Sweet Success on Centre Court

Cantón Bella Vista girls’ basketball team come up winners

What child can resist playing with a ball? We discover that joy early in life as we learn to bounce, catch, kick, throw, and chase after them in pursuit of fun.

For a group of 10 to 12-year-old girls in Cantón Bella Vista, Guatemala, the pursuit of fun and basketball has led to champion status in their community, and they have the Compassionate Eye Foundation to thank for getting the ball rolling.


In 2010, a group of teachers in municipalities surrounding the small, remote community (25 schools in 25 communities) sought to find interesting, skill-building activities for their students. They pooled their energies into hosting regular sporting and cultural events and for the past eight years, these events get underway every Friday from June through August.

One of these events is a regional basketball tournament, an activity supported by teachers to foster the development of psychomotor skills, teamwork, and friendly competition. It’s through this tournament that the young girls of the Cantón Bella Vista school achieved their prized second place standing and became darlings of the community.

Thanks to the generosity of a private donor, CEF funded the construction of a playground and concrete basketball court in Cantón Bella Vista. And it’s become a real game changer for the community.

Before the tournaments, the concept of sports wasn’t well-defined in Cantón Bella Vista. Children were active enough, but playing ball consisted mostly of small groups of girls or boys tossing or kicking around a soccer ball. They played in a dirt playground by the school, kicking up dust in the summer and mud in winter. There was no concrete surface on which to properly bounce a ball, no hoops to sink a basketball, and little understanding of the game.

Fredy Matias Lopez, an instructor and project coordinator for the Cantón Bella Vista school, remembers how the playground transformed the community. “When the basketball court was built, it was a great joy and curiosity for parents, teachers, boys, and girls,” he said (via translated email correspondence.) “The environment was improved…children started playing during recess hours, and the parents of family and young people also played in the afternoon on the court. It was a new environment for the school and the community.”

As the popularity of the tournaments took off, it opened an exciting new world for the children. “The students, parents, and teachers are so proud of having a sports field and taking second place in girls’ basketball,” said Fredy.  “It demonstrates to the other 24 schools that the girls can play well. The students are proud to receive congratulations, medals, trophies, and mentions in the media through radio and television. In 2017, the girls even received congratulations from relatives in the United States who saw the news on Facebook.”

Pride in the success of the girls’ team is shared by the entire community, and enthusiasm for the game has spurred greater participation on basketball teams for both genders. The children gain skills through competitions with peers in neighbouring schools and as they succeed in the game, they share their skills with other children. To commemorate the team’s success, the community is working together to establish a space to display team trophies that mark proud moments in the history of the school.

“Other school teams know that the Cantón Bella Vista school can win and are afraid to face our team,” Fredy boasted. “Parents collaborate to cover some expenses during sporting events because they know there will be favourable results for the school.”

By far the team’s greatest success is instilling healthy ideas into young minds. “The successes obtained [through practicing basketball] are strengths that each of our students has, and they will carry the idea of ​​being successful in life,” says Fredy. “Our school must be a model of what can be achieved.”


A hand up, not a hand out

By Arjun Shankar & John Shoust

One of CEF’s newest partners, Winds of Change, is returned recently to complete its project in Pedro Arauz – a small community of approximately 80 families that is located in rural Nicaragua. While Winds of Change has been developing a relationship with this community for some time, this is CEF’s first opportunity to learn about its environment and people – to evaluate its needs, and to assess the impact of this project on its peoples’ quality of life. Since the project’s inception, Winds of Change has already built one windmill, two irrigation systems and supported the rehabilitation of a local school. The work in February includes installing two additional irrigation systems, as well as multiple water purification systems meant to address the growing incidence of diarrhea and kidney disease among local children and adults.

Photo by Winds of Change

Bringing together a team of well-respected engineers, business leaders, professors and  University of Toronto students, Winds of Change is a Canadian non-profit organization that strives to promote water security in rural Nicaragua. The flagship project of the organization and its leadership team is the design and construction of windmills and irrigation systems using locally sourced material and labour; however, Winds of Change also supports education and capacity building through a range of initiatives. The latter is also a testament to the organization’s diverse constituency, which is a reflection of interests ranging from the public and private sectors, all the way to academia.

