Sandee Ewasiuk—Painting For Australian Animals

I love how one kind act can lead to another. A friend kindly shared a story on FaceBook about a woman who is helping the animals suffering from the devastating wild fires in Australia. I clicked on the link and was so touched by what I read.

Artist, Sandee Ewasiuk is selling prints of her gorgeous paintings to raise funds to help the Australian animals. So far she has created two lovely pieces of artwork. One of a mother kangaroo and her joey, and another of an adorable koala. The originals are painted on 3 x 5 foot canvas. She is selling prints in a variety of sizes, as well as the original pieces of art. Sandee donates all the proceeds (less the cost of shipping and printing) to charities such as WIRES, who are rescuing the unfathomable number of animals injured from the fires.

‘The Koalas of Raymond Island’


This initiative to help animals with her art, seems like it was inevitable from the start. As a child growing up in St. Catharines, Ontario, animals and art were always a part of her life. Sandee credits her father for inspiring her love of animals. She remembers him as a huge animal lover. He often raised waterfowl in order to help bring up their population. Once the birds were old enough, he would release them into the wild.

It was Sandee’s mom who knew she was destined to be an artist when she discovered Sandee had ‘decorated’ the kitchen cupboards with indelible marker.

Sandee pursued her passion for art at the Fine Arts program at Niagara College and then at the Ontario College of Art & Design. She now shares her love of art as an instructor at the Dundas Valley School of Art and The Art Gallery of Burlington.


Sandee with her beautiful paintings displayed at an art gallery in Ontario

Though Sandee has always loved animals, it was a recent trip to Australia that spurred her desire to do all she could to help the animals. She and her husband, who is originally from Australia, travelled throughout the country from September to November 2019. As they began their trip, there were fires, but nothing that seemed out of the ordinary. However, as they neared their departure date to leave Australia and return to Canada, it quickly became evident that there was nothing ordinary about these brush fires—these were catastrophic.

Sandee describes Australia as being so full of wildlife. In fact, while she and her husband were camping, she found herself within ten feet of a kangaroo and her joey (the inspiration for her painting). Being so close to these amazing animals, Sandee felt like she had entered a ‘magical world’.

‘Kangaroos at Mimosa Rocks’

When she came back and saw the devastation of the country she had just left, she knew she had to do something to help. She told a friend of wanting to help by selling her paintings, but didn’t know how to advertise her idea. Her friend told her just to start and the rest would happen. Sandee started and the rest did happen.

An online article was written about her in CBC Hamilton, which garnered a lot of positive responses from all over Canada and the United States.

To date, Sandee has raised over $6,000 to help the animals in Australia. She even has another painting planned—A Kookaburra!

When asked the one thing she would change in the world if she could, Sandee’s answer, “For people to be more thoughtful about the future. For people to think—what can I do now to change the future for the better.”

If you would like to support Sandee and her efforts to help the animals in Australia, please contact her either by FB or her email.

FaceBook: Sandee Ewasiuk









Kindness In Colleagues

I am delighted to share this double-layered story of kindness. I call it double-layered because the author of the story, Sylvia McNicoll, is also extremely kind.

First, a bit about Sylvia.

Sylvia and her 2019 Hamilton Arts Council Literary Award for Fiction

Sylvia is the award-winning author of over 35 books for children. In addition to being a full-time author, Sylvia teaches writing at The Living Arts Centre in Mississauga, Ontario. She’s also a devoted grandmother to her nine grandchildren. One would think that between writing, teaching and helping with her grandchildren, Sylvia wouldn’t have time for much else, but somehow, she finds time to help other authors, including me.

Sylvia & her grandson spending time on the ice.

Sylvia worked tirelessly, lobbying for the rights of Canadian authors to earn a fair living from their writing. She was among those who lead the charge to protect an author’s copyright by preventing educational institutions from photocopying a book without having to compensate the writer. Unfortunately, this battle continues.

This year, Sylvia is once again a champion for Canadian authors. She helped create an initiative called ‘I Read Canadian’ to promote and encourage everyone to read books by Canadian authors. With the help of her son, Sylvia arranged for numerous authors, myself included, to be videoed while reading from our books and talking about matters that are important to us.

