Peace Community: Curt Jaimungal

My Name is Curt Jaimungal and this is #MyCanada. I’m a brown skinned Canadian filmmaker trying to change things. I’m sitting on my balcony overlooking Bloor and Spadina and decided to take time out of my 70 hour work week to write this about myself. Is it egotistical? I’m not sure what the line between bragging and stating a fact is anymore. I graduated from the University of Toronto in Math and Physics. While I was there, I was president for UTTV (University of Toronto TV Club) where I picked up my passion for making short films and things like that. I also had a brief time in stand up comedy (please don’t ask me to tell you a joke) and combining that all is when I thought to myself “Hey, I can write, I know how to shoot things, why not make a movie?”. That’s how the initial concept for “I’m Okay” got started, a film I shot in 60 days from writing to premiering at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Meanwhile, I also founded indiefilmTO (hench the 70 hour work week). A film incubator that tries to change things for Toronto by providing coaching and consulting as well as resources for indie filmmakers and anyone who need to break into the greater film industry. On February 16th, 2017, indiefilmTO is organizing a screening of I’m Okay with a panel afterwards to discuss two main themes in my movie: romance and mental health. This is a topic that is really important to me both personally and in my business. Through the discussion of mental health with mental health experts indiefilmTO has a mission to give actionable steps to helping yourself out of that hole. We are also partnering with Ave Mariabell Designs to give exclusive tote bags only available at the screening. As my company and I grow in popularity, we’ve been getting a many more fans as well as people who spread pure hatred for some reason. It’s hard sometimes to not take it personally but some friends become enemies when you start having even a little bit of success. It’s a good thing that when those negative forces leave, good people come to take thier place. Still though, sometimes I wonder what my life would be like if I had more free time. I can just imagine myself sitting in bed, playing video games and talking to all the people who don’t get to see much of me. Passion/ambition has a price to it and if I want to make it work it requires me to pay it. Hey, I’m not complaining. I get to do what I want and live out my dream every day (until it kills me). I know a lot of people don’t end up doing what they want to do and settle for less so at least I can give myself credit for trying not to do the same. I’m fortunate to have some great people around me who support me and don’t let me get away with certain things.

Peace Community: Rebeca Zavaleta Ulch

Peace Community: Ivana Musich

My name is Ivana and this is #MyCanada. I was born in Serbia. I grew up in Malta, went to college in Victoria, got a full tennis scholarship and did my masters in North Carolina, before I finally settled in Toronto in 2008. All that moving around, as exotic and exciting it seems, can shake you to the core and knock you down. That's at least 4 times so far in my life that I've felt like a stranger, and had to start from scratch. Will they like me? Will they think I'm weird? Will I make any friends? Will they think my accent sounds funny? What kind of person do I need to be to fit in? Each move forced me outside of my comfort zone, challenged my beliefs about the community I was entering, challenged my beliefs about myself, and ultimately took a piece of my heart.  As I settled in Toronto on a cold winter day in 2008, I’m not going to lie I hated it. I worked a government job I dreaded. The idea of staring at a cubicle workspace for the next 40 years of my life scared me more than the idea of leaving for the unknown. So I did. In 2013, after I ended a 3-year relationship and I had to move back to my parents' house, I took a leap of faith and left a permanent government job to work at an advertising agency, and make $20,000 less a year. Everyone thought I was crazy. Those government jobs are hard to come by, you know. And the benefits, the pension? You aren’t going to find that anywhere else. But I didn't care I wanted to go back to marketing, my passion that I have long abandoned. In just over 3 years, I doubled my salary and moved up quicker than you could say "Jack Robinson". I doubted myself so much at the start. I used to watch these "agency girls" and think; well they must be prettier, smarter, better than me. The self-doubt was real. You know that saying "whether you think you can, or whether you think you can't, either way you are right”. It’s definitely true. The moment I decided to try to give it my all, I realized that I was, in fact, more capable that I ever thought I could be. Recently I started an Etsy Store with a friend. I started making prints, cards and t-shirts with motivational and inspirational quotes that resonated with me, and triggered possibility within. On this journey of self-discovery I realized I want to work with people in some sort of coaching capacity, to help them break through their limited beliefs and live their passion. Something I'm trying to do myself. I got my NLP practitioner certification, and I hope to get my master practitioner next year. (NLP is the foundation of Tony Robbins' coaching). In March 2017, I am running a retreat in Bali, which is focused on mindfulness, yoga, meditation and self-discovery. It was sold out within 48 hours! The idea of putting together and selling out a retreat on the other side of the world seemed impossible just a few short months before that. "It's about embracing failure as a learning mechanism." Chasing your passion means to rid yourself of everything you thought you should do. Everything your parents, friends and society expected. It means going deep within yourself to find out what gets your heart excited? What is innate within you? What is your unique gift? What brings you joy? What would you do if money were not a concern? This is what I discovered through launching my online store. I never saw myself as the creative type but I knew I had creativity somewhere within me. I knew I was resourceful enough to make shit happen. Behind every product is a story. Whether it's a quote that puts me in a good mood when I read it, or a shirt I put on with an empowering saying that makes me feel like a bad-ass. Creating products that inspire happy, purposeful lives, that is my passion. Today, the store means so much more. It’s not just a side hustle. It’s a story of how I changed and started to understand my emotions, my choices, becoming clear about what I want and how to make it real, a journey of accepting and discovering, of creating more of what I want in my life. I believe in the concept behind my store because it works: when you think better, you get better results. Chasing my passion means building on this concept and expanding my line of work, evolving my business to reach more people and encourage them to chase theirs. #MyCanada  is a place that turned from a cold, foreign, uncomfortable place to a one of warmth, community and sense of belonging. It's about having compassion for people and acceptance of our differences; it's about opportunity to go out there and make anything happen, a place where you feel safe taking risks, because there will be someone to catch you when you fall. It's about embracing failure as a learning mechanism; where failure is looked upon as just a stepping-stone to success; it's about being surrounded by creative energy and people who don't wait for things to happen to them. They go out and make things happen.

