PGB Connects Season 3 E1


Emphasizing Empowerment

Welcome to our First Episode of Project Give Back Connects, Season 3. This year we learn from Legends. Individuals who have wisdom to share from their own unique lived experiences. This advice is absolutely priceless and we feel so lucky to be able to learn from these Legends.

Although we are now in an endemic phase of COVID-19, there is still a massive wake left behind. We are in a Mental Health Crisis. A good thing to know here is there are many professionals who are in a position ready to throw out a life jacket.

Our first guest was Leanne Matlow. Leanne is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Counsellor with a private practice specializing in anxiety for children and adolescents.  She is trained as a Teacher and Guidance Counsellor, with a Masters  from Toronto’s Institute of Child Study, OISE and certificates in CBT from the Beck Institute in Philadelphia.

Leanne has become a Mental Health Advocate who speaks regularly about anxiety in the classroom to parent and teacher groups. Leanne founded and organizes the annual ‘Mental Health Empowerment Day’ Symposium, which is coming up on October 19th. This year marks their 6th annual event.

Leanne learned from Ellen’s example, that if you have a dream, do something about it. That being said, this is how Mental Health Empowerment Day came to fruition. It was based upon the following three premises:

  1. Reach out and build community. After receiving a diagnosis, people often feel very alone and are left scarred and isolated.
  2. You need to be educated, learn the facts, and learn how to advocate for yourself
  3. Continue to end stigma. Lead with kindness, understanding and be extra sensitive to the things that you don’t see on the inside. Be proactive and learn the tools to allow you to help yourself and those around you.

Next up, we had a passionate speaker, educator and entrepreneur Dido Balla. Dido graduated with a Master’s of Science in Secondary Education from the Johns Hopkins University School of Education. Dido was a high school teacher, who founded a non-profit organization called, ‘FitLit’. Its mission is to use a blended curriculum of fitness and literacy to empower youth. As an experienced brain trainer, Dido has positively impacted thousands of parents, educators as well as students in the areas of emotional intelligence, mindful awareness, and positive psychology. He is currently the Head of Education for the Goldie Hawn Foundation, where his focus is to maximize the impact of ‘MindUP’ in schools, communities, and families. He is on a mission to make the world a happier, more productive, and more fulfilled place.

Dido spoke from the safety of hurricane-ridden Florida. Instead of dwelling on the weather conditions, he spoke about being grateful for the positive things in his life; ultimately the idea is to shift your thinking.

Dido was born in Cameroon and told how he ended up in the USA. He always knew he wanted to move somewhere else. He shifted his thinking from not speaking English to googling schools into the USA, travelling across the world, learning a new language and ultimately using his new skills to teach others. From there, Dido went on to start his own non-profit, mixing fitness and reading. Something in Dido told him to lean into what he knew, and make it happen, as he discovered that most of his answers came from within.

Dido shared some great insights. He said to think about what you have and what you can do. Learn how to lean into your inner voice. Your brain is the most important thing about you. You need to understand your brain and if you do that, you will understand your life. You should also practice emotion regulation everyday and keep your emotions in control. You can not control external factors, but you can control your reactions. He also said to practice Kindness, Optimism and Gratitude and make them part of your DNA. All great advice from a real inspiring leader!

Next, Ethan Young is a true giver, who at a very young age used to sing with Jacob. He is still a regular performer at ongoing Jake’s Jam Concerts, for a community of all ages and all abilities. Ethan says he gives back through his singing. It brings him joy to make others happy, and in turn, affects his mental health in a positive way. He made us all very happy by singing a beautiful rendition of ‘Killing Me Softly With His Song’, the Lauryn Hill and the Fugees version.

Final words came from Lindsay at One2GiveTo. Lindsay gave an update on a gently used clothing drive, called ‘New Circles’. New Circles is a clothing initiative that is set up to look and resemble a retail store, so people in need can shop in a dignified way. They also provide interview skills as part of their community service. Currently, they are in need of shoes. With drop spots everywhere, please consider donating shoes.

Thank you to all our guests for empowering us with their expertise.