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FINDING HELP ON A PARK BENCH: Speaking about mental health is frowned upon in Zimbabwe, as in many other places. Add to that, there's a shortage of professional help. Only 10 psychiatrists and 15 clinical psychologists serve more than 15 million people in this African country.

So, how can they help people with everyday problems in a nation where employment is rampant and more than 70 per cent of people live below the poverty line?

Dr. Dixon Chibanda, a psychiatrist at the University of Zimbabwe, came up with the idea of The Friendship Bench. This is literally a simple wooden park bench located on the grounds of medical clinics around Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe.

Community members, many of them grandmothers, are trained to listen and support individuals struggling with mental stress and anxiety. According to a recent study, mostly women visit the bench. Some are HIV positive and many have experienced domestic violence and physical illness.

Maria Makoni, a 49-year-old unemployed mother of three, began therapy earlier this year. She told the Guardian, "I was desperate to find someone to talk to about my problems. When I speak to them, I feel like a load is lifted off my heart."

To date, the Friendship Bench project has changed the lives of an estimated 27,000 Zimbabweans.

Several of the women have started to meet regularly to share experiences and create large, colourful shoulder bags, known as "zee" bags. They use their earnings to buy food for their families and cover other expenses.

With funding from the Canadian government, the project has been scaled up to cover 70 clinics in the cities of Harare, Gweru and Chitungwiza.



SHARING TO CELEBRATE CANADA: In 2017, as Canada turns 150, people old and young are sharing their stories and creating projects in communities from coast to coast to coast.

Alliance 150 is the national hub for projects and events to mark Canada's 150th anniversary of Confederation. Check the action out here.



GREEN AGING: There may be a climate skeptic in the White House, but that hasn't dented the resolve of older Americans to create a green legacy for the future.

Gray is Green, the National Senior Conservation Corp is an educational group that fosters green living and advocates for sound public policy.

Harry Moody, Board President of the Gray is Green organization, urges older adults to use their voting power and other resources to tackle our warming world.

Writing in The Public Policy & Aging Report (Vol. 27, No.1, 2017), Moody talks poignantly about his one-year-old granddaughter: "By the year 2088, when my granddaughter has reached my age, I will no longer be here. But the results of acts of omissions of my generation will still be here."

He concludes his article with words from the Talmud:

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief . . .
You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it.



ONDAATJE ON DEATH: Near the end of his novel The English Patient, acclaimed author Michael Ondaatje captures something of how death defines us:

We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves. I wish for all of this to be marked on my body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography . . .