What can I do, today, to make PEACE? This question came to me today via a beautiful cause.




What can I do, indeed? I can share how PEACE can happen and how I/we can make a difference in other people’s lives and have the next generation be better off because of our efforts.

 Peace, I like the sound of that!


In 1999, my husband and I were blessed to be able assist some refugee families from Kosovo. Our task was to assist them with daily things; shopping, banking, getting them to doctors appointments, etc. Little did we know, at the time, that 13 years later we would have created bonds with so many folks who are part of our extended family. I won’t talk of the war, as I’m not capable of that and there are far better sources.


What I can share, how one child was carried in his mama’s belly. His Mom walked for 24 hours, stayed in a refugee camp and then was relocated to Canada. Teuta, the mother told me, she just did what she had to do. As I listened to their stories, I couldn’t imagine their strife. Everything was strange to them. They were not on vacation. They were transplanted, under horrific conditions, to another country. All around us, always, were children. They laughed and giggled and helped us all get through… and then;


A Child was born. Flamur Haxhiavdija came into the world with flaming red hair and a smile. To this day he smiles and jokes and loves. His name means ‘flag’ and in my mind Flamur carries the flag of Peace.




I interviewed Flamur.


I remember when I met you, your bright shiny eyes lit up the room. You were a ray of hope and love to all of us after what your family went through. I’ve always enjoyed being around you and talking with you. You are, I believe, an old soul!


When I learned that you were the valedictorian for your grade seven class, I was touched and proud beyond words! YOU had to be included in my blog about inspirational folks and happenings.


How old were you when you came to Canada?


I was 7 months, in my mothers’ belly


How old are you today?


I just turned 13.


You are very close to your immediate family, your extended family and your honourary family (like us). What does family mean to you?


It means I have people that love me and take care of me and I have younger people I can take care of. I know I always have them through thick and thin and they would walk to the ends of the world for me. There are countless things they would do for me. My honorary family, even when I don’t spend much time with them, I know whenever something is needed they will help. Especially how you and Chris helped me and my family move to Canada. Also, I count my “distant” family as immediate family.


What inspires and/or motivates you?


I am inspired by what people have accomplished after what they have gone through. I am also motivated by what I can be and what others have done. I want people to know me and to become successful. 



Do you know why you were chosen valedictorian? How did you feel about being chosen?

I was chosen because my friends nominated me, then we had a vote and I was chosen. I felt happy because I knew I could make my family and classmates proud.


I know you could be prime minister if you choose to! Do you have any idea of what you want to be/do after high school?


I would like to do something like snowboarding or professional hockey player but that is a dream I am trying to achieve. My more realistic dream is to become a lawyer. 


Do you have a mentor, someone who you look up to and who you’d like to emulate?


I look at my mom and dad and what they have been through and what they accomplished; raising three children and being so wise. When I grow up I wish to accomplish as much as my parents.


What is your favorite subject in school? AND if it’s different what subject do you get the best grades in?


I like P.E. and math and I get A’s in both subjects.


Do you have hobbies and if so what are they?


I like to go outside and play with my friends, play video games, and snowboard.


Do you enjoy sports? What ones? Do you play any?


I love playing and watching sports. I play hockey competitively and watch soccer and hockey. I love soccer but play hockey. I especially love snowboarding.


I am happy that I live here.


You live in a truly multi-cultural city, do you believe equality for all is possible for your generation?


I hope so. So far it is because in our generation many things have passed even when there is still hate we can all be friends.


Where are your parents from in Kosovo?


My mom is from Prishtina and my dad is from Gjakova and I was born in Canada.


Flamur’s valedictorian speech!


Good morning parents, students, teachers, and classmates. Thank you for joining us at our ceremony. Our years at False Creek Elementary include many great memories and unforgettable times. Like the field trips during the winter Olympics, cross country skiing, and camping. We’ve made many friends from kindergarten all the way to grade 7 who we will now go to high school with, be teenagers with, and grow up with. We’ve all learned many lessons during our elementary years. From one plus one to textbooks are for reading, not for sleeping on, Also, what do we do when the bell rings? “ANDALE ANDALE!”


These lessons have shaped us into who we are today.



All men dream, but not equally.


“Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”~ T.E. Lawrence


But I would like to say the dreamers of the day in this class will not be dangerous but will be successful and will accomplish great things. Even though we are very happy to be moving on to high school there is no doubt we will miss False Creek. Even if we don’t miss it now later in life we will.


