Best of Canada 2010
Originally published in KA MAGAZINE 3rd ISSUE
What do you do when the one person that you have been with 24/7 for lets say 10 years of your life, goes away on vacation and you have to stay at home with the kids… how do you cope? Well, what if you had to watch this person; the person you loved and identi ed the most with in your life, in front of you pass-away and there was nothing you could do… then what? How would you cope? I think that most people would not think of starting one of the most successful charities in North America, or for that matter not just become a straight on victim.
Recently, I met allot of people who have gone through serious shifts in their realities and it is interesting to see that a common thread for positive recov- ery from these life hits was to focus. Not throw yourself into life, not retreat from it, but to put on the blinders, and just get in the race.
Joelle Adler has done just that, she is President and CEO of Diesel Canada, creating one of the most beautiful stores in Canada. (The 7500 sq feet Diesel store in Toronto is to stores what Petrus is to wine lovers: perfect). This wasn’t the thing that created the most healing for Joelle, it was a promise that she made to her dear husband which gave birth to the OneXOne foundation and a mission to help children everywhere.
When I started KA magazine a year ago now, I did not know of Joelle, I had heard of OneXOne, but didn’t go really deep into research. As fate would have it, OneXOne kept on popping up and with it Joelle Adler. So it was not surprising for me when Teresa Silvano (marketing director of KA) came to me with the brilliant idea to interview Joelle. I just looked at her, smiled, and said “What took you so long?”.
To make things even more poignant, as if meeting of two kindred spirits was not enough, the day of the interview with Ms. Adler after many failed at- tempts to get both our schedule in sync, was none other that Jan. 13 13h00 the day after the devastating 7 earth quake in Haiti. At this point in time, the Earthquake took more lives than even could be counted as all phone lines and communications were down in one of the poorest countries in the West- ern Hemisphere. Here we were, on our rst meetings to speak about what we were doing for children, and this woman during the meeting was actually doing it right in front of me : she was fully engaged with raising monies for Haiti.
KA — When you look at the issues that most of the (so called) third world are facing – and the seeming simplicity of some of the solutions : i.e. Nets for beds and vaccine for malaria. How do you control the urge to scream at everyone you meet to wake up and help?
JA — I nd the key is to stay focused, but for me even the word focused is not a strong enough word, I am consumed. The children’s causes around the globe are astounding, noth- ing less can drive you when you wish to do as much as you can in this context. There are times when I do wish to scream, but that was before now, I just have less tolerance for bullshit. “Oh my God I have a cold, I don’t feel good”… that sort of stuff, you know when people tend to focus on tiny things and make it much worse when there are billions of people that actually do not even have the luxury of choice. In our case it is just a cold grab a hold of your self and get in the game. Even with this, I do believe that we are fundamentally good at our core and if given the right education about the issues we will do the right thing.
KA — How do you create a real awareness in people who are literally shell shocked by the enormity of the Global crises facing us that they actually would rather place their heads in the sand until it goes away and all becomes well again?
JA — I met people before who had no real education on what it meant to give, i.e. Implication vs. just writing a chq. As well as to open your heart and become empathic to the situations around us. This morning I received a call from a beautiful man, Edward Rogers. Here is a man that went beyond just writing a cheque! He was engaged in life and what others are going through, rst thing this morning I received a call from him to offer an incredible amount of money to Haiti and was willing to work with me to get his amount doubled. He is a different man now, he actually cares, he doesn’t have to be shaken, wined, and dined (though this is also a pleasant thing but sometimes we need to go beyond this) he is self motivated to do what he is able when the need arises.
KA — What affects you the most about the seeming lack of response to the issues facing Children all over the world?
JA — I let little affect me, I try not to waste time, unless it is my own time. When it is not my time, I work with blinders on and I just go. I need to push the message the value of one life. There is a truly special saying that if you save one life, you save the Universe. It is a metaphor… but one to make you pause.
KA — Love: how important is this in your work, and would this be your main driving factor in the work that you do daily?
JA — Love is everything, really this might sound trite or cliché, but love really is everything in the context of what I do. The rst time I went to Africa I went alone, I thought why would I be talking about doing what I wished to do in this part of the world if I wasn’t even on the ground. You can say things, but you truly have to experience it if you wish to deliver the truth. I don’t know about most people, but for me the rst trip to Africa had it’s share of anxieties. You take all the shots that they say you should take but at the end, they have created no pills for stereotypes and fear, so there you are with sickness and poverty all around you, but something very special happens if you are as lucky as I was; you begin to experience a profound love from total strangers that sometimes rival even that of people you have known for years and a love so strong you are unable to do anything other than respond, at the end of this you are left knowing that we are all connected.
KA — How important is having and keeping a positive attitude to you in the context of the work you do with One X One?
JA — You need to learn to love you have to send positive ener- gies out to people around you and out to the world at large. Imagine for a second we were always positive. Imagine this; everyone sending positive vibes out to everyone around the world. Just a thought. I am not saying that I am a Saint, I mean I get upset sometimes but my door is always open, I never close the door on anyone and I don’t keep the negative energies in my heart.
