope you find it as inspirational as I do.

 

“With the wisdom of age, I want to show the light of knowledge to everyone.”

#WATWB, Art, Creativity, Personal Development, Quotes, Writing

Bringing the #Healing Power of #Art to Sick #Children #WATWB

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Welcome to the “We are the World Blogfest” (#WATWB ). The #WATWB was inspired by a simple conversation about how all the negativity on social media was weighing on us. Wanting to make a difference we decided to try to do our part to infuse social media with all the good stories that are out there. We hope to share the stories that show kindness, compassion, hope, overcoming challenges and in general, the impressive resilience of the human spirit. For every dark, negative story out there, there is a positive, heartwarming story that will add some light and lift the human spirit. The last Friday of every month bloggers will share their stories led by five co-hosts, this month’s co-hosts are Damyanti BiswasSimon FalkShilpa GargMary J. Giese , and Dan Antion.

To learn more about #WATWB or to join us click here!


I am a huge believer in the healing power of art and when watching the video from the CHILDREN’S HEALING ART PROJECT (CHAP) I am convinced. An art program in Portland Oregan designed to help children impacted by a diagnosis, disease, or special needs lose themselves in creating.

 The Children’s Healing Art Project was founded by artist Frank Etxaniz in 2006. Frank was in a serious bus accident in 1989 left his consulting firm, and returned to school to for art, healing himself by doing what he loved. In the 90s  he was involved with AIDS organizations in LA, New York and Berlin and was co-publisher of “100 Legends,” an art portfolio containing the work of AIDS patients. Initially Frank began visiting the hospital’s cancer wing for a few hours a month with a case of art supplies. As of 2017 CHAP provides 40 hours a week at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and Oregon Health & Science University’s Harold Schnitzer Diabetes Health Center, Knight Cancer Institute and Pediatric Neurosurgery Clinic. CHAP also hosts art clubs for children with chronic illnesses or medical challenges.

To learn more about CHAP please check out their website: https://chappdx.org

#WATWB, Art, Creativity, Personal Development, Quotes, Writing

#Painting with Light, #Blind #Artist Finds his Artistic Voice & Celebrating Two Years of #WATWB🎉

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Welcome to the “We are the World Blogfest” (#WATWB ). This month we celebrate our two-year anniversary and we couldn’t have done it without our wonderful co-hosts who help share, visit and promote all of the positive stories our bloggers share. I would also like to thank Lynn Hallbrooks who volunteers to manage our Facebook page. The #WATWB was inspired by a simple conversation between myself and the wonderful Damyanti Biswas discussing how all the negativity on social media was weighing on us. Wanting to make a difference we decided to try to do our part to infuse social media with all the good stories that are out there. We hope to share the stories that show kindness, compassion, hope, overcoming challenges and in general, the impressive resilience of the human spirit. For every dark, negative story out there, there is a positive, heartwarming story that will add some light and lift the human spirit. The last Friday of every month bloggers will share their stories led by five co-hosts, this month’s co-hosts are Sylvia McGrath,Damyanti Biswas, Shilpa Garg, Dan Antion, and myself, Belinda Witzenhausen.
To learn more about #WATWB or to join us click here!


If you follow any of my blogs you’ll no doubt notice that I am always sharing stories about individuals who turn their adversities into something positive. Today I’m going to share another one of those stories.

Artist Steven Erra’s vision is slowly deteriorating due to Retinitis Pigmentosa. When he was in college, Steven had no idea he had a disease that would rob him of his sight, in fact, it wasn’t until he was nearly finished his art degree. But Erra was determined to make the most of what sight he had left. Receiving that diagnosis only motivated Erra to further pursue his passion. He began taking photographs and using flashlights to paint images into his work. Personally, I find his work brilliantly creative and unique. These days, he works with The Seeing With Photography Collective, a group of sight-impaired artists who specialize in “light painting.” Watch his story below.

To view Steven Erra’s work online, check out these links:

http://www.literal-latte.com/2015/12/steven-erra/

https://nothingperipheralasightimpairedartist.blogspot.com

#WATWB, Quotes

“Magic table” helps patients with #dementia #WATWB

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Welcome to the “We are the World Blogfest” (#WATWB ). The #WATWB was inspired by a simple conversation about how all the negativity on social media was weighing on us. Wanting to make a difference we decided to try to do our part to infuse social media with all the good stories that are out there. We hope to share the stories that show kindness, compassion, hope, overcoming challenges and in general, the impressive resilience of the human spirit. For every dark, negative story out there, there is a positive, heartwarming story that will add some light and lift the human spirit. The last Friday of every month bloggers will share their stories led by five co-hosts, this month’s co-hosts are Sylvia McGrath, Peter Nena, Shilpa Garg, Inderpreet Uppal, and myself, Belinda WitzenhausenTo learn more about #WATWB or to join us click here!


Working in social services and having had dementia touch my family, I am aware of the path this dreaded disease takes.  Watching a loved one waste away, lose all joy and become apathetic disengaging from life can be incredibly heartbreaking.  Thanks to a Dutch invention, the “magic table” or Tovertafel currently in over 500 nursing homes in the UK  is helping dementia patients engage again with their minds and bodies. Hoping that these become a staple in many long term care facilities and like most technology perhaps eventually a smaller and more affordable option will be available for caregivers everywhere.

