For 25 years, Canada has been building a coast-to-coast trail. It's almost done.

Valerie Pringle lives life by a quote attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."

After a long and successful career in broadcasting, Valerie has dedicated herself for nearly 15 years to The Trans Canada Trail Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that's building one of the world's longest recreational trails from one coast of Canada to the other.

And, after nearly 25 years of work, they're almost done.


The Great Trail, when finished, will be roughly 15,000 miles long. Image by The Great Trail, used with permission.

The Great Trail, as it's called, started in 1992 on Canada's 125th birthday. New trails were forged and dedicated across the nation to celebrate the event.

Pringle says the founders of the organization had the simple but powerful idea of connecting all the major trails across Canada.

"They had this inspiration that all Canadians should be able to see [the different parts] of their country," Pringle says. "But who knew it would be so hard?"

The Coastal Trail in Fundy National Park. Photo by Parks Canada and the Province of New Brunswick, used with permission.

Pringle joined the team in 2002. For the past couple of years, she's worked tirelessly to raise the $75 million needed to finish off the 25-year project — just in time for Canada's 150th celebration.

Fundraising challenges were tough, but there was also the little matter of working with hundreds of different agencies, private land owners, and community leaders across Canada's provinces and territories.

"It took about 60 years to build the Appalachian Trail," she says. "We had to be patient."

The Celtic Shores Coastal Trail. Photo by Nova Scotia Trails Federation, used with permission.

By rehabilitating old trails, connecting new ones, and dedicating portions of land along the way, the foundation has created a truly impressive network of gorgeous landscape across Canada.

It's all connected or will be very soon — everything from urban walkways, quiet countryside roads, paddling trails, and deep wilderness paths.

Best of all, Pringle says some portion of the The Great Trail is half an hour or less away from about 80% of the population.

Ridge Road Heritage Trail. Photo by Greg Skuce/Yukon government, used with permission.

If one were so inclined, they could start on a trail in Victoria, British Columbia, wind their way up through Yukon, then trek their way east into Nova Scotia and beyond.

Ride the Sky Trail. Photo by Al Skucas, used with permission.

That's Pringle's favorite part about the project. Not just the preservation of nature, but the way it unites Canadians in a tangible way.

Slave River paddling. Photo by The Great Trail used with permission.

"I tell kids, 'If you turn this way, you can go to St. John's, Newfoundland. If you take a right in Alberta, you can head all the way to the mouth of the Mackenzie River," she says. "You can really think global."

While a few people are indeed currently hiking, paddling, and cycling their way across the entire nation, for most Canadians and visitors, the impact will be much more local.

Trenton Steeltown Park. Photo by The Great Trail, used with permission.

Even Pringle, who has visited many, many pieces of the 15,000-mile trail, has a nearby slice she considers her own.

"My favorite part is along the Niagara River. That's my own personal piece of trail. I walk my labs there, I walk my granddaughter there."

The Great Trail is on track to be fully connected by the fall of 2017, but that doesn't mean the work is over.

Banff Legacy Trail. Photo by Betty Anne Graves, used with permission.

Once all the connections are made, Pringle says the team will continue to renovate and beautify portions of the trail for a long time to come.

In the meantime, Pringle and other members of the Trans Canada Trail Foundation consider this project to be one of the most meaningful parts of their legacies.

"I'm now 63, and this is something I left behind of value," she says. "It's the ultimate gift to Canadians from Canadians."

Canadians who, no matter the distance or cultural differences between them, have always been connected to one another by a love for their country. The Great Trail is simply a wonderful reminder.

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan
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Growing up in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan always loved the ocean. It's why she decided to study marine biology. But the more she learned, the more she realized that it wasn't enough to work in the ocean. She needed to protect it.

"I see the ocean ecosystem collapsing due to overfishing and climate change," she says. "I felt powerless and didn't know what to do [so] I decided to pursue my master's in environmental management."

This choice led her to work in environmental protection, and it was fate that brought her back home to the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia — one of the last places on earth where species such as tigers, orangutans, elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros still live in the wild today. It's also home to over 300 species of birds, eight of which are endemic to the region.

"When I first flew over the Leuser Ecosystem, I saw an intact landscape, a contiguous block of lush, diverse vegetation stretched through hills and valleys. The Leuser is truly a majestic landscape — one of a kind."

