Like many kids, when the pandemic struck, Spencer Burwell found himself stuck at home in much need of something fun to do. A friend introduced him to Explorer Hop. This innovative organization teaches kids about global financial literacy entrepreneurship. But it also teaches them about giving back to society and the importance of helping those in need.
Spencer shares his experience of creating businesses, raising money, and donating that money to CARE and The Canadian Mental Health Association. For more information on these charities, click on the links below:
It’s always a joy to meet another author. However, connecting with Michelle Kadarusman was an extra thrill, because not only do we share a love of books and writing, we share a love for animals.
Michelle grew up in Melbourne, Australia with her four siblings. Her parents divorced when she was very young, and her mom, now a single mother and raising five kids, didn’t allow the family to have pets.
But this doesn’t appear to have been a hard rule, since Michelle and her siblings still filled their home with strays. To her relief, once the animals were there, her mom fell in love with the new family members as well. Michelle’s menagerie of strays included cats, rabbits and a dog named Charlie.
In 2000 Michelle moved to Canada and adopted her first dog from the Toronto Humane Society. Buddy was a five-year-old beagle mix. Sadly, Buddy died two years later. It happened when Michelle and her children were walking home from school. Buddy saw another dog across the street. He lunged and broke free of his leash, and he got hit by a car.
Devastated by his death, Michelle knew she wanted to bring another dog into their family.
“Dogs add colour to our lives,” she says.
In 2003, India, a Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, joined Michelle’s family, and then seven years later, they adopted Hannah, a shepherd mix rescued from Aruba.
Given her love of animals, it’s no surprise that in 1996, while living in Surabaya, Indonesia, Michelle’s desire to help animals extended beyond rabbits, cats and dogs. She helped rescue an orangutan.
Her brother, Andre, was also in Indonesia at the time. He was working for an Australian construction company based in Jakarta. His work involved travelling to remote areas. At one of those locations he came upon a captive orangutan, held in a tiny cage, who was being used as an attraction at a restaurant.
Michelle’s brother didn’t know what to do. It is illegal in Indonesia to have an orangutan in captivity. But this was before Google and finding a rescue organization to save the orangutan was very difficult.
Michelle’s brother contacted her, wondering if she could help. Michelle had recently had a baby and belonged to a mom’s group. She told the other mothers about the plight of the orangutan. Luckily, one of the women knew someone who volunteered at an orangutan rescue. She promised to contact her friend at the rescue and get back to Michelle.
A couple of weeks passed and then Michelle received a call from the woman at the rescue. They were in the area that day and needed the location of the restaurant.
Michelle scrambled to contact her brother. Fortunately, she was able to speak with him. Even though he didn’t know the exact address of the restaurant, as it was located in a remote village, he was able to provide enough details for the rescue team to find the orangutan.
Thanks to Michelle and her brother, the orangutan was saved and taken to a sanctuary. Her seven years of being held captive in a tiny cage had finally come to an end.
Michelle never learned exactly what happened to the orangutan, but is hopeful that her life was a lot better having been rescued.
Not only is Michelle an animal lover but she is also an author. This incident with the orangutan has been brewing in Michelle’s mind for almost thirty years. She is now working on transforming it into a fictional story. She plans on telling the story from three points of view: the main character is a girl who is a budding activist, a boy whose uncle owns the restaurant where the orangutan was kept, and the orangutan herself.
As she writes, Michelle is cognisant of the complexities involved in dealing with animal conservation in countries such as Indonesia. She is determined not to vilify the restaurant owners. She says that her brother returned to the restaurant after the orangutan was saved and the owners were relieved she had been rescued. They too, wanted a better life for the orangutan but didn’t know how to make that happen.
Michelle is a gifted writer. Her 2019 middle grade novel, Girl of The Southern Sea was a finalist for the Governor General’s Literary Award. She has written three award- nominated novels. I eagerly await the release of this story based on her real-life experience helping an orangutan.
When asked the question, what is the one thing she would change in the world, Michelle said, “To change the world we have to look at our own actions first. It’s easy to forget to simply be kind. I try and remind myself everyday to lighten my thoughts and just do what I can.”
For more information about Michelle, please check out her Facebook page:
I’m sure many of us have dreamt about what we would do if we had Google level funding. Literary agent, Kelly Thomas was asked this exact question on one of my favorite podcasts—The Manuscript Academy. It is a question the creators of the podcast often pose to guests and the answers are varied. But Kelly’s response had me beaming!
Kelly talked about the dogs she adopted from Animal Lighthouse Rescue (ALR), an organization that rescues dogs in Puerto Rico and brings them to New York City to find their forever homes.
It is a challenge to fly rescue dogs from Puerto Rico to New York City. Each dog must have a designated human escort travelling with them before they are allowed on the plane. Once this hurdle is overcome, the dogs are placed in the cargo section of the plane, which can be very loud and frightening, especially to a dog who has already suffered trauma. But for now, this is the only option available.