Watch here to learn more about Tovertafel:

&

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/stories-45642031/magic

Poem by Stacey Cirillo via Alzheimers.net

Alzheimer's ~ As She Sits

#WATWB, Quotes

Inside the #Library Fighting #Homelessness #WATWB

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Welcome to the “We are the World Blogfest” (#WATWB ). The #WATWB was inspired by a simple conversation about how all the negativity on social media was weighing on us. Wanting to make a difference we decided to try to do our part to infuse social media with all the good stories that are out there. We hope to share the stories that show kindness, compassion, hope, overcoming challenges and in general, the impressive resilience of the human spirit. For every dark, negative story out there, there is a positive, heartwarming story that will add some light and lift the human spirit. The last Friday of every month bloggers will share their stories led by six co-hosts, this month’s co-hosts are Sylvia Stein,Inderpreet Uppal, Shilpa Garg, Damyanti Biswas and Simon Falk.

Our next post will be on February 22nd, 2019. If you would like to join us please click here!


“Sometimes it’s easy to walk by because we know we can’t change someone’s whole life in a single afternoon. But what we fail to realize it that simple kindness can go a long way toward encouraging someone who is stuck in a desolate place.” 
― Mike Yankoski

Who would have guessed that finding refuge in a library would lead one woman to find her purpose, help herself and others in the process?

Many communities in many countries are facing a crisis with regards to the number of people who are homeless.  Working in social services in the past I witnessed first hand the challenges many faced, be it mental health issues, escaping bad situations, substance abuse or a combination of factors, often out of their control. In many cases, I got to know, care and like so many I met. Each had a story and I learned so much from just sitting down and speaking with them.

Cuica Montoya experienced homelessness herself after her husband left her, her home went into foreclosure, she even did a stint in jail as well as having addiction issues. When living rough she would gravitate to the library, being a public place it is often a haven to many on the streets. When Cuica finally realized she couldn’t go on that way, she got help.  Cuica was approached by Elissa Hardy, a Community Resource Specialist with the Denver Library and asked to become a Peer Navigator which gave Cuica purpose and helps her effect change in her community on a daily basis.

Watch Cuica’s story here…

#WATWB, Quotes

Truth and Reconciliation #OrangeShirtDay #EveryChildMatters #WATWB

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Welcome to the “We are the World Blogfest” (#WATWB ). The #WATWB was inspired by a simple conversation about how all the negativity on social media was weighing on us. Wanting to make a difference we decided to try to do our part to infuse social media with all the good stories that are out there. We hope to share the stories that show kindness, compassion, hope, overcoming challenges and in general, the impressive resilience of the human spirit. For every dark, negative story out there, there is a positive, heartwarming story that will add some light and lift the human spirit. The last Friday of every month bloggers will share their stories led by six co-hosts, this month’s co-hosts are Eric Lahti, Inderpreet Uppal, Shilpa Garg, Sylvia Stein and Peter Nena.

Our next post will be on October 26th, 2018. If you would like to join us please click here!


“Peace does not mean an absence of conflicts; differences will always be there. Peace means solving these differences through peaceful means; through dialogue, education, knowledge; and through humane ways.” ~ Dalai Lama XIV

Those who know me know I am a proud Canadian and a huge history buff. There is, however, a shameful and deplorable period of history that spanned over a century and not many Canadians are aware of.  Between the 1870s and the 1990s, the Canadian government was financially responsible for Indian residential schools. These residential schools were found in most of our Canadian provinces and territories with the exception of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland.   Indigenous children were sent to these schools, taken from their homes, separated from their families, stripped of their culture, beliefs, and language while enduring horrific mental and physical abuse which many did not survive; all in order to assimilate them to “fit” with European Christian ideals.

To some, this might not seem like an uplifting post but to me, it is, it’s starting a dialogue which will hopefully bring awareness, offer hope, healing, reconciliation and a level of understanding so events like this will never be part of our history again.

Orange Shirt Day began in 2013 as a result of residential school survivor Phyllis Jack Webstad sharing her experience of the day she arrived at a residential school. Webstad shared her story at a legacy of the St. Joseph Mission (SJM) residential school commemoration event held in Williams LakeBritish Columbia, Canada. On her first day at Residential School Phyllis’ had her new orange shirt taken away from her which was just the beginning of what she would lose. The date of September 30th was chosen for the annual event because it is the time of year in which Indigenous children were historically taken from their homes to residential schools. Phyllis’ experience is used today to teach students about residential schools and their assimilation practices. In 2017 Jane Philpott, Canada’s Minister of Indigenous Services and Carolyn BennettIndigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Minister encouraged people across Canada to participate in this commemorative and educational event.

On September 30th by wearing an orange shirt, you are recognizing the survivors of residential schools and helping to bring communities together in the spirit of reconciliation and hope.

For more information about #OrangeShirtDay: http://www.orangeshirtday.org/