connecting small grants to big change

Connecting Small Grants to Big Change


Celebrating Women in Canada – International Womens’ Day 2012

March 8, 2012

Today, March 8th, is International Womens’ Day.  We took a moment to look back through all of the great projects which have been supported by Small Change Fund donors, and you probably won’t be too surprised to learn that many of them have been lead by inspirational women.

The very first successfully funded project was ‘Help Save Fish Lake From Acid Waste’, lead by a group of dedicated and passionate women from the Tsilhqot’in community.  Today we celebrate Xeni Gwet’in elder, Mabel Solomon, who spoke out against the destruction of pristine Fish Lake on her people’s ancestral lands. With your support, the mine plan was cancelled and Fish Lake was saved.  

The Hamilton Fruit Tree Project appeared on Small Change Fund back in early 2011, and was a hit with donors. Project Leader Juby Lee works hard throughout the year to co-ordinate and manage teams of volunteers to harvest fruit from local, urban trees which is then divided between homeowners, volunteers and food banks. This fresh, organic fruit is then diverted from becoming food waste.  Thank you Juby for continuing this wonderful work in Hamilton, and for being an inspiration to all the new projects popping up all over Canada.

Jessie Housty brought us one of our Seven Small Wonders of Canada projects in June 2011 ‘Inspiring First Nations Citizen Scientists’. She is a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation, whose traditional territory stretches around the coastal community of Bella Bella, BC and is the Director of Traditional Ecological Knowledge for Qqs (Eyes) Projects Society, an indigenous-driven non-profit organization whose suite of programs focuses on engagement, education and advocacy around the stewardship of Heiltsuk cultural and natural resources. Jessie was also a finalist for Ecotrust’s 2010 Indigenous Leadership Award. 

Today we would also like to recognise our 14 female Advisors from all over Canada who volunteer their time to source great projects, and to vet the projects appearing on this site to ensure that the projects have lasting impact in their communities and in Canada.  Each of these inspiring women are leaders in their feilds of expertise, and you can learn more about them by visiting

Of course, we couldn’t let International Womens Day pass by without recognising our fearless leaders in micro-philanthropy and grassroots giving – Mary McGrath & Ruth Richardson.

Mary McGrath - FounderA passionate environmentalist, Mary McGrath has been at the helm of both Citizens’ Environment Watch, and Environmental Defence, where she developed and  She has lived in West Africa and the Caribbean while working in the area of environmental education.

Mary has served on the Board of Directors of Environmental Defence Canada, as well as serving as advisor to grantmaking committees of the Laidlaw Foundation and Metcalf Foundation. In 2005 she was awarded a Toronto Vital People grant from the Toronto Community Foundation. On top of all this, Mary joined Ruth in founding Small Change Fund just a few weeks after giving birth to her second daughter, and earlier this year she gave birth to a son. Wow!


Ruth Richardson - FounderOver the arc of Ruth Richardson’s career in environmental philanthropy she has been involved in many different “acts of creation,” including Small Change Fund in 2009.  Her most recent venture is The Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples in Canada, an open network to promote giving, sharing, and philanthropy in Aboriginal communities across the country.

Previously Ruth was the first Director of the Unilever Canada Foundation, working within a corporate environment to lead the company in environmental philanthropy and community engagement, and the the founding Chair of the Canadian Environmental Grantmakers’ Network. She also sat on the founding advisory committee of the Laidlaw Foundation’s Children and Environmental Health program helping to initiate a key program on toxics reduction in Canada. Ruth was the first Environment Program Director at the Metcalf Foundation that has been the cornerstone of innovative environmental policy funding in Ontario, she is on the founding board of the newly established Prince Edward County Community Foundation, helping to shape the organization into an effective change agent for local action. On top of all this, Ruth runs a successful consultancy, raises three children, and farms garlic in Prince Edward County. 

Be sure to celebrate the amazing women in your life today – and every day!

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