One resilient woman inspires another

Toronto Inspires when the resilience and generosity of one immigrant woman inspires resilience and admiration in a Toronto newcomer.

Shared by Jiraporn Sonpaveerawong

jenna DSC_0452Can you remember your experiences when you first came to Canada? I strongly believe you haven’t forgotten them.

Patra is curly-haired, brown-eyed and of medium height. I met her by chance last year and didn’t make contact with her again until this February. She and her four children have been surviving in Scarborough for more than ten years. The stick-to-it-ness in Patra’s principles is seeing her glass half full and understanding knowledge is power. This inner drive forced her to attend many courses for her new career. As many people who have taken a health professional license know, it is very difficult. High tuition fees and one year of clinical research training haven’t supported her to find a job because most of the positions were in the USA.

Time passed day by day. Meanwhile, the cost of living for her family was increasing. She realized that her dependents can’t wait so long for her trial and error solutions. She started her own business, a Thai cuisine restaurant, after attending a food handling and culinary course. She trained her four kids to help in her business by having them deliver food to customers and be food handlers in the restaurant. Her rugged life was not smooth due to her ultimately losing her restaurant capital.

Life must go on. She survived by working a part time job as a chef, at the same time as taking a realtor course. As the real estate business has been booming for the past decade, she has earned much money from this career. She has also been working as a chef to gain more experience. Perhaps, she will be an owner of a Thai restaurant again. She encourages her four children, who are now teenagers, to continue working as chef assistants and food handlers to support in her future business.

Listening to her open-hearted stories has motivated me to fight to the end. Her heartfelt character and generosity led her to be an impressive person and a close friend. Patra’s experiences have helped me to understand living in Toronto. It’s not necessary to start from zero.

How come I met this resilient woman? She is concerned about my difficulties in finding accommodation and settling down to life in a new place. So, she drove with me to many places to buy everything and gave me suggestions about how to select things suitable for living in Etobicoke. Her most important quality is her generosity.

Patra, thank you so much for your friendship and your kindness.

Thank you for your inspiration.Inspirational Takeaway: Resilience fosters resilience.

Another reason Toronto Inspires: Shared by Jiraporn Sonpaveerawong, a recent newcomer from Thailand


Boston Strong Toronto Strong

Toronto Inspires when local runners band together in support of all Bostonians, residents and runners alike.

Boston Strong Logo

A symbol of resilience

As President Obama said, it’s been a tough week. In response, runners from coast to coast have been coping in the manner most familiar. They’re lacing up and hitting the pavement. Less than 24 hours after the horrific events at the Boston Marathon, Gillian Twiddie had organized a local run “as a means to spread love”. Gillian’s run

On Monday, April 22, High Park runners will extend the sentiment through an event billed as:

“A run for us to unite and show our strength. A run for those that were unable to finish. A run for those that may never run again. A run for us to try and make sense of the tragedy that has forever changed something we love.”

Toronto run for Boston

Toronto Strong supports Boston Strong

Please join your local running community. As always, it is a sport in which all are welcome!

Inspiration Takeaway: Community fosters strength.

Chechen Garzni Hovl: The original Rice Krispy square?

Toronto Inspires when Esila Yusupova generously shares her Chechen culture and classic dessert, Garzni Hovl, with ESL classmates.

Chechna dessert Garzni Hovl

Esila with her Chechen dessert Garzni Hovl

Bakers and non-bakers alike know making Rice Krispy squares is a snap. A comparable honey-infused Chechnya dessert is not so easy. Imagine having to begin by first making the Krispy pieces… individually… from scratch. Yikes! That fictional undertaking is the equivalent to the day-long pursuit the traditional Chechen dessert Garzni Hovl requires. Luckily for those attending Toronto ESL classes with Esila Yusupova, she prepared and generously shared this not-too-sweet, verging on savoury, Chechen labour of love. In the process, Esila’s efforts have strengthened ties with her new Canadian community who appreciated sampling this delicious representation of her native cuisine.