Peace Community: Michelle Wong

Hi my name is Michelle Wong and this is #MyCanada. I was born in Jamaica and moved to Canada when I was four years old. I currently reside in downtown Toronto in an apartment which has a beautiful view of the city. Although I sometimes imagine what life would be like if I had never left Jamaica, and lived in warm weather on a Caribbean beach, I still find myself feeling very blessed every day. I am in love with this city Toronto and believe that no matter where you are, you can always practice gratitude; my mantra in life is to expect nothing and appreciate everything. Toronto has been a wonderful city where I can connect with like-minded individuals from a diverse backgrounds, who share my commitment to give back to the community. "Toronto has been a wonderful city where I can connect with like-minded individuals from a diverse backgrounds." As a successful business owner at Michidean for over 20 years, I have been fortunate to dedicate my time in event planning and public relations with charitable and community related endeavors. In the last few months I have participated in many events and charities such as working with the Sunshine Swim Team which is dedicated exclusively to individuals with development disabilities, and organizing reach-out programs for childhood development. I am proud to have helped my parents build a successful Jamaican Patty empire, which has been running since 1979, and I know that I will help carry my family’s legacy for many years to come. In addition to running my business, I am also a Program Coordinator for Trust 15, which is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to empowering youth in our community. I love children and it makes me happy to contribute to their development and education. "Helping others and encouraging them to succeed, has given me such a great sense of fulfillment." I value the need to support small local businesses and creative entrepreneurs. This year I have connected with growing businesses including: Fresh House, Prepshop, Among the Pines, Meet the Moose, Chic Made Consciously and Ave Mariabell Designs. I am most proud to be an ambassador for Ave Mariabell Designs, where I was privileged to help launch our “Project City Love,” fundraising campaign. It always brings me great pleasure to introduce like-minded individuals such as Ave from Ave Mariabell Designs who contributes to community related endeavours. This month Ave Mariabell Designs and Peace Collective have connected to support an Indie Film TO event, which aims to build Mental Health awareness. I have built a life in Toronto that is dedicated to giving back to the community, and for me this is my true passion. Helping others and encouraging them to succeed, has given me such a great sense of fulfillment. I believe there is always time to make a difference in someone’s life. Chasing your passion not only means seeking to accomplish what you have always dreamed of, but it also means helping as many people as you can along the way.