To those of us that have ready access to clean drinking water at all times of the day or night, it is undoubtedly easy to take for granted the efforts required by some to find and transport clean water to and from their homes. Although wells remain a lifeline to many communities around the world, windmills can facilitate access to potable water in larger quantity – not only for drinking, cooking and cleaning purposes, but also for harvesting crops which requires a degree of consistency. Sound irrigation systems are equally important to (a) maximize crop yield, and (b) minimize water usage; and agricultural education allows communities to harvest crops that are otherwise implausible to grow because of poor soil conditions, or a lack of knowledge.

For Winds of Change, it is incredibly important to enable individuals and families to create lasting change from within their communities through skill development and the implementation of lasting low-cost technologies. This allows local communities to become self-sufficient in the long-run, and promotes capacity, health, social solidarity and network building. It also facilities commerce in and between communities by supporting access to local food markets where crops can be bought and sold.

Photo by Winds of Change












Through the continued interaction with community leaders Winds of Change plans to develop projects within Pedro Arauz and surrounding communities to provide new and exciting opportunities.  The longer-term impact of these projects and ongoing education / training is to allow families to remain as a unit longer, achieve higher levels of education among children, and provide predictable and sustainable access to the basic necessities of life.


Clean Water Makes the Difference

Today marks the 25th anniversary of World Water Day. Drawing attention to the ever-growing need for clean drinking water, World Water Day is a chance for worldwide reflection on how important water is to people and the environment alike.

Graphic by UN Water

It is also a time for action. UN Water estimates that “2.1 billion people lack access to safely managed drinking water services.” And, according to UN Water, “by 2050, the world’s population will have grown by an estimated 2 billion people and global water demand could be up to 30% higher than today.” How will we combat this growing need?


As an organization, CEF has aimed to increase access to clean drinking water by partnering with on-the-ground organizations in Guatemala, Ethiopia, India, Sierra Leone, Kenya, and Cambodia.

In Cambodia, CEF and Kids International Development Society (KIDS) have partnered on clean water projects in four schools. In total, these projects have brought clean drinking water to 4,700 students and teachers. Our latest—and largest—water filtration project for the Pouk District High School is nearly finished.

We caught up with Rick and Adrianne, founders of Nanaimo-based charity KIDS, in Cambodia to find out just how important clean water is to the daily life of a student.

“Before the water projects are implemented, kids have to go without water all day if their families are too poor to afford bottled water,” said Adrianne. “We have noticed that the playgrounds are pretty quiet at recess. The children are often thirsty and lethargic due to stomach aliments caused by bad water.”

Since clean water is made available, Rick said they notice a “marked differences at the schools once they can drink to their heart’s content.” With an unlimited supply of clean water, kids can be just that: fun-loving kids.

Adding to this happy story is a positive environmental aspect: students at the school will carry a refillable water bottle. Rick and Adrianne report that there is a movement at Pouk High School, and at many of the schools in the area, to reduce the amount of plastic waste caused by single-use bottles.

Providing students and teachers with water, in an environmentally friendly way, is a real source of pride for both KIDS and CEF.

It may not be huge contribution—compared to the 2.1 billion people in need of reliable, clean water—but we are thrilled to be a part of a solution.

Happy World Water Day, everyone!

Photo by KIDS

The Volunteer Happiness Equation


Photo by Kids International Development Society.

If there was just one day to be happy, March 20 would be that day.

In 2013, the United Nations set aside this one day to recognize the “fundamental human goal” of happiness in the lives of people around the world, and International Day of Happiness was born.

A cornerstone of our work at Compassionate Eye Foundation is creating hope and happiness in communities across developing countries. As our many creative volunteers pool their talents and energy to ensure happiness for others, they discover an equal or greater happiness in that process. In the spirit of this happy day, meet two of our inspiring CEF volunteers.

Photo by Kids International Development Society.


Penelope Goranson

Fashion model Penelope Goranson was still recovering from breast cancer surgery and treatments when her agent (Lisa Meuser, The Meus Productions) asked if she’d pose for a non-paying, high-fashion photoshoot for mature women. Thrilled, she said yes, and there in the studio, surrounded by beautiful clothes, shoes, jewelry, and scarves, she thought she’d died and gone to heaven.

“I hadn’t felt attractive since 2004 since I had my breast mangled,” she admitted. “You feel so weird when you look in the mirror and you see this thing (scar) looking at you.”

