Toronto university student founds business while seeking summer job

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Keith and Christy Murton celebrate their silver business anniversary alongside Sierra and Dakota, their two dogs.

Keith Murton wanted a summer job. But the 21-year-old security guard was tired of working indoors. Starting a business was his only answer.

“It was something I wanted to do outside,” Murton said. “I started (the Kutting Krew) with two friends from Ryerson (University.)”

It wasn’t long before he borrowed money from his parents, acquired a lawn mower and started advertising the trio’s grass-cutting service. One friend named their business after the popular 80s band, the Cutting Crew.

 

After designing and printing  5000 advertising flyers, the young Krew found starting a business wasn’t easy. Knocking door-to-door was time consuming and required the investment of many unpaid hours.

The original group disbanded after several weeks when one friend quit, preferring to hold onto his other job, while the second took some of the customers and formed a separate business, following a disagreement.

It didn’t stop Murton. He kept the name and continued running business from his parents’ basement, encouraged by their first success with a customer.

“It was pretty exciting, like, oh, something worked,” he said. “Before you sign up your first customer, you think you’re never going to get one.”

During his first year, Murton worked on 17 lawns. He remembers his parents were very supportive and understanding, especially when Murton got the family car dirty, which he used to transport the lawn mower.

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Disability accessible travel technology provides independence and confidence

(December 2015)

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Laila Grillo climbs Switzerland’s Mt. Altmann, in her homeland. /// photo courtesy of Laila Grillo

She can climb mountains, ski and speak four languages; but Laila Grillo could not attend language school in Ireland, because “they didn’t want a blind student.”

Others told her it was impossible to pursue a farm internship once she expressed her interest to study international agriculture, yet since then, Grillo completed two internships and is currently enrolled in her fifth semester at the Bern University of Applied Science, in Switzerland.

 

The 24-year-old doesn’t let people tell her what she can or cannot do, but seeks ways to work around any circumstance, instead.

“I never had a school saying we don’t accept blind students,” Grillo said. “I was sad, because I couldn’t go with my class, but at the same time I was also lucky to come to Canada.”

Grillo is fond of travel and passionate about both mountain, as well as rock climbing. She also visited Italy, France, England, Wales, Liechtenstein, Spain and eventually Ireland, scaling nine mountains and various indoor climbing walls, including those in her Swiss homeland.

At that time, she studied economics and languages to become a business employee. Currently, Grillo speaks Italian, German, French and English. During her mandatory studies in an English speaking country, she lived in Toronto with her friend, Sheila Ford.

According to Ford, all that could stand in the way of success for Grillo and others with disabilities are people, not a disability itself.

“I know this from personal experience, because of being deaf myself, there’s a huge price you pay for it,” she said. “The stress of trying to become a part of the world that you would usually be excluded from.”

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Voluntourism: good, bad and ugly

(November 2015)

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Hoi Yee Ding /// photo courtesy of Ms. Ding

A former lifeguard, weighed down by 30-50 lb. equipment, struggled while learning how to swim all over again along the Honduras Barrier Reef, scuba diving and collecting data for Reef Conservation International.

 

Hoi Yee Ding’s childhood dream lay under the sea, but the 30-year-old Toronto clerical worker left behind her passion, marine biology, back in university.

In 2014, years later, swimming around vivid parrot fish, queen conchs, dangerous sharks and invasive lionfish, rekindled what Disney’s The Little Mermaid first inspired in her life.

“You sometimes move away from passion and rediscover it when you have a chance,” Ding says. “That’s why I wanted to look for volunteer experience in marine life. The first few days (diving) is a little bit scary, it’s literally learning how to swim all over again.”

Changing her regular vacationer routine after travelling across North America, Europe and Asia, she searched for possibilities to give back to the world and planet Earth.

A research report by travel analyst Henry Harteveld, shows Ding is one of over 3.5 million people embarking on international volunteer trips each year. The multi-billion dollar volunteer tourism industry – also known as voluntourism – is the fastest growing sector in the travel space, according to CBC documentary Volunteers Unleashed.

It is also the most controversial, following instances where voluntourists take jobs beyond their training or ability while rushing to provide international aid.

“Medical students operating on people… the dangers of that,” says Jacob Taddy, founder and director of Onwards Inc. “Or I think teachers is the one that really hit home with me, we wouldn’t allow a random high schooler to walk into our elementary school and teach our kids, but it’s totally fine over there (in developing countries.)”

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Parkour women are on the rise

(October 2015)

Each day is a journey for Brandee Laird. Living in motion, the 28-year-old pulls herself over walls and balances on rails. Running both indoors and outdoors, the head coach of Seattle’s Parkour Visions Gym vaults over fences, flips off bars and rolls across various types of terrain.

She hosted the fifth annual North American Women’s Parkour Jam for the first time in July 2015, welcoming 75 women travelling from across the United States and Canada for a two-day weekend event in Seattle, Washington.

“It was surreal to host the event,” Laird said. “It was also powerful and touching to visually see the impact of my leadership, as if they were all trying to prove to me – and some do, verbally – that I am a valued part of our community and an inspiration to many.”

But this self-described warrior-poet is not alone; along with other Parkour leaders, they coach women and men alike in a discipline originating from France in the ’90s.

Dan Iaboni is the head coach at Toronto’s Monkey Vault Movement Training Centre – the world’s first Parkour Gym opened in 2008 – he sees an increasing popularity among women in what used to be a male-dominated discipline. He trains classes that started having an equal participation rate among both men and women.

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Canadian provincial funding continues to combat hate crime and investigate paper

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HCEIT Analyst Ashley Sametz, Supt. Pat Dietrich and Beaches-East York MPP Arthur Potts, announced provincial plans against hate crime at Community Centre 55 on July 16, 2015.

Beaches-East York MPP Arthur Potts announced Ontario will continue funding a provincial investigative police force of 15 services, with an additional $399,000 over the next two years, in order to fight against hate crime.

Potts delivered his speech on July 16, 2015 at Community Centre 55 alongside Superintendent Pat Dietrich and Analyst Ashley Sametz, both members of the Hate Crime and Extremism Investigation Team (HCEIT.)

HCEIT gathers intelligence for police services, offering specialized support into hate-motivated crime investigations including hate propaganda, the promotion of genocide, as well as criminal extremism.

“In addition, the Ontario Police College will receive $50,000 over the same period to develop education and training programs about hate crime and extremism to police officers,” Potts said.

The province provided over $2.3 million to maintain HCEIT since 2003, when it first formed as a pilot project. At that time it was comprised of officers from Guelph, Hamilton, London, Ottawa and the Waterloo Region.

The network expanded over the years to include Durham Region, Halton Region, Woodstock, Toronto, York Region, Peel Region, Stratford, Brantford, Niagara Region and the Ontario Provincial Police.

Potts explained by monitoring extremist groups and sharing information between police services, they are able to anticipate problems and deal with them more effectively.

Supt. Dietrich appreciates the online support in particular, where social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter enable HCEIT to post content while engaging and connecting with users in a joint effort to watch out for the community.

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Freedom of expression, eh?

(February 2015)

Is freedom of speech always real?

Our planet is buzzing with discussions and stands in the name of free speech and press rights following the recent attack against the Parisian satirical publication, Charlie Hebdo.

Interestingly enough, the publication fired one cartoonist in 2009 after accusations that he was anti-Semitic — following his penned ridicule of Judaism.

So at what point do we draw the line… and cartoons are all about lines… between double standards?

First, let’s ask ourselves if freedom of expression stems from honest, genuine desire or a forced image, fabricated by the need to prove any point.

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