As an introvert, this was completely out of my comfort zone. Sylvia knew this and she made a great effort to help me relax. Knowing I love animals, she brought her dog Mortie along to my session. Thanks to Sylvia and Mortie, I got through it and was able to read the first page of my young adult novel and talk about diversity in publishing. ‘I Read Canadian’ takes place during the month of February 2020.

Sylvia and Mortie

Knowing how busy Sylvia is, I was incredibly happy when she agreed to share a story of kindness with me. And then I was over-the-top excited when I discovered it was about Rob Laidlaw.

Rob Laidlaw is an author, but I knew of him first as the founder of Zoocheck. Zoocheck is a Canadian-based international wildlife protection charity, established in 1984. Its mandate is to protect the interests and well-being of wild-animals.

As an animal lover and author, I am delighted to share this story about another animal lover and author—Rob Laidlaw.

Thank you, Sylvia for taking time out of your hectic schedule to write this story.

Without further ado, here it is . . .


Kindness in Colleagues

by Sylvia McNicoll

We often joke that it’s a bunny-eat-bunny world out in the world of kids’ lit, but as a children’s writer in Canada I’m lucky to experience great kindness every day.

I ask people for their expertise and assistance in sharing information about their lives and jobs as research for my novels, and they help without any question of compensation. I get support from agents, publishers, bookstore people, teachers, librarians and colleagues in sharing my finished work with the public. People share their happy comments about how my stories make a difference to their kids. Writing friends come out en masse to book award celebrations to support me.

Recently, however, I was on the other side of the bookshelf in terms of looking for that perfect book for a child. At Christmas I have two extra birthdays to buy for and a lot of people to feed. No one gifts a writer with more time.

So it was with intense anxiety that I approached a bookstore associate and asked for a book on bats. “Non-fiction, for kids, something Canadian.” The clerk led me to an American title for adults which he admitted was quite boring but did give out a lot of bat facts. Not exactly what I had in mind.

At home, I googled for a Canadian book for children and as I did, something jogged my memory about a bat book that won the Silver Birch (an award for children’s books written for ages 8-12). I tracked down Bat Citizens: Defending the Ninjas of the Night by Rob Laidlaw. I visited the Chapters website only to find it would be re-released in February, but my granddaughter’s 11th birthday fell on December 25th.

Normally I might beg the publisher to hunt through their bookshelves for a leftover copy of the earlier edition but it was that time of year where everyone was off on holidays. As a desperate measure I emailed Rob from his website. I’d met him back in 2012 at a book launch for his novel, No Shelter Here, Making the World a Kinder Place for Dogs. However, I didn’t think that one meeting would mean I’d get a quick response. It’s a busy time of year and Rob is executive director of Zoocheck Canada, a wildlife protection organization. I sighed heavily, not expecting a reply.

He answered almost immediately! Not only did he have copies of Bat Citizens but he said I could pick one up from him anytime from his home. I would have happily driven to North York but then I remembered the delight another child had when I sent a novel addressed to them special delivery.

I asked Rob if he could brave the pre-Christmas post office and send the book to my granddaughter Jadzia by overnight express.

Jadzia happily displaying her book-specially delivered by the author, Rob Laidlaw

He agreed. I can only imagine the lineup he endured when he mailed it that night. He also enclosed a book called Cat Champions. How could he have known that Jadzia’s been a cat since the moment she could purr?  Both books arrived in plenty of time to delight the birthday girl. Thank you, Rob Laidlaw.

For more information about Sylvia, her books, and all the other things she’s up to, please go to her website:

John Oberg—using the power of social media to spread kindness

One of my favourite parts of social media is how it brings like-minded people together and allows one’s community to expand. Social media allowed me to ‘meet’ John Oberg.

John grew up in Detroit, Michigan with his mom, Karen Oberg. As a child, he loved soccer, throwing a baseball, watching the Detroit Red Wings, but it was his love for animals that was his biggest passion.

Growing up, John and his mom were fairly poor and often collected bottles from trash cans for which they received ten cents per bottle.

The search for bottles occurred early in the morning, when deer could be seen roaming. Unfortunately, not everyone was as happy about the deer as John and his mother. John discovered that a cull had been planned to kill off many of the animals. Unwilling to simply stand by and let this happen, John and his mom protested the cull for several months.