Penelope defines herself as sassy and, among the models on the shoot, she was clearly the outspoken one. “My mother always told me, ‘You’re not quite like others dear’,” she laughed. But since her life-altering experience, she now identifies as a warrior. “I don’t like that word, survivor [breast cancer survivor], it’s demeaning,” she told us. “A survivor walks away from an accident. A warrior walks towards whatever they need to face. We put on armour and we fight!”

Her whirlwind journey began with the discovery of an aggressive form of cancer, followed by surgery, six years of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and the untimely loss of her mother to the same disease before her second treatment. Her husband was always at her side. “This has always been our cancer,” she explained.

Despite all that she’s been through, she maintains a positive outlook on life. Being asked to support CEF as a model has been more gift than duty, and her images have been featured in People, InStyle and three other magazines, with royalties all going CEF. “I felt so blessed, honoured to be able to help …,” she said. “I feel like I have a purpose, this is why I’m still here … it’s helped my healing and my spirituality.” Her advice to others volunteers is to just do it. “It’s agape (divine love). It makes you feel like you’re where you’re meant to be, helping people.”

Lory Keller

Living with MS for 20 years, Lory Keller has learned to adapt, evolve and push herself forward in her life. Volunteering has played an important and healthy role for her.

“After my diagnosis, I went through a wrongful work demotion, was dealing with an unhealthy marriage and was searching for relationships,” she told us. “Volunteering was the best way to find my tribe … it’s an exchange of positive energy that has a ripple effect.”

Lory discovered volunteering at an early age through church, community and political activities ranging from summer camps and teaching babies to swim, to helping a Cambodian family settle into American life and marching for the close of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant. “I have always gotten great joy out of helping others,” Lory told us.

Her path to CEF came through an inquiry about an armoire for sale on Craigslist. When Lory went to see the item, she made an instant connection with the owner (actress Karen Kruper). Over tea, Lory was asked if she’d ever posed for print photography, and within days, found herself at an audition. She was chosen to model on two CEF Los Angeles Lifestyle photo shoots. “Karen saw something that would be a positive match” she explained. “I was so excited about it … it still makes me smile.”

From her first random meeting to modeling, and later working with CEF’s volunteer communications team writing social media content, Lory views her journey with CEF as “nothing short of magical.”

Much like Penelope, Lory also feels honoured and thrilled to be part of something meaningful. “Volunteering fulfills my intense desire to help others, be creative, make new friends, and feel more in touch and active with what is happening here around the world. Helping CEF always makes me feel like I hit the #VolunteerLottery!”

Photo by Kids International Development Society.

Opening Minds & Opening Hearts

Helping to shape school life in Ethiopia

We seldom pause to consider how we got to go to school. We were enrolled in kindergarten in a neighbourhood school, progressed to middle and high school, then continued on to college, university, trade school, or other training to carry us through life.

For children in Wotet Abay, a small town 50 kilometers south of Bahir Dar in Ethiopia, schooling has been a challenge. With 2,033 students, the Wotet Abay Elementary School was struggling to meet the learning needs of its community.

Currently, twenty percent of the children entering grade one are between ages eight and 12.  This late enrolment, a serious detriment to learning, has been attributed to a number of factors: a distance too far to travel, families needing their children for work, inadequate physical conditions of the school, and poor quality teaching.

A shortage of classrooms meant staging two shifts of classes per day, with an average of 60 students per shift for grades one through eight. Classrooms in the mud-structure buildings were dark and dilapidated, and filthy, makeshift latrines offered no privacy for students or staff.

In 2017 big changes were being made at the school, and CEF was there to help. Approached by the Frances G. Cosco Foundation (FGCF) to support overall improvements being made at the school, CEF stepped up with funding to construct latrines and establish teacher training and a greening program. 

Gina Cosco, CFO and Secretary-Treasurer on the Board of Directors at FGCF, told us about the foundation’s work. “Our projects are based on a holistic model,” she explained, “which includes school, library, science lab and latrine construction, provision of furniture and books, teacher training, water, sanitation and hygiene programming, as well as a greening program.” 