In Chechyna, Garzni Hovl is an integral ingredient of family milestone celebrations. An illustration, following a Chechen wedding, it is customary for the new mother-in-law to make an ‘official’ visit to the mother-of-the-bride’s home, a gesture that fosters familial relationships. Part of the ritual typically includes bringing gifts and, most-notably, a multi-tiered version of Garzni Hovl. To commemorate her own 10th wedding anniversary, Esila created this beloved sweet for her classmates to enjoy.

Inspirational Takeaway: Generously sharing traditional foods connects communities. 🙂

For those curious to learn more, here are two step-by-step guides. The first is a picture version of how to make Garnzi Holv (also called Garziny-H’avl) from which photos below have been sourced. The second is a video lesson by Chrystal Callahan. Recipes do vary. Esila stresses that in her version, she uses only flour and eggs in the dough, and only honey in the drizzle.

Chechen Dessert Step 1

Garzni Hovl: Making the Krisp #1

Chechen Dessert Garzni Hovl Step s

Garzni Hovl: Making the Krisp #2


Another reason Toronto Inspires: Shared by Lynda Chubak

Blog authorization: 292XGGSCKVVZ

Traffic controller of happiness

Toronto Inspires when a time-challenged finance executive, Elaine Stanley, transforms her frustrating commute into a series of happy acts.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

The daily grind of getting back and forth to the office in traffic that has been dubbed North America’s longest commute is often irritating. To offset this frustration, Elaine takes control of Toronto rush hour by changing her response to it and turning her drive time into game time. On route, she sets out to let into her lane as many drivers as possible. In the process, her commute morphs into a series of friendly exchanges. The resulting appreciative waves turn her drive and day around for the better.

Inspirational Takeaway: Make a little space in our lane. 🙂

For more ideas on managing your daily commute stress, check out  Commuting Tips.

Another reason Toronto Inspires: Shared by Lynda Chubak.

Teen idol in the making, Jake Feeney

Toronto Inspires when Jake Feeney, an unassuming, gifted 17 year old, teeters on the cusp of launching his music career and strives to complete his first EP.

Jake Feeney

Jake Feeney
From Growing Pains video

Between finishing up Grade 12 at Etobicoke School of the Arts and regularly busking outside of popular Toronto liquor stores, this charismatic singer writes and records his original music. To date, Jake’s twelve videos posted on YouTube have 15,000-and-climbing views.

While talent doesn’t fall far from the Feeney family tree (his dad is Canadian country musician, Joel Feeney), Jake is still his own self-made (young) man. It’s only three years since he began teaching himself to play guitar. Yet, with his natural talent and relentless dedication, he creates the sweet sounds of a pro. Currently, beyond singing and composing, he’s doing “everything” from adding the base line to laying down some mandolin to pull together his five song EP, which is scheduled for a mid-April release.

At just under 6′, this sandy-haired cutey has both the good looks and the musical vibe of one of his greatest musical influences, John Mayer. Personality-wise, when friends were asked to describe Jake, they quickly enthused, “He’s just really, really nice”.  Nice guys should finish first. Let’s support this new Canadian artist, as he works towards realizing his dreams.

Inspirational Takeaway: Everyone benefits when creativity is nurtured. :)

Check out Jake Feeney on YouTube and Facebook, Jake Feeney Music. Here’s a taste, with his original song Little Things.

Another reason Toronto Inspires: Shared by Lynda Chubak

A father’s admiration

Toronto Inspires when my older son Lin-Whei, with the illness of Asperger Syndrome, is doing all that he can to solicit stable labor work to support himself.

Story shared by Shyh-Chwem Kang (Steve), Proud Father

tenacityLin-Whei suffered very much from hyperactivity during his childhood. Due to his backward reaction, he experienced quite a bumpy and painstaking life to finish his vocational education in Taiwan. Even so, he always has been revealing a very strong wish that he wants to live on his own.

Two years after my family immigrated to Canada and went through innumerable trials, Lin-Whei got precarious part time labor work with a food store chain. To enhance his competence, Lin-Whei took ESL courses during non-work time. Meanwhile, he still kept on actively searching for any chance for a stable job.