On behalf of the class of 2012, I would like to thank our parents and teachers for their unconditional support and guidance throughout our journey. Many thanks to Mr. Proctor for being with our class for the past two years and taking us on so many field trips. Cultus Lake was one of the best field trips we’ve had, and I have the sunburn to prove it! Mr. Proctor has given us much advice, like “try to be on time more often” and “Slow plankton sink very slowly,”. All jokes aside Mr. Proctor has helped us so much and prepared us for high school. No matter how much we want to leave elementary school and move onto our next wild journey called high school we will miss the easy homework, the teachers we grew up with and friendships and memories made. Congratulations and good luck to the False Creek graduating class of 2012.


So a baby was born to bring peace and he brought so much more, to so many more.

Go forth and prosper, Flamur! I LOVE you!

UPDATE: Flamur was also Valedictorian of his grade 12 class… he’s an inspiration!




Flamur was also chosen by his peers as Valedictorian of his Grade 12 graduating class. He shared with me that speech.

“Good afternoon parents, teachers, staff, and graduates. Thank you for joining us today. Congratulations on making it this far graduates. Some would say we have completed the easiest part of life, but there was nothing easy about this year, trust me I barely passed yoga. In grade eight we were a bunch of baby-faced kids who were told there was a pool on the fourth floor. Now, we are a class of grade twelves who really wish there was a pool on the fourth floor. We are a class ready to take on the challenges of life, such as choosing the right caption for our Instagram photos. Nonetheless, we are a class of talented athletes, artists, musicians, and scholars who are going to strive for success wherever life takes us. We have grown up so quickly from grade 8. It is interesting to think some of us voted in this years provincial election and that in a few months some of us will be going to university or working, yet to this day we would have to ask the teacher for permission to go to the washroom. On my very first day of grade eight the first words that were told to me when I stepped into the big gym were “The next five years are going to flash before your eyes.” Easy to say that now that we are done. Ms. Mingo followed that up by telling us to enjoy our time at Kitsilano, and that we did. We enjoyed the indoor track meets, field trips, sport events, art shows, and most of all we enjoyed that blissful sound of the bell at 3:03. However, there were less enjoyable times such as Planning 10, the beep test, CAO’s and realizing that you won’t be getting any sleep tonight because you left all your homework to the very last day. It is important to learn from your mistakes, so did we? Yes. We learned to become more proficient at copying homework. There were definitely more sleepless nights to come but they were made easier because of group chats on Facebook. When I was supposed to be writing this speech I was scrolling through Facebook and I came across a photo my former rugby teammate shared. The photo was a quote by a famous rugby player, Sir John Kirwan and it read “I often say rugby is like life. You can have the ball in your hand and be running down the field feeling unstoppable. Then someone tackles you and you hit the deck and you’re vulnerable; you’re lying there exposed. Suddenly your teammates are there, not just over the ball but over you, protecting you. They’re prepared to put their bodies on the line for you. That’s what happens in life: you fall over and your mates come to your aid.” This quote represents our class. Whenever any our classmates needed help we would be there for each other. Whether it was explaining homework, giving life advice, or just cheering each other up, we always made time for one another. We are a group of kind and accepting people and it makes me extremely proud to say I am a part of the Kitsilano Graduating class of 2017. Now you have probably heard this from your parents, teachers, and other inspirational speakers but now you can hear it from one of your peers.

Never give up on yourself.

If I listened to anyone who said I was not cut out to be valedictorian I wouldn’t be speaking to all of you right now. In life there will be times when you will be pushed to your absolute limit and all you need to remember is that in order for there to be good times, there has to be tough times. Resilience and perseverance are key. I cannot count the times I have seen students struggle to fight sleep in order for them to keep working. That’s because we knew what we had to do. Get above a 67% so if you get 0 on your final you can still pass the course. If it weren’t for the people around me I couldn’t have done it. I am extremely grateful for my family, teachers and friends who helped me get here because without them none of this is possible. When you achieve your goals, remember to thank those who were there to help you along the way, because without them those goals would have been unattainable.

I would like to thank some individuals for making my experience at Kitsilano so unforgettable. First off I’d like to thank my parents and grandparents. They have given me the best life I could possibly ask for. Thank you To my teachers who educated me. Thank you To Mr. Staller and Mr. Williams who taught me lessons on and off the playing field. Thank you To my sisters who did most of my homework. Thank you To Michael Raper who assisted my one goal for the Kitsilano soccer team and special thanks to the boys who made Saturdays so great.

In the end, Ms. Mingo was right, the last five years did flash before my eyes. Time flies when you’re having fun. It seems like yesterday that we were in the big gym being introduced to highschool and now we are saying goodbye. A temporary goodbye. We may venture off as far away from Kitsilano as possible but we will always be connected through it. I can’t wait to see what the Kitsilano Graduating class of 2017 brings to the world. Teachers, staff, family, students and the world!

For more on creating peace go here.

Inspire someone today!

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For an inspired vacation…

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