She was happy to report on increased attendance and enrolment. “Children, and in particular girls, did not attend in part because of the horrible, filthy latrines,” she said. “Boys and girls now have separate latrines, and the girls helped choose where theirs would be located in order to be more private.”

CEF funding for teacher training helped them move beyond the traditional “chalk and talk” methods of instruction. “Our training focuses on student-centred learning,” explained Gina. “We use different teaching methods for different types of learners, and many more hands-on teaching methods and aids.”  One aspect encouraged teachers and administration to establish reading, sports, and health clubs. These didn’t existent previously, but are now thriving with growing numbers of students.

FGCF’s teacher training expert Abiyot Ashenafi, based in Bahir Dar, now oversees ongoing training. He manages planning, facilitating, maintaining best practices, modeling and monitoring student-centered instructional strategies, and measuring of students’ academic growth.

“Teachers from the International Community School (ICS), that uses a holistic method of teaching, help lead our workshops,” said Gina. “They host teachers from our schools in their own school so that they may shadow and mentor them.”

The main impact on teachers has been motivating them to try new methods and enjoy teaching more. “Many now spend more time in school and more time preparing innovative props and aids to help their teaching,” she said. “This is partly due to new facilities, but also because of inspiration from the training and the noticeable new enthusiasm of students in response to new teaching methods.”

CEF’s funding of a greening program took root to further enrich the school’s learning environment. The planting of fast-growing, indigenous canopy trees will in three years provide shade for classes held outdoors, and keep indoor classrooms cooler.

Fruit and vegetable trees, such as mangos and avocados, were planted to educate about agriculture and farming methods. Future sales from the garden’s harvest will generate needed income for the school, and support costs of uniforms and school supplies for destitute families.

Thanks to CEF, students are keener about school these days, reportedly arriving ahead of the start of class rather than straggling in throughout the day. “There seems to be much more desire to attend school on the part of teachers and students,” said Gina, “and parents are much keener to send their kids to school.”


Connecting with Creatives for Social Good

What do graphic designers need to know about the Compassionate Eye Foundation? In November, CEF seized a plum opportunity to find out at the 2017 RGD DesignThinkers Conference in Toronto.

Accepting an invite from the Association of Registered Graphic Designers, Board member Robyn Sussel and Executive Director Melody Jacobson took part in the packed two-day event and came away with high-praise, positive feedback and a lot of great ideas for CEF.  

DesignThinkers is Canada’s premier conference for visual communicators. For the past 18 years, the inspiring event has set out to explore, educate and drive innovation across a network of national and international creative professionals. More than 1,700 delegates attended the November event, representing a broad spectrum of business sectors that included corporate, health, education, and government, as well as students launching design careers.

It was an ideal setting for face-to-face dialogue with the design community – namely the creative directors, art directors and designers whose job it is to select stock photographs for projects within agencies, design firms and other companies – and to talk about the work of CEF.

“The CEF board has developed a new strategy to reach out to “end users,” said Robyn. “Part of this strategy is building relationships with organizations like RGD who represent designers and the design community.”

Until recently, marketing and communications efforts have relied on promotion of CEF stock images through the Getty Images website. In working to establish a demand for CEF photos and build greater awareness among its end users, CEF is taking important steps on its evolutionary path as a charity.  

Over the two days, Robyn and Melody gained valuable insights on best ways to connect with this vital audience. “Pretty much everyone who came to the table was learning about us for the first time,” noted Melody. “They had zero knowledge about us but began to think about how they could use CEF to link with corporate social responsibility (CSR) in their organizations. They immediately made that link between their work and ours.”

Robyn agreed. “Almost universally designers said that our model was uniquely wonderful, representing a way for them to give back through their work,” she added. “They saw the model as win-win-win — by buying our photos, they could contribute without dipping into their own pockets and without compromising the quality of the photos they’re choosing. By simply making this choice, they saw huge value in contributing to CEF projects in the developing world.”

Delegates were directed to the Compassionate Eye Foundation collection on Getty Images. Most delegates were familiar with Getty, but unaware of their support for organizations like CEF. They felt that this CSR initiative reflected well on Getty.  

Through insights gained from delegates and sponsors, CEF will consider working with vertical markets in the design industry. “We met with several designers from the banking and university sectors who thought that by choosing CEF photos, they would be furthering their organization’s own CSR programs. This is very exciting because it opens a world of potential partnerships for CEF.”

Partnership interest was also expressed from reps within the print industry. “There are some natural alignments that will help CEF grow from an organization with one partner, to an organization with many partners,” said Robyn.

“The Conference was a good first step to getting people to learn about choosing CEF,” noted Melody. With a clearer understanding of what is important for creatives, CEF will refine its pitch to the design community for 2018. CEF also plans to reach out locally through the DesignThinkers Conference in Vancouver on May 29 and 30, 2018.

To watch sessions from the DesignThinkers conference, visit the RGD YouTube channel.

In the Giving Spirit

There is something special about this time of year. And for CEF and many other charities, Giving Tuesday Canada has a lot to do with the specialness of the season.

Called the “opening day of the giving season,” Giving Tuesday is a day when nonprofits and businesses, as well as families and individuals, join together and rally for their favourite causes. November 28 is THE day of the year for the giving community: our Black Friday equivalent. Last year in Canada alone, 5,700 partners came together and millions of Canadians joined in the spirit of giving via donations, activism, and volunteerism.

Image courtesy of Giving Tuesday Canada

Entering into another year of Giving Tuesday, CEF is thrilled to join forces with long-time partner, Kids International Development Society (KIDS). We have partnered with KIDS on several past projects in Cambodia, such as a floating health clinic, a girls’ washroom, and new classrooms. In Giving Tuesday 2015, we had the pleasure of supporting KIDS and their program, Smart Kids. Two years later, we’re back supporting this wonderful program.

Smart Kids program | Photo courtesy of KIDS

Smart Kids is a youth scholarship program based in a rural area of Cambodia called Kompong Khleang. Selecting children that are the most in need, KIDS works with families to assist one child per family in pursuing an education.

Taking a holistic approach to education, youth in the Smart Kids program receive school supplies, a school uniform, solar lights for home study, school fees, daily English classes, tutoring, and a bike to travel to school. To help the youth make the most of their education, KIDS also provides access to healthcare when needed.

Reaching Adrianne and Rick in Cambodia, we asked them what Smart Kids means to the youth in the program.

“Over the years the kids have told us,” say Adrianne and Rick, “that Smart Kids has given them the opportunity to learn computers, English, and to change their futures from working in brick factories for the rest of their lives to having the chance at a better future.”

Most of the families in this area work as brick labourers or fish for a living, making very poor wages. Many of the parents are illiterate and have little or no opportunity to better their lives or the lives of their children. As a result, most of the children work part-time in the brick factories and, without an education, will continue to live in poverty.

Living conditions for students in the area. House has since been upgraded by KIDS | Photo courtesy of KIDS

Through programs like Smart Kids, school builds, housing, clean water projects, floating health clinics, and solar lightings, Nanaimo-based KIDS is trying to make real change in rural Cambodia.

The efforts of KIDS in Cambodia really resonate with CEF, as many of their projects meet our goals to provide good healthcare, education, and sustainability to impoverished regions around the world.

KIDS play an important role in the lives of the children they help. More importantly, children love the opportunities KIDS provided to them. Described by one of the youth: “we love going to Smart Kids program because we work hard and learn a lot.”

To celebrate Giving Tuesday and the wonderful work of KIDS, CEF will match every one $1 donated (up to $3,000).

For more information and to donate, visit http://bit.ly/2gdizjR.

Smart Kids participants | Photo courtesy of KIDS




Recipe for a Global Citizen

A couple of weeks back, I was reminded of two things. First, why I do some of the “work” I do for CEF. (I use quotations because it’s hard to consider it work when you really like all the people you deal with all the time with CEF and our various partners). Second, I’m convinced that generations following mine will do more good and make more progress towards social justice than mine did. A tough admission for a Boomer as we often like to believe we are the last generation of change. The Summer of Love, draft resistance, Silent Spring and the beginning of the environmental movement, and all that. And yet here we are on the brink of climate disaster, we have political chaos in the US and elsewhere, to say nothing of the rampant violence and refugee crises’ that are washing over the world.