Five months ago, there was a chance of a six month paid training program for food storage management, which was provided by a government organization. Luckily, Lin-Whei had received a very positive recommendation letter from his kind ESL teacher before the interview, which became very instrumental in the passing of his interview. Worrying about the uncertainties after finishing his training program, Lin-Whei insisted on keeping up his work at the food store during the evening shift, after the daytime training. Now, Lin-Whei works about 10 hours every weekday and five hours on Saturday and Sunday. He is content to do the hard labor work without any complaint. In spite of having such a painstaking life, the words we hear from him most often are “Thank you so much”.

There are many people among us like Lin-Whei, lacking skills or even having some degree of disability. Instead of complaining about their fate, they just strive to survive with disregard of their limitations and never give up. They and my son are the emblems of humanity’s fortitude.


Carolyn Taylor bridges the sacred and the secular

Carolyn TaylorToronto Inspires when effervescence cultural producer a.k.a. community builder, Carolyn Taylor, turns her irrepressible energy upward to create Rev’d Up, a new ministry that bridges the sacred and the secular in imaginative ways and asks “What’s your sacred?”.

 For more than two decades, Carolyn has been an arts and culture impresario. Innovative and accessible creative and social change initiatives, such as McLuhan100, Municipal Mind, Urban Screens Toronto, Humanitas, World Youth Centre, The Word on the Street, and Artsweek came to fruition largely due to her sheer and indomitable dedication to the work and the city. These significant achievements make for an impressive career. However, her decision to turn her attention to a less tangible landscape by becoming a conduit for others to (re)discover their own spirituality is an equally, perhaps more, uplifting personal story.

Often, there comes a point in one’s professional career when a desired overhaul may seem too daunting and unrealistic. Carolyn, however, is proof-positive that mid-career re-alignment is possible, once the heart and mind begin moving in the same direction.  At 50, Carolyn officially transformed from arts maven to ordained interfaith minister. In September, 2012, she performed her first wedding ceremony. Continue reading

Rannie’s rainbow

Rannie’s Spadina Rainbow

Toronto Inspires when professional local photographer and self-described culture documentarian, Rannie Turingan, captures unexpected city perspectives, like a rainbow over Spadina, and generously posts them for us all to enjoy. 


Rannie Turingan from

To experience Toronto people and places through Rannie’s singular lens, check out Compliments of Rannie, you can also upload Rannie’s iphone wallpapers. Thanks Rannie!

Another reason Toronto Inspires: Shared by Lynda C.

Kudos to TTC’s Byford for acknowledging that public transportation stops here

Toronto Inspires when TTC CEO Andy Byford, in addition to quickly, fully and publicly apologizing for the unacceptability of Monday’s service shortfall, takes immediate and long-term corrective actions to improve public transportation.

Toronto by Train

Toronto by Train

For thousands of transit riders, Monday’s extended and unexplained service delays were just more frustration pile onto an already tarnished, some might say dismal, record. This blog post, however, is not about adding another criticism to that chorus.

In fact, Mr. Byford’s post-event response strikes as being comforting. In my view, he deserves kudos for immediately acknowledging that the train stops with him. By releasing a sincere apology (youtube link below) and for making the media rounds (TTC CEO’s Andy Byford’s interview on Metro Morning) to explain exactly how the situation unfolded, accepting blame in the process, he assures us that he and his staff are being held to account. More importantly, his very public admissions were backed up with specifics about how Toronto public transportation and customer service are being overhauled. Byford’s actions were impressive and believable. His handling of the matter has instilled some degree of confidence that there are better days ahead for TTC riders. Continue reading

Caretaker’s work ethic shines at Forest Hill Collegiate

Forest Hill Collegiate Caretaking Staff

Forest Hill Collegiate Caretaking Staff Courtesy of

Toronto Inspires when a Forest Hill Collegiate caretaker continuously maintains the highest standard and takes pride in his contribution to the local school community.

The visit to Forest Hill Collegiate came about as part of a student assignment to do a photo essay of publicly funded institutions across the city.

This school sparkles. During an impromptu encounter with one of its stellar caretaking staff (seen in photo, second from the right), we are taken aback by his sense of school ownership. Following a brief observation regarding the exceptional cleanliness of the facilities, he spontaneously offers to show us around. Pride in his work and school are clearly evident through affectionate descriptions of years of service, through the picking up of a minuscule piece of paper from an otherwise spotless carpet during our walk about, and through his ample use of collective pronouns—us, we, ours.

Continue reading