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Interview With RBC Blue Water Grant Recipient ~ Ottawa Riverkeeper

I’m proud to be working as an ambassador for the RBC Blue Water Project. RBC has made a 10-year global charitable commitment of $50 million to help ensure a swimmable, drinkable, fishable future for generations to come. On June 14th, RBC awarded grants to water initiatives all over the world, including one in my hometown of Ottawa! I was thrilled to be able to interview Meredith Brown from Ottawa Riverkeeper, about her organization and the impact the grant would have in our community.

CD: What is Ottawa Riverkeeper?

ORK: We’re a watchdog organization, working to make sure that the environmental laws and regulations that pertain to the Ottawa River are being enforced, and to make sure that we have strong protective regulations in the first place. Also, to ensure that the public understands what’s going into their river and what’s being done about it.

CD: Okay, what kind of things are going into the river?

ORK: Essentially, sewage from all the municipalities, in all various forms of treatment. Pulp mills and nuclear facilities on the river, who use a ton of water, pollute it and put it back in the river. There’s lots of run off from farmer’s fields. Things such as fertilizer, pesticides, manure. In terms of a water pollutant, that’s the major ones.

CD: What does the RBC Blue Water Grant mean to your organization?

ORK: First of all, it’s an honour because it’s a leadership grant too, so they’re giving them out to organizations who are making a difference in the water world. This particular grant is something I’m quite excited about because their emphasis in the next few years is on improving urban water quality, which is why I think Ottawa Riverkeeper was such a nice fit for them.

CD: Do you have a specific project that you want to use the grant money towards?

ORK: Absolutely. Ottawa Riverkeeper is working on an awareness building campaign in the National Capital Region and Gatineau to raise awareness about the amount of untreated sewage that’s going into the river. We’ll be creating a map of all the combined sewer outfalls, so you’ll be able to see where they are and on an annual basis we’ll tell you how much untreated sewage comes out of each pipe. We want people to understand the impacts of storm water and combined sewage outfalls, because we’re pouring all of this stuff into the same river that we get our drinking water from.

CD: What things can people do to help protect and preserve our water?

ORK: The one thing we are trying to remind people of, is that their drains are connected to the river. That said, everything that goes down your drain, eventually ends up in the river. Any cleaning products, personal care products, what you shave with, body lotion, fertilizer, road salts, all of that stuff ends up down the drain and a lot of the chemicals from those products are harmful in the aquatic environment. We definitely recommend looking at a more organic type of cleaning and hygiene products, to reduce the amount of chemicals going into the river.

Those are all things that you can do individually, but the other side of it is your civic ability to influence decisions as a voter. Thinking about who you vote for and knowing the environmental platforms, but more specifically, once you are in a constituency, using your voice as one vote can be really helpful.
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I hope you got as much out of that interview as I did. Clean water is a necessity and these are serious issues that are threatening our supply. I urge you to visit Ottawa Riverkeeper for more information on what they are up to and, more importantly, to see what you can do to help protect our fresh water.

I’d like to say a special, thank you, to Meredith Brown, for taking the time to talk with me. I’d also like to thank RBC, for allowing me to take part in this amazing campaign. You can read more about the Blue Water Project by visiting their website or their Facebook Page. Before you go, I hope you will take a minute to check out this great video, where RBC asks a group of kids how they would protect the water. Yes, it is incredibly cute.

Disclosure: I received compensation for my participation in this project.

Children Who Inspire ~ Interview With 10 Year Old Tyler

I recently had the privilege of interviewing a young Ottawa boy by the name of Tyler, regarding his recent involvement in Free The Children & RBC’s, We Create Change program. One of Canada’s largest penny drives and coinciding with the penny going out of circulation, the We Create Change campaign is challenging Canadians to donate their pennies to an important cause: water.

Tyler is one of the many amazing children across Canada who has pledged to make a difference. He convinced a group of 10 of his hockey buddies to band together to begin their first Free The Children campaign. I asked Tyler (and his Mom) a few questions about his campaign and here is what he had to say:

CD: Why did you choose to start your own Free The Children campaign?

Tyler: Since I was little, I always liked doing charity work so it was kind of natural for me to want to be a part of this. I thought it would be fun to do with my friends and in our first meeting I showed them the child labour video and they wanted to be a part of it.

CD: How much money did you guys raise and what were some of the methods you used to raise money?

Tyler: We raised $1,028. We had an Iced Tea stand, we set up, as a group, at the Independent Grocer, we collected door to door and we used email to share our message.

CD: Do you know how the money you raised translated into providing clean water?

Tyler: Our money will provide clean water for 41 people, for life.

CD: (Question for Tyler’s Mom) You guys are obviously doing something right with your kids, so can you give some advice to other parents who want to help get their children involved in wanting to give back?

Tyler’s Mom: It’s something we’ve been doing since they were little and I’ve been looking for ways to get more involved. I saw Marc Kielburger speak at the Ottawa Catholic School Board and realized it was just about seeing what there is out there. We’ve gone to the retirement home and the kids helped out with craft time. The most important thing is to find whatever gets you excited and follow that. I also got a lot of ideas and inspiration from the videos on the Free The Children website and also from Marc and Craig Kielburger’s book, “The World Needs Your Kid”.

CD: Tyler, I want to ask you the same question but as it relates to kids. What advice can you give to kids who are nervous about starting their own campaign?

Tyler: Be confident. Try to set our clear goals. Get friends who want to help and put in as much time as you can in to it.

CD: What kind of goals and dreams do you have?

Tyler: I had a dream last week that I was in Africa, showing kids their new homes and that is something that I would really love to do when I’m older, or right now, haha.

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I want to thank Tyler and his family for giving me the time to talk to them about his amazing work, and I want to commend him on being such an inspiration for not just our youth, but to all of us. It was an absolute honour to talk with him and you can look forward to more amazing stories about youth who are making a difference in the world, as I continue this feature in the weeks and months to come. Before I go, here are a few more stats about the We Create Change campaign.

To mark the end of the school year, Free The Children and RBC celebrated the incredible fundraising effort of hundreds of thousands of youth and their schools through the “We Create Change“ penny drive, by announcing the final total, which outweighs approximately 64 elephants and more than five empty Boeing 747’s. Young people across the country raised 140 million pennies ($1.4 million), providing 56,000 people with clean water for life. All pennies collected were in support of Free The Children’s year-long Water Initiative to provide a permanent source of clean water to people in developing countries.

We Create Change