Peace Community: Katie Shim

My name is Katie and #MyCanada is finding greatness in everyday moments. It's not about having one awesome thing happen and then you thrive off that energy for a bit, perhaps experience a high, come off of it and wait for it to happen again. It's about cultivating that creative energy, that consciousness in a sustainable way so you can live your life fully, truly, patiently, and authentically, everyday. "What you seek is seeking you." What you seek is seeking you. I've been having a lot of consistent blissful days filled with heart-to-hearts and soul talks. Yoga and climbing. Good food and good friends. I looked back in my journal and on the first day of August, I wrote out what I wanted my life to look like: "bliss, exercise, interaction with others, growth, reading, self-care, collaborative projects, creating, walks, health + wellness, stretching, achievement of something difficult, long-term goals, feelings being honoured, shared experiences, traveling, sunshine, independence, trying new things, being comfortable with uncertainty, lifting others up, and abundance." As I was driving to hang out with a friend yesterday, it dawned on me that I WAS living this life, right now, truthfully and authentically. Without fully consciously realizing it, I had been working towards this for the past two months or so. My YouTube channel was underway and my Instagram feed breathed adventures. I was spending a lot more time outdoors in nature doing Yoga. I was connecting with people consistently—through my job as a Casting Camera Operator and in my own life. My heart and soul are happy and I find myself feeling high on life. What you seek IS seeking you. It's really beautiful to reflect on how writing down things manifests them in your real world. Magical. As one of my favourite authors, Paulo Coelho from The Alchemist said, “There is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it's because that desire originated in the soul of the universe... The soul of the world is nourished by people's happiness.” “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” So as we approach the end of the week with Mercury back from retrograde, check in with yourself. Seek your truth and be fearless in knowing what you want. What do you seek? This question just made me realize how proud I am to be able to identify as a Canadian. #MyCanada to me looks a lot like seeking adventure, truth, compassion, and living life mirroring the pace of nature. Slower, patient, and trusting. If we are kind to ourselves and live our lives embracing what is around us, then comes the greatness in everyday moments. It looks like human connection, outdoors, kindness, and maybe a beavertail / poutine thrown in there too. "If we are kind to ourselves and live our lives embracing what is around us, then comes the greatness in everyday moments." The concept of chasing my passion means seeking connection with myself and living life in alignment to my values. I'm a strong believer that one needs to address these things in order to live their life passionately, honestly, and authentically. I've been having quite a few conversations with some beautiful souls and time and time again, this topic has come up. How do you figure out what you want to do? How do you go after your passion? I learned from a mentor of mine that there is always too much time for a job, yet there is never enough time for a career. What does that mean? A job will always leave you feeling like there's so much time to go. Two more days until the weekend. Three more hours until we're done the day. Thirty minutes until lunch. A career though will leave you feeling like there's never enough time to do what you need to do. A career is something that's sustainable. That makes you feel excited to do what you do. That jolts you awake in the morning and makes you excited to live. A career, in ways, should be synonymous with your passion. How do you find that? You take a look at how you want to live your ideal day. So many people I know look for jobs, trying to find criteria that matches them. It needs to be the other way around. We don't have to find a job where we fit it. A career needs to fit us. So you need to ask yourself: what do you want your life to look like? What does your ideal day look like? Who do you want to be in it? Where does this happen? How does it feel? Until we address these questions and develop a strong sense + connection to ourselves, that when we can really start chasing our passions. It might not even feel like chasing / work because by then you have done the work to open yourself to the possibilities of what will come your way. Live your life in alignment with your values. What you seek is seeking you.

Peace Community: Kiefer Ortouste

Hello there! My name is Kiefer Ortuoste, pronounced or-toos-tay, (just because it's always mispronounced), and this is #MyCanada. I’m 18 years old and I was born in Toronto and raised in Markham, and my story begins around five years ago when I got my first camera phone. I always had an interest in art and graffiti and cool photos, then when I got my first camera phone, I was quickly introduced to photography and documenting, and I was immediately hooked. I constantly took photos of everything that inspired me; it was like an addiction. Recently, I’ve become a lot more serious and it’s something that I am truly passionate about. "The more I find myself in Toronto the more the support grows." Currently, I lack two things from growing as an individual in the field: opportunity and support. I’ve tried to tackle any opportunity that comes my way, but it just hasn't come by that much. Through all the hardships, the disappointments, the “plateaus”, and the rejection, my love for my passion and my love for my city continuously gives me the motivation to continue down this path. The more I find myself in Toronto the more the support grows. More have helped and joined me on my journey. I search for connections with others because I care about people and their stories and being Canadian has helped me build those connections. "To chase your passion is to find your gifts, your purpose, and utilizing it in the world." The concept of chasing your passion is so simple, yet it seems so complicated. To chase your passion is to find your gifts, your purpose, and utilizing it in the world for a greater good, not just personal gain. I hope to inspire and motivate people to chase their passion through my photography, while making meaningful connections in the community, join me!