KA — One of the most bizarre things that I ever heard is people not wanting for your charity to succeed. To me that is impos- sible to even comprehend, can you help me with this one?
JA — Why would someone want to destroy something created for the sole purpose of giving , created to feed, clothe and shelter children. Why? One word : “EGO”. The ego is the biggest destroyer of all good things. If your ego is so big that you would rather own than share, well this is the reason someone would try and destroy a charitable foundation. The great thing though for sure is that good things will always create good Karma, this I have witnessed many times.
KA — Music has always seem to be at the front line of all fund- ing drives, a sort of common denominator in all things that has sel ess giving as an end and creating awareness. Why do you suppose music plays such a large role in motivating people to take action in cases that do not on the surface affect their daily routine, such as poverty, and the by product of poverty?
JA — Musicians are open, I think that the creative processes for true artists is a one of being open to something outside of themselves and it is this that also makes the artist much more sensitive as a person. This sensitivity can’t not result in a per- son who cares about what is happening around them, coupled with the draw of music and the common ground that is music this creates a power force for change. Sure, there are allot of artists that do not get it at all, they just don’t- but then, there are the Matt Damon’s of the world, someone who will get the call and be on the plane and on the ground in days.
KA — Dealing with poverty and it’s effect is one thing, but how do you deal with the mentality of poverty in countries where people have abundance, but they see only lack. How do you motivate people to give, when they have sort of become numb to “bad news”?
JA — Yes people are “numb” to the bad news but this attitude doesn’t change the fact that something still has to be done by those who are not numb. This is where my focus lies.
I think the president of Rwanda has the right attitude. He does not wish to have “do-gooders” in his country, he feels they are actually creating the problem in their attitude towards the people they are there to “help”. He doesn’t see his population as needing pity, he sees that they need training and opportuni- ties to be part of the global market. That’s why even for me, I wish to show kids as always being happy. I don’t think that it is in getting pity that we will make lasting change. Hope and dig- nity are two very important things in life… imagine if you will, for a moment you are a mother sitting in a hut with your 4 year old in your arms who you are sure will die this night from the fever he is running and why? Because you did not have clean water. So here you are sitting in the dark, because you have no electricity, with a dying child in your arms and possibly also a poisonous snake in the hut just waiting until your desperation is unbearable before it bites you and sinks yet another poison into your blood. This situation is Hopeless this situation is hap- pening right now even as we are speaking.
KA — How important is it to stick with the message and is there a time when you are tempted to go away from the mes- sage to say, land a big sponsor?
JA — I always try to take the positive out of everything that I am dealing with, I take the positive out of what people are bringing to the table all the time. If someone wishes to be doing some- thing with OneXOne- we stick to the message, it is about doing something for children. I remember the time we got the call from Pepsi, they had wanted to highlight there water division but you see, our cause was also drinking water and this was not in alignment to our core values as we wished to serve tap water at our events with lemon but still tap water. I felt it would be unfair to not serve tap water. I left allot of zeros on the table at the end of that phone conversation, but I had to stick to our core beliefs.
KA — What has been the simple most signi cant act of sel ess love that you have witnessed in the context of One by One?
JA — It isn’t so much an event as it is a person; Paul Farmer from partners in health… he is a leading expert in AIDS pan- demic. Here is a man that was in Haiti 25 years ago when no one was even speaking about this country much less what aids is doing there. He runs a foundation with a 100 million dollars budget per year. He has given his life and family to the cause, he lives in Rwanda and Haiti. Here is someone who is a busi- nessman with medical degree and a “walking Saint” with no EGO. I deal with people who have much less to deal with on a daily basis and right now, he is on the ground in Haiti after a devastating earthquake yet he took the time to respond to my email. Now that is something that moved me.
KA — This is the big question, whomever you speak to about Charity and the state of the big “Companies” that are at the front lines there are more and more stories of abuse. Be they true or not you will constantly hear about the Louis Vuitton eld worker. How do you address this situation, is there a way to do away with the big three or four that are taking care of “third world” aid.
JA — I think things have to be a two pronged approach, over the past 50 years there has been close to a trillion dollars put towards the global issues affecting the poor, we see that this formula is not it, but it does save lives so we cannot just throw it out and start the case over. We need to keep it, while adapt- ing to new ways that bring in the natural entrepreneur spirit. Recently we started a basket weaving co-op in Rawanda, today it has 175 workers and it is even shipping to Macys a 6000$ order that was placed for the basket. Now this might not seem like allot, but imagine what this is in such an reality… see now, you get it.
KA — Sometimes when I think of the issues facing Children in poverty around the world the situation feels like emptying the Ocean with a thimble, how do you relate to this?
JA — We need to not stop we must go your like a race horse you just gotta run. We will never see the nish line in our life- time but hopefully we will inspire others to continue the race.