I attended two events that focused my mind in the way I mentioned. The first was WE Day in Vancouver. CEF has funded a number of projects through WE (formerly Free the Children) with great results. We get invited to WE Day in Vancouver as a result, and get to exult with the thousands of young people excited to be part of a movement to change people’s lives in Canada and around the world. I admit I can only last 2 hours as the energy in the arena is overwhelming. But in that time, in a way I don’t recognize, I see that change can happen. That kids can be engaged to care about what happens to others. Here, and in other places. To understand that your neighbour is as much the person next door and down the street as it is the girl in Ethiopia who wants to go to school. It’s a highly successful model that looks like it has lots of legs, and good for them!

We Day 2017 | Picture courtesy of Melody Jacobson

The second event was interestingly even more reassuring. If you read our blog at all you will know about our great partner, KIDS, (Kids international Development Society) that does so much fantastic work in Cambodia. I love KIDS and like to attend their fundraising dinner in Nanaimo in the fall every year. KIDS has attracted lots of wonderful people to their cause, particularly in Nanaimo, but it is an eight year old girl who has stolen my heart and the show the last two years.

Sumalee running a lemonade stand to raise money for KIDS | Picture courtesy of Ashleigh Martinflatt

Sumalee is 8. She is of Thai/Canadian/British/Polynesian heritage and was born in Nanaimo and adopted by a wonderful couple there. She is marvelously dedicated to KIDS and to helping others, and can raise money like a slot machine. Sumalee spends her summers creating handmade Christmas cards (all the time playing Christmas carols in July!! And driving her folks nuts), which she then sells (hundreds of them) to help support programs for kids in Cambodia. She has a pen pal who she corresponds with. She has parties that raise money. And she has given the keynote talk at the KIDS function for the last two years. And brought the house down both years.

Imagine the 8-year-old, standing on a chair behind a lectern, giving a talk about her recipe for being a Global Citizen. I am assured by her mother that she has written this herself. She has the audience wrapt in a way I have only seen a few speakers do at a fundraiser. Paraphrasing her “recipe” is this:

A) understand what you are interested in seeing happen in the world: girls going to school, clean water, families able to support themselves. OK, got that?

B) what are you passionate about doing in the world? Singing? Art? Dancing? Hosting parties?

Whatever it is, take B and use it to support A. And voila. You are a Global Citizen. And imagine the 8-year-old making us laugh and sigh and then we give her a standing ovation.

Sumalee’s school picture | Picture courtesy of Ashleigh Martinflatt

A Gift with Meaning


Emma and Faith (middle and far right, bottom row) take a moment for a group photo with their friends.

Emma Fenty’s 16th birthday was approaching and Faith Bradshaw wondered what gift she might get for her good friend. She knew Emma wasn’t keen on receiving gifts but still, she wanted to do something meaningful to mark the day.

“I couldn’t think of anything that Emma might like to have,” said Faith. “She is very interested in world issues. She’s somebody who is compassionate and interested in helping others.”

Faith and a number of friends decided to find a charity that Emma would be interested in and make a donation in her honour. “I think our world is full of consumerism,” explained Faith. “Emma agrees, so this was a perfect gift for her.”

Six of Emma’s friends pitched in and came up with ideas. They considered a number of organizations, discussed preferences and causes that Emma would appreciate, and settled on giving donations to the Compassionate Eye Foundation and the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation. Each friend gave $30 to $40 each, and together they donated $125 to CEF and $100 to the BBRF.

Emma recalls the day she received letters from both organizations notifying her of donations made in her honour. “I didn’t expect it at all,” said exclaimed. “I cried when I read them.”

The desire to give is well rooted in Faith and Emma. Faith is the daughter of Nancy Bradshaw, Executive Director and Founder of the Social and Emotional Leadership Foundation, and Robert Brown, past Board Chair and current Advisory Board Chair of the Compassionate Eye Foundation. Over the years, both have made generous contributions of time and effort to CEF, and Faith has listened to many great stories about projects funded abroad. “My Dad’s told me about his trip to Guatemala with CEF which was incredible,” she told us. “All of their projects look incredible, but what caught my eye the most was the floating medical clinic [in Cambodia] … that was amazing.”

Faith also pays close attention to her father’s work locally as President of Catalyst Community Developments Society, a BC-based not-for-profit society that creates vibrant, affordable, and inspiring spaces for living and working. “I’m interested in architecture and I enjoy hearing him talk about the impact of his work. It’s really interesting to learn about what he’s doing to help develop affordable housing in Vancouver, which is so important now.”