Peace Community: Jordyn Bashford

My name is Jordyn, I am 23 years old and I am one month away from starting my career as a Registered Nurse, this is #MyCanada. During my time in university I worked part time along with my studies so that I could save enough money to fuel my passion of backpacking around the world. I recently came back from a 2 month tour of Eastern Europe, finishing off in the Middle East. In the years prior I have had the privilege of backpacking South East Asia, attending a yoga teacher training in Nicaragua, and camping through the South of Europe. I have met so many kind strangers from all over the world who have gone out of their way to assist me and have shown me that the world is not such a scary place. I have learned that the best way to see breathtaking sights and take in the culture is to completely immerse yourself in the experience, whether you are alone or with a friend. Sleeping on airport floors in Hong Kong, eating $1 pad thai from a street vendor, and lugging a backpack through the desert heat from the borders of Jordan to Israel doesn’t always feel glamorous. However, these are the moments where you learn the most about yourself. After visiting over 30 countries, I have inspired a lot of my close friends, family, and even strangers to go out of their comfort zone and travel to other countries. I have used social media as an outlet to share my experience and the beautiful things I have seen, in order to inspire others to make time for travel in their lives. So often you hear people say "I wish" or "one day I will..." and I think it is so important to do the work and manifest the things that you want NOW.  Although I have a strong passion for travel, I really take pride in my role as a nurse and a caregiver of others. I am proud to say that during my university career I have been able to put my own needs aside while caring in various settings including: emergency, the older adult community, newborn babies and maternity, mental health, and providing sexual education courses to low income teenagers. "I think it is so important to do the work and manifest the things that you want NOW."  I have had the opportunity to work in very diverse communities and care for patients who are immigrants who have recently started calling Canada their home. This has been such a privilege for me to be exposed to new cultures as well as meet patients who are from countries that I have traveled to before.  As I continue on my quest to travel the world, I have learned that the travel bug is not something that ever dies down. My desire to see different areas of the world continues to grow and I can’t wait to take nursing internationally. This is my goal because I want to care for people all over the world and make people healthier on a global scale.  Whenever I travel and people ask where I am from I am so honoured to be able to say that Canada is my home. The reaction I get from other backpackers is always so positive when they hear I am Canadian. I find it funny that the more I leave my country to see other places, the more I appreciate my roots. When I was too young to travel alone, I spent my summers in Muskoka working at a canoe tripping camp. This was an experience of a lifetime because I was given the opportunity to be exposed to Canada's natural beauty. Living in the forest with no technology and only the stars above your head is an incredible experience that I am so blessed to have been apart of. These memories are what I think of when I think of home.  Headshot by @beccaveyphotography Illustration by @ymonett  