But if Kelly had Google level funding, she would change this. She would buy a plane specifically to fly dogs in need of help to their forever homes. Any dog that didn’t find a family, Kelly would keep as her own.
As soon as I heard Kelly’s answer, I knew I had to find out more about her. The only contact information I had was her literary agency email. This email is normally used for writers submitting material to the agency in hopes of acquiring representation. I took a chance and emailed Kelly on her agency email. I explained who I was and that I was hoping to share her story on my Kindness Is Everything blog. Within minutes, Kelly emailed back, saying she would love to! And not only that, she put me in touch with the founder of Animal Lighthouse Rescue so that I could share their story as well.
It was such a joy to speak with Kelly. Whenever she talked about her dogs, both whom she adopted from Animal Lighthouse Rescue, her voice overflowed with love.
Kelly’s love of animals came from her father and grandmother. At one time, her grandmother had fourteen cats under her care. When Kelly was growing up, dogs and cats were always a part of her family. Her dad even threw her canine sibling birthday parties.
When Kelly left home, she was saddened to discover she’d developed an allergy to dogs. This sudden onset sometimes happens when people are no longer around pets. As she was living in a small apartment in New York, having a pet wasn’t possible, so the allergy wasn’t much of an issue. However, in 2013, Kelly moved to a larger, pet-friendly place and was determined to once again have a dog in her life, even if it meant allergy shots or medication.
Her search began.
Kelly started looking for dogs in need of a home on a website called Pet Finder. This led her to connect with Julie Sinaw, the founder of ALR.
Julie had three rescue dogs in NYC at the time. Kelly met them and immediately fell in love with Lila. The feeling was clearly mutual as Lila came up to Kelly and nuzzled right into her.
Kelly’s relationship with the rescue didn’t end once she brought Lila home. Kelly was so impressed by Julie’s dedication and efforts to rescue and find forever homes for the Puerto Rican dogs, that she started to volunteer.
She spent time helping out at dog adoption events. Kelly and the other volunteers would each be partnered with one of the dogs. They would learn everything they could about the dog—their history, special needs, if the dog got along with other dogs, cats, children, and if they were an active dog.
Kelly would then meet people who were interested in adopting the dog to determine whether or not it was a good match—for dog and human. Prospective adopters are thoroughly vetted to make sure they are committed to caring for a dog.
Kelly wanted to make sure each dog she was responsible for found a loving home like her own Lila.
Sadly, Lila passed away in February of 2020. Kelly was devastated. After about a month, she contacted Julie wanting to once again adopt a dog from Puerto Rico. This time it was a dog named Daisy who won Kelly’s heart. Soon after Kelly adopted Daisy, she changed her name to Hazel.
Kelly and Hazel moved to Orlando, Florida, in November of 2020. She even found a place that not only boasts a swimming pool and gym, but also a dog park!
Though living in Orlando means it’s no longer possible for Kelly to volunteer at the adoption events, she is hoping to find other ways to help Animal Lighthouse Rescue. Perhaps one day, she’ll buy them that plane!
When asked if there was only one thing she could change in the world, what that would be—her response: “For more people to be aware of how amazing animals are and to rescue them so that they all have a loving home and enough food. No animal should have to go hungry.”
In 2007, the Starlight Children’s Foundation in Australia, granted then ten-year-old Daniel Clarke a wish. They were surprised by his response; he wanted to save the orangutans. Daniel and his brother William talk about their dedication to help one of our closest relatives—the orangutans.
In this incredibly moving episode, Daniel and William, now 24 and 22, respectively, share their story of helping save endangered orangutans from extinction. They even describe the first time they saw an orangutan in the wild.
If you love animals, this episode is for you!
As a thank you for sharing their story of kindness, Anitha donated to The Orangutan Project. This charity was created by Leif Cocks, a world-renowned orangutan expert.
In 2012, Christian Marcello and his family adopted a dog from an animal shelter. Little did Christian know that adopting Rocky would not only change the dog’s life, but his as well.
Christian shares what it was like seeing all those dogs in the shelter, learning that not all dogs find their happily ever after, and how that inspired him to create a business dedicated to helping dogs find a loving home.
If you love dogs, you’ll definitely want to hear Christian’s story of kindness.
As a thank you for sharing his story of kindness, Anitha donated to Team Dog Rescue on behalf of Christian. This is the rescue where Christian and his family adopted their second dog, Holly.
For eleven-year-old, Sahanna Rasasekaran, a trip to the store with her mom turned into an opportunity to help someone. Sahanna shares her story of coming to the aid of another customer with a simple gesture of kindness.
As a thank you for sharing her story of kindness, Anitha donated to the SickKids Foundation on behalf of Sahanna.
High school senior, Vini Possobom, joins me to talk about the many initiatives and causes he’s involved in that help others.
From raising funds to reunite a young boy with his parents, to volunteering with a non-profit organization called Robotics For All— Vini is dedicated to doing whatever he can to help as many people as possible.
He manages to do all of this while keeping on top of his own school work, university applications, and participating in activities like basketball, choir, band and the drama club.