Did you know that February 17 to 24th is Kindness Week in Ottawa?

The city-wide Kind Ottawa initiative together with its flagship event, Kindness Week, celebrates its fifth anniversary in 2012.  Kind Ottawa has become a vibrant movement in our community, encouraging people to “choose to be kind”.  Kindness Week 2012 takes place from February 17–24.

Kind Ottawa and Kindness Week are managed by United Way Ottawa with extensive representation from our community.  Under the leadership of Kindness Week Chair Rabbi Reuven Bulka (spiritual leader of Congregation Machzikei Hadas, host of CFRA’s Sunday Night with Rabbi Bulka, columnist with The Ottawa Citizen), community leaders and volunteers from across Ottawa employ their resources, experience and enthusiasm to bring Kindness Week to life in Ottawa.

We have the ability to create the community we want.  Make a conscious choice to contribute and focus on A Kind Ottawa during Kindness Week and throughout the upcoming year.

There are so many ways you can participate in Kindness Week and it doesn’t have to be through a financial contribution.  One of the most valuable resources we have to give is our time and our skill.  Maybe it’s doing the school run for a friend who is a single parent or whose spouse is out of town.   Helping a neighbor out by bringing their garbage cans back up from the street corner.  Stopping by to visit a friend or relative who has difficulty leaving their home.  Letting someone take your spot in a long line.  A kind smile.  Kind words.  It doesn’t have to be a grandiose act to be meaningful or worthwhile: sometimes the smallest acts of kindness are the ones that leave the most lasting impressions.

I am currently expecting my third child and am so grateful that Candace Derickx, an Ottawa Blogger and Businesswoman, put me in touch with the Youville Centre.  The Youville Centre is located in downtown Ottawa and will be celebrating their 25th anniversary this Fall.  At the Centre young, single mothers can receive an accredited high school education while their children benefit from the on-site daycare programming.  Along with obtaining their high school diplomas mothers can also access counseling, advocacy, and other support services for both themselves and their children.  The Youville Centre aims to help young single mothers provide a brighter future for themselves and their children.

As an at-home and work-at-home parent I know how hard it is to be a mom.  I have 3 year old and 5 year old sons, a baby on the way, a business, and a marriage, that all require my attention and care.  But I also have a wonderful support system and so many resources at my disposal.  And even with all the support and help and encouragement that I have being a mom is still really hard.  I can’t imagine how much more difficult it is when you’re struggling to take care of yourself, to get an education, and when you don’t have financial or emotional support available to you.

As an entrepreneur I work long hours but giving back to the community is still important to me.  I want to be a role model to my boys and I want them to see me supporting and helping others whenever I can.  Last year I chose to support the Make A Wish Foundation and the Canadian Cancer Society.  While I just wrapped up a photography fundraiser for Make a Wish (we raised $475 in one day!) this year I have also decided to focus my efforts on women’s health.

I chose to support the Youville Centre because motherhood is hard and being a young single mother can be a constant battle; struggling to access the resources and support they need for themselves and their families but also against the judgment of others.  My hope, through my photography, is not only to help the young women see themselves and their families positively but also to show Ottawa the wonderful work the Youville Centre does and what the long-term benefits to the moms and their children can be.

I love my work as a photographer and I am so excited that I can donate my time and skills to a cause that is close to my heart.  When I’m going through tough times I have my family and friends to support and encourage me and I can’t imagine how much more difficult my role as a mother would be without them.  By supporting the Youville Centre I hope to help create that same circle of support for the young women who are trying to support themselves and their children.  I hope you will do the same!

Sara McConnell Photography ~

Ottawa Photographer

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