Peace Community: Ave Abellanosa

Hi my name is Ave Abellanosa and this is #MyCanada. I am a small-town Aussie girl finding her way in Toronto. Just over two years ago I moved to Canada from Australia. I left with zero savings, a large increasing debt and only one suitcase to start a whole new life. This made the first two years in Toronto financially difficult but I was determined to make it work. I fell in love with Toronto; the people, the diversity and the indie lifestyle I have created for myself living downtown. Moving here has helped me reconnect with my passion for art and design. It started with the architect inside of me, wanting to draw the skyline of Toronto on my bedroom wall. So I did. Instagrammers fell in love with my ultra-modern, minimalist, artwork and they wanted to replicate my art in their homes. This is how Ave Mariabell Designs was created. I have an architecture background and I admire architects such as Shigeru Ban and I.M Pei. Although their designs belong to completely different styles of architecture, they are similar in their use of pattern, light and shade. I draw inspiration from this. I also see my designs akin to the Japanese shoji screen: very minimalist with clean, horizontal and vertical lines. I love ultra-modern interior design and I create international city skyline decors that compliment these spaces. The designs are a tribute to the cities that I have visited, lived and got lost in. I also create custom skyline designs, and I love hearing stories from my customers about how a city has changed their life. "Canada represents a place out of my comfort zone, a place that gave me the opportunity to re-create myself, find myself, heal myself, and build a life for myself." #MyCanada illustrates my love for this country because it has helped me grow into the person I am today. Canada represents a place out of my comfort zone, a place that gave me the opportunity to re-create myself, find myself, heal myself, and build a life for myself that I may have never had the courage to do in Australia. Toronto didn't change me; I just feel I learnt more about who I am, on the streets of Toronto. My ultimate dream is to be financially capable to travel freely back and forth to Australia, from Toronto. I believe the decision to leave home, and meeting many like-minded individuals in Toronto, who have a similar entrepreneurial spirit, has helped me to achieve what I have today.   We asked Ave, what does the concept of chasing your passion mean to you? A person who is chasing their passion has perseverance and discipline to pursue their dreams, despite any adversities. It doesn’t matter what life throws at you, pursuing a passion means that you will do what it takes to achieve your goals. It is ordinary people achieving extra-ordinary things that inspire me the most. Since moving to Toronto I have met a myriad of successful entrepreneurs, whether they run an online business, start-up company or making money on social media platforms such as Instagram. I love meeting talented and creative people who do not see things merely for what they are, they see them for what they can be. Ave Mariabell Designs is a series of modern, minimalist, city skyline designs. The designs aim to unite people together by celebrating common cities that we love, and cities that have touched our lives. Many of us are privileged to travel to these cities but unfortunately there are communities around the world with limited resources for shelter and don’t have access to these metropolitan environments. Project “City Love” is a fundraising campaign to raise funds for myself, and two ambassadors of Ave Mariabell designs, to help build homes in villages around the globe. The villages form a “City” environment for developing communities. We aim to make this an annual initiative and help a new village every year. Visit my Etsy shop, not only to contribute to a great cause but also to take a piece of the city you love home with you.

Peace Community: Kaja Jean

Hi everyone! My name is Kaja Jean, and this is #MyCanada. I was born and raised in Strathcona, East Vancouver- a neighbourhood mixed with artists, families, and many people living below the poverty line. I was lucky enough to spend a good portion of my youth travelling, including a year long immersion in Sicily when I was 16. This, mixed with my upbringing in a super diverse neighbourhood, opened my eyes to so many different walks of life. I was shown on a daily basis how lucky I was to be born in a country and family that, for the most part, encouraged me to follow my dreams. Even in the "western world", not everyone has the encouragement to pursue their passion from the media, the school hallways, or their homes. When I noticed this, it made me feel extremely well as guilty. How Canadian, right? Instead of being crippled by the guilt of opportunity, I learned that it is, in fact, important to find your passion in life. If you don't do what you love, you are only doing a disservice to the people around you, because spreading peace and happiness in the world begins with finding peace and happiness in yourself. "Once you have dreams, you learn the strength and sacrifices your dreams require." After finding my passion in acting and creative writing, it has definitely not been all smooth sailing. Actually, it's been a daily battle of highs and lows. Once you have dreams, you learn the strength and sacrifices your dreams require. Your highs can seem higher and lows lower than the average person, because every move you make means so much to you. I can't tell you how everyone deals with those lows, but I can offer the two things that work for me!  One thing that helps me deal with the lows is centering myself, preferably in nature. Even if I'm super busy, I make it a requirement for my mental health. Yes this is such a hippy-dippy suggestion, but trust me. In Vancouver we have mountains, forest, and beach at our fingertips; it'd be crazy not to utilize them! I am constantly amazed at all the natural wonders in this beautiful country. Live in a congested city? Even when I was living in the "concrete jungle", aka New York City, finding a quiet nook in Central Park was the first thing I did to recharge my batteries. When I center myself, I find that all the stress of the week floats away, and I am able to breathe and make space for creativity and positivity instead. "I believe finding our passion is the key to spreading it." The second thing that helps me is surrounding myself with people who inspire me. We don't have to be going after a common goal, but if we both have passion for something, cheering each other on means that much more, because we know how hard the other has to work. When the world feels hopeless I just talk to one of these people, and anything seems possible; whether it's my personal goals, or something as huge as world peace.  We all need a little more peace and happiness in our life, our friends' lives, and our strangers' lives. I believe finding our passion is the key to spreading it.