People I'd Like to Have Coffee With

Updated: Apr 28, 2019

The world is filled with amazing people with amazing stories. Some of which I have been fortunate enough to meet, although their names are not known nor are they celebrities. There are few celebrities I would want to spend time with, too many are shallow as reality TV has shown us. Today I heard a 76 year old woman speak about her experiences running an orphanage in Cambodia and was amazed by the stories of the children in her care. If I could fill an autograph book it would be with signatures from people like her, people who make a difference. I want to use my time better, fill it with learning about courageous people and those who truly have made a difference in this world.

A list of people I would like to sit and have a cup of coffee with to hear their story:

Angelina Jolie: Ok so she is a celebrity, however, she does make a difference in this world. Her stories are interesting. I don't care about what kind of toothpaste she used I do care about why she makes the choice to help others, what drives her to make the decisions she makes.

Lt. General Romeo Dallaire: Former UN leader to Rwanda, author of two books about his experiences in Rwanda, and Senator of Canada. He choose to be a witness to one of the most horrific events of modern times. His courage to inform the world about the war crimes he saw and how the international community did nothing to stop it is an example of a hero. His first book, Shake Hands with the Devil, was made into a movie starring Canadian actor Roy Dupuis.

Bobby Sager and Family: This amazing family left behind a life of luxury in the pursuit of helping others. As a family they gave up their wealth centered life to invest in those that want to help themselves build a better life. The short lived TV series, the Philanthropist, was loosely based on his life. The stories he must still have to tell about how and why he helps helps others. He has met with leaders of compassion such as Mother Teresa and the Dali Lama.

Bono: I don`t want to talk about music or his fame but about how his fight for Africa. He has convinced many influential and rich people to give their wealth to charity. I want to know what drives him and his stories about what motivated him to focus on the needs of the African nations.

Survivors of Conflict: I have met a Sudanese lost boy, a Serbian refugee, and people who lived behind the former Iron Curtain. I have heard missionaries share their stories, struggles, and need. These people are amazing and there is so much to learn from their stories about how to succeed in life.

Hilary Clinton: A strong woman who is truly amazing.

Only a few people in the world have enough money to be philanthropists and only a very small percentage of those live a life of philanthropy. I admire those that are so grateful for the blessings God has bestowed on them they rise up and make the world a better place. Many rich people give to charity for the tax credits and boost to their image, but these people are not who I am talking about. Don't get me wrong the money these people give is valuable to the world but I'm talking about the rich who walk the walk everyday.

Bono is an example of a celebrity who utilizes his blessings to help those in desperate need. His voice for change has become part of his personal brand, his image, what he is known for. It is his actions that inspire others to change, to rethink what they give and up the anti.

Angelina Jolie lives a life of philanthropy by where she goes, what she gives, and the organizations she's set up. Their everyday lives are incorporating giving and making a difference. They do more than just open their cheque book at a benefit dinner, they show up, they speak out and they give.

There are people out there who gave up the benefits of western living and have gone out to work daily at making a better life for others. These people should be our celebrities. These people should be our role models. These people should grace the covers of magazines and top news stories.

The Internet has provided the public with access to the good works other people do. It has enabled those of us stuck in the traps of the western lifestyle to feel good by giving a few dollars to help them. What it should be doing is celebrating them, raising them up and inspiring us to do more, be more, and strive to be better.

I came across an interesting blog today called How I Changed the World Today. Everyday Julia does something to make a difference to a stranger in the world. Her giving is beyond anything I've ever seen or heard of. It may not be the millions that celebrities or the rich give but her giving is more valuable.

It got me thinking, what if everyone set out to do something to change the world? Even just the little things like a smile or general courtesy. What if we did something everyday to make the world a better place. There is so much that we could do, so much that we probably already do.

Here are some ideas:

1. Use manners and courtesy with everyone you meet

2. Write a note of encouragement or give a gift to someone who is struggling

3. Give to a charity, not just money but your time and talents

4. Pick up litter and garbage

5. Recycle

6. Get involved in a cause, whether political or not

7. Think of others before yourself

8. Buying Free Trade items

9. Be joyful and positive

What are some of your ideas or things you do to make the world a better place?