Both girls are in Grade 11 in Vancouver schools. When asked about activities they are involved in they are quick to list a number of options with groups they have reached out to. “This summer I volunteered at Christianne’s Lyceum of Literature and Art for children,” said Faith. “Emma and I are also interested in working at the animal shelters.”

Emma’s school program involves a half-day of volunteering every Wednesday. “I’m helping out [the school] with social media,” she said. “I’ve also applied to other places like the Aquarium, touring kids around and educating them … a kitten rescue, and a school program that teaches children about food and good nutrition.”

The girls are also gaining a keen sense of global issues. They told us about of documentaries they watched such as The True Cost, directed by Andrew Morgan, that explores the impact of fashion industry on people and the planet. They also watched 180° South, directed by Chris Malloy, that details the journey of Jeff Johnson as he retraces the epic journey of Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins to Patagonia in 1968.

Faith’s and Emma’s post-secondary future holds many possibilities, and both have expressed interest in non-profit work. “I have definitely thought about it,” said Faith. “It’s rewarding to give something that is helping so many other people.” Emma concurs. “I’ve been interested in non-profit for the last couple of years.

For now, they enjoy supporting what is important to them. For Emma, the gift to charity on her birthday made a meaningful impact. “This is definitely one of the better gifts I’ve ever got.”

From Bright Lights to Clean Drinking Water



How does a high-fashion photo of a sassy senior quench the thirst of a child in a remote Cambodian village? Through the extraordinary talents of Compassionate Eye Foundation’s volunteer creative community that rallies for a good cause.

In February 2015, a group of stylish women, ages 60 through 85, was the muse for CEF’s Advanced Style shoot in Toronto. “We set out to produce a fashion series, not a fashion series for ‘older’ women,” explained fashion photographer and CEF volunteer John van der Schilden. “We wanted our shoot to be about their spirit and personal style. In our minds, we created distinct characters who didn’t allow conventional thinking about aging to dictate their outlook on fashion.”  

Model Penelope Goranson reveled in her moment under the bright lights. “It was like I’d died and gone to heaven,” said the self-professed “sassy” one of the group. “All those clothes, jewelry, scarves – my cup of tea!” Her images from the shoot have now appeared in Zoomer, People, InStyle, Money, and Travel and Leisure magazines.



Vicki Schelstraete, another CEF photographer working on the shoot, agreed. “They were all so excited to be a part of a shoot where they were celebrated for their age,” she said. “For our 85-year ‘young’ model in particular, it was her first-time modeling, exemplifying that you’re never too old to try something new. Her spirit, energy and sense of fun were incredibly contagious, and John captured it all.”


On the other side of John’s camera is an equally energetic verve in Adrianne Dartnall and Rick Lennert, the founders of KIDS International, an organization that benefits from stock photo royalties generated from shoots like the Advanced Style series. A partner for five years, KIDS International is among a number of CEF charitable partners who devote their resources to helping developing nations thrive.

Every year, Adrianne and Rick travel to Cambodia for a four-month stay. “We’ve always gone to Cambodia,” said Adrianne. “It captured our hearts – so many people had lost children and families due to civil war.”

The KIDS partnership with CEF has enabled Adrianne and Rick to accomplish a growing list of projects that includes building and repairing floating schools and health clinics, sponsoring children to go to school, and establishing clean drinking water systems.  

On the first drinking water system they built, Adrianne noted how lethargic they had originally found the children to be. “We designed a clean drinking water system and worked with local builders to make it happen,” she explained.” Today, 5,500 children and families have access to clean drinking water, and the difference in their well-being is noticeable. “It’s amazing. The children are more energetic, and happy. It’s wonderful seeing them come up to the tap and drink as much water as they can and not be sick.”

Adrianne and Rick are always eager to talk about their travels, projects and successes. ““We tell stories, and people want to be a part of it,” said Rick. “What we really like about CEF is that we’re partners. They allocate funds and we apply them to a particular project.” In describing their work, he added, “We write what we see. We incorporate hope, heart, and making a difference with a line of humour – that’s our formula.”

The formula works. Penelope Goranson was excited to learn more about photos royalties supporting KIDS International. “If my picture is helping in any way, I am absolutely thrilled. If you get a chance, send them all a hug and all my love.”