13096245_10209266463283664_6818577095266628531_n (1)
John and his mom, protesting the deer cull.

Despite their efforts to raise awareness and stop the cull, the deer were ultimately killed. Though John was devastated by the deaths, this was also a turning point for him. It was the first time he realized he could stand up against injustice and let his voice be heard. John calls it his ‘first foray into animal activism’, and will always be thankful to his mom for supporting him.

John credits his mom for instilling in him his love for animals. Though he grew up eating meat, at the age of 20 he became vegetarian. He did so in order to align his beliefs with his behaviour. He felt if cared about animals, then he shouldn’t eat them.

However, he soon discovered that a vegetarian diet wasn’t enough to prevent animals from suffering. Farm animals, including dairy cows and egg-laying hens are forced to exist under gruesome conditions.

17191469_10212097962069364_8567222717835719771_n (3)

In October of 2009, ten months after becoming a vegetarian, John made the leap to a complete plant-based diet. One particular show that persuaded him to make the switch was a documentary called Earthlings. It’s about humanity’s use and abuse of animals for food, clothing, entertainment, and scientific research.

Becoming a vegan changed John as a person. He became more empathetic and understood the suffering others endure. He found a way to live a life that is true to his heart, that is true to himself.

While many find the early stages of becoming vegan difficult, John says he made an effort to find a social group who supported his beliefs. He did so by attending various vegan and animal rights meetup through the site

John believes it’s important to find a community of people with similar views to increase the chances of successfully maintaining a vegan diet.

But for John becoming vegan wasn’t enough. He realized he could help even more animals by encouraging others to change their diets to one that is plant-based. So, John became a vegan activist.


This doesn’t mean John forces his views on anyone who isn’t ready or interested in making the switch. He quickly learned that trying to tell someone the benefits of becoming a vegan would often make them feel judged if they weren’t open to this conversation. He usually only shares his opinions when asked.

After graduating from Arizona State University with a degree in Non-profit Leadership and Management, John worked for Vegan Outreach. The goal of this non-profit is to end violence against animals. While working at Vegan Outreach, John travelled around North America, handing out pamphlets about veganism to over a quarter of a million people!

Sadly, during this time, John’s mom was diagnosed with cancer. He took a two and half year hiatus from Vegan Outreach to help care for her. She passed away in November of 2015.

11062088_10207006305101122_3802204927616103004_n (1)
John & his greatest supporter—his mom

John then joined The Humane League, an organization whose mission is to end the abuse of animals raised for food. He worked with them for three years, running and overseeing their social media presence.

557_10208261104190315_592644448608332032_n (1)

Though John loved working for The Humane League, in January 2019, he branched out on his own and harnessed the far-reaching power of social media to spread his message. He launched his own independent animal advocacy initiative.

John looks at social media as a science and believes it offers a huge opportunity to help animals. One such way is to post details of what happens behind the closed doors of farms and slaughterhouses.

When asked how he mentally gets through witnessing such horrors, John says,

It’s difficult to face the cruelty that we inflict on animals behind the closed doors of slaughterhouses and factory farms, but I focus on the fact that by exposing this cruelty, it will make a difference for animals in the future. These animals’ lives and the cruelty they endured were not in vain.”

For John, the most difficult part of what he does is dealing with people who don’t understand the problems we face and how to best address them.

People who fail to see the common ground that we all share are the ones who cause the most damage — no matter what side of the debate they’re on.”

But John is inspired to continue his mission to help animals by the many tweets and direct messages he receives from people telling him his posts have inspired them to stop eating animals. Just the other day, John received a message that said,

“I am compelled to tell you that your twitter account has been inspirational and has helped brace me against people snickering at me and saying things like, ‘the dairy industry isn’t cruel…who gave you this stupid idea?’ So, thank you for the tweets and for helping my awakening. Happy New Year.”

In 2019, the content John shared on social media accumulated over 200 million impressions. That is a tremendous reach.

When asked if could change one thing in the world what would it be, John’s answer is,

To get people to understand the cruelty that animals — especially farm animals — face in today’s world and then to understand that they can make simple adjustments in how they eat and live that make a tremendous difference for these animals.”


If you would like to connect with John, you can follow him on Twitter at @JohnOberg. You can also support his efforts to make the world a kinder place for animals at