The Free the Children organization has developed a way for families, schools, and individuals to get involved in changing the world for the better. Their programs are designed to help kids become global citizens and look beyond themselves to those children in need elsewhere.

Their 10 by 10 project asks people to list 10 ways they are going to change the world. Just by listing your 10 ideas you will start to take steps at being a global citizen. In return a $10.00 donation will be made by Aviva to help 10 children.

Their family programs provide ideas and support for families to work together to do something to help others in adopted villages. The kids and I will be discussing what we want to do to change the world.

The school programs are the most extensive programs they have. They offer resources for the classroom, speakers for assemblies, and mentors for the children.

I know that my kids teachers have already planned out their curriculum but I want to ask them to look into this program for the kids. Even if its an extra curricular activity for those students that are interested. I am hoping that my son will take up the cause and help to make it a reality in their school. It is a leadership opportunity for him that will teach him more then any book can.

The school is amazing at teaching the kids about being stewards and taking action for others. So far this year they have partnered with Artist's Response Team to teach stewardship for the environment; with Right to Play to teach stewardship for children in the 3rd world who don't have sports equipment; with a local women's shelter at Christmas to teach giving; and with an organization that is helping Haiti to teach them about responding to an emergency. All these programs affect the children and help them become better caring citizens.

Charity and giving make a lasting impression in children, especially when their parents are a part of it. A few weeks ago my daughter (7 yrs) and I had a special mom and daughter day in Vancouver. It was filled with amazing moments and fabulous memories but the one that my daughter kept talking about was when she gave. After lunch we left the restaurant with a full doggy bag of a meal not touched. We passed a homeless man and I stopped and asked if she would give the man our doggy bag. She lit up and as she offered it to him so did he. Everyone standing around waiting for a bus had huge smiles for her - I asked her how she felt and she was "happy." The feeling of giving, of doing something for someone else is something every child should experience.

Practical Ideas for You to Help the Homeless

Ann Veneman, Chief of UNICEF, spoke to mark the Universal Children's Day and the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child at the UN headquarters in New York, about how far they have come to improve the lives of children in the world.

Although they have raised awareness, put a child's face on the AIDs/HIV epidemic and increased the amount of children being educated, there is still so much that needs to be done. In her report she stated:

"I have spoken to girls in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where sexual violence, pillaging, burning of homes and killing define their daily lives."

"I have met boys who were abducted from their families and forced to wage war in their own countries, sometimes even in their own communities," .

"The world must build on the progress achieved to ensure that stories such as theirs become part of the past,"

These stories always effect me but I don't know what I can do. Most people aren't heartless, they feel for those less fortunate then they are, they just don't know what to do. Giving money is easy and for most, who are just trying to get by, not always an option.

What can we do to make life better for those children around the world who are living nightmares?

The if it's Hip It's Here blog has posted a full photo spread of the new Asprey Jewelry line designed by Pitt and Jolie. The proceeds from the Protector line of jewelry will go to the Education Partnership for Children of Conflict Organization. Personally, I don't like the snake themed jewelry or the idea of a snake as a protector - but that's my Judeo-Christian upbringing talking. However, I can see how this cultural icon has made its way into the hearts of this family and now will come to protect other Western families, thanks to these designs.

Click to view pictures of the jewelry pieces designed by Jolie and Pitt Takes awhile to load so be patient.

Asprey Jewelry Official Images and information on the Jolie - Pitt Protection Collection. Not all pieces shown.

Angelina Jolie is an amazing woman, an inspiration to many in this world to do what they can to help others. She could have been like other celebrities and only thought of herself but she has chosen to be more than that. She has shown the world what celebrity can do to help change the world. She not only brings awareness but also gives millions from her own pocket through the Joile-Pitt Foundation.

Since Brad Pitt has the same heart it is no wonder he fell in love with her and choose to leave Jennifer Aniston. It is tragic that Jennifer had to be hurt in this but the world has benefited from his contribution of time and money. He became a better person as a result of Angelina's example.

Anonymous donations and quiet contributions by celebrities are beneficial as well, however they miss the opportunity to utilize their celebrity to bring global awareness and change through the media. I realize many celebrities hearts are just as big and their contributions to those less fortunate are no less valuable than those made by Jolie-Pitt. The only thing that is missing is the constant media coverage that inspires others to do something outside themselves.

The Jolie - Pitt family does not use charity opportunities to increase their fame but rather use their fame to increase the charity's opportunities. The way they live, how they constantly contribute and the way they are raising their children are proof that their hearts are in the right place.

Most celebrities inspire people to wear brand names, look a certain way, or be shallow. Paris Hilton's new reality show 'My New BFF' is a perfect example of celebrity used for selfish shallow reasons. The qualifications to be her new best friend are so shallow it is pathetic. I hope to raise my daughter to laugh at celebrities like Paris Hilton and Value celebrities like Angelina Jolie. Since most celebrities are like Paris Hilton it will be an uphill battle for sure.

Angelina is one of my few heroes, my mother and grandmother being the only other two. There is no other celebrity that inspires me to be better or to want to be like them as much as she does. I don't have the money, talent, or fame that she does but I am a mother, a woman, and I can see outside of myself to make a difference.

Whether we spend money to see movies like, Blood Diamond, Lord of War, and SlumDog Millionaire or we watch CNN or read articles in Time we know what is going on in the world. We know about the atrocities that children of civil war, refugee camps, and slums face every day and we do nothing.

I am reading a long way gone: memoirs of a boy soldier by ishmael beah and feel fortunate that he has the courage to tell his story. I have been honoured by a former refugee of Somalia and another of Kosovo when they told me their heart wrenching stories.

Stories that were hard to tell, stories that cause nightmares and would rather be forgotten. I am very thankful to those that have taken the time to sit down with me and relate them to me. I feel very fortunate to have known these people and to know their courage and how they helped others to get through it. Although I rarely have crossed their paths again, I consider them people I will always consider heros.

They are heros, not because of what they indured, but because of what they choose to do during that time. How they helped others, lead others, or helped others understand.

I do what I can to help - send money to those in the front lines making a difference. Is it enough?

Global Action for Children .... More on the Subject....

In most poverty stricken countries parents sell their children into slavery. Sometimes they are tricked with the promise that they are sending their children to work as domestic help. Sometimes though they know their daughters are going to brothels and the money is worth more to them.

The Child Slavery story by Time journalists Alex Perry and Jonathan Taylor tells about how parents profit from their daughters work in brothels.

I can't imagine for the life of me what it would be like to sell my daughter, let alone into a life of prostitution. Do these parents weep? Do they regret? Do they think about their daughters? Do they even care? I could not continue to live knowing my daughter was in pain let alone if I put her there.

For years I have sent money to either World Vision or Foster Parents Plan. When I was young my parents sent money to World Vision. Has it made a dent? Does any of the money help out? It sounds like things are only getting worse regardless of these types of organizations.

Is there a solution? Probably not an easy one because any solution would mean those with money would have to think of others and care about the faceless poor.

Chocolate and Child Slavery

Child Slavery in Modern Day America and other Industrialized Nations

Disabled Children Sold into Slavery

I love chocolate, who doesn't? Everything tastes better with chocolate right! The Ivory Coast in Africa uses child slavery to produce cocoa beans. By buying chocolate I feel like I'm supporting child slavery so no more chocolate.

Fair trade chocolate is OK to eat but if it doesn't say fair trade you don't know where it comes from.

Child Slavery in Modern Day America and Canada

Chocolate and Child Slavery

BBC News report on Child Slavery in Western Africa

ABC News Photo Journalism Story of a Life of a Child Slave

This post was from 2011 - I edited the Angelina Joli part because there is no more Bragelina. I haven't met any of these people or anyone like them - yet.

Shannon Peel is a storyteller through fiction and marketing brands. You can find more about what she does at

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