She fell in love. "I had my first orangutan encounter in the Leuser Ecosystem," she remembers. "As the baby orangutan swung from the branches, seemingly playing and having fun, the mother was observing us. I was moved by the experience."

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

"Over the years," she continues, "the encounters with wildlife, with people, and with the ecosystem itself compounded. My curiosity and interest towards nature have turned into a deep desire to protect this biodiversity."

So, she began working for a government agency tasked to protect it. After the agency dismantled for political reasons in the country, Farhan decided to create the HAkA Foundation.

"The goals [of HAkA] are to protect, conserve and restore the Leuser Ecosystem while at the same time catalyzing and enabling just economic prosperity for the region," she says.

"Wild areas and wild places are rare these days," she continues. "We think gold and diamonds are rare and therefore valuable assets, but wild places and forests, like the Leuser Ecosystems, are the kind of natural assets that essentially provide us with life-sustaining services."

"The rivers that flow through the forest of the Leuser Ecosystem are not too dissimilar to the blood that flows through our veins. It might sound extreme, but tell me — can anyone live without water?"

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

So far, HAkA has done a lot of work to protect the region. The organization played a key role in strengthening laws that bring the palm oil companies that burn forests to justice. In fact, their involvement led to an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind court decision that fined one company close to $26 million.

In addition, HAkA helped thwart destructive infrastructure plans that would have damaged critical habitat for the Sumatran elephants and rhinos. They're working to prevent mining destruction by helping communities develop alternative livelihoods that don't damage the forests. They've also trained hundreds of police and government rangers to monitor deforestation, helping to establish the first women ranger teams in the region.

"We have supported multiple villages to create local regulation on river and land protection, effectively empowering communities to regain ownership over their environment."

She is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year. The donation she receives as a nominee is being awarded to the Ecosystem Impact Foundation. The small local foundation is working to protect some of the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered leatherback turtle that lives on the west coast of Sumatra.

"The funds will help the organization keep their ranger employed so they can continue protecting the islands, endangered birds and sea turtle habitats," she says.

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen. Do you know an inspiring woman like Farwiza? Nominate her today!

Jennifer Lawrence

After being a Hollywood staple, Jennifer Lawrence vanished from the public eye following the release of "X-Men Dark Phoenix" in 2019.

Sure, the pandemic had something to do with that … in addition to the usual way our society treats Hollywood "it" girls, once it grows accustomed to the flavor. But in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Lawrence opens up about some other reasons she chose to step away for a time.

Lawrence went from being a highly sought-after Oscar-winning actress to starring in less-than-successful films like "Passengers," "Mother!" and "Red Sparrow." The films were not only poorly received among critics, but commercially as well.

"I was not pumping out the quality that I should have," she told VF. "I just think everybody had gotten sick of me. I'd gotten sick of me. It had just gotten to a point where I couldn't do anything right. If I walked a red carpet, it was, 'Why didn't she run?'"

So then, why do it? As any workaholic would know, it's about so much more than money.

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Courtesy of Ms. Lopez
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Marcella Lopez didn't always want to be a teacher — but once she became one, she found her passion. That's why she's stayed in the profession for 23 years, spending the past 16 at her current school in Los Angeles, where she mostly teaches children of color.

"I wanted purpose, to give back, to live a life of public service, to light the spark in others to think critically and to be kind human beings," she says. "More importantly, I wanted my students to see themselves when they saw me, to believe they could do it too."

Ms. Lopez didn't encounter a teacher of color until college. "That moment was life-changing for me," she recalls. "It was the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin as a student. Always remembering how I felt in that college class many years ago has kept me grounded year after year."

It's also guided her teaching. Ms. Lopez says she always selects authors and characters that represent her students and celebrate other ethnicities so students can relate to what they read while also learning about other cultures.

"I want them to see themselves in the books they read, respect those that may not look like them and realize they may have lots in common with [other cultures] they read about," she says.

She also wants her students to have a different experience in school than she did.

When Ms. Lopez was in first grade, she "was speaking in Spanish to a new student, showing her where the restroom was when a staff member overheard our conversation and directed me to not speak in Spanish," she recalls. "In 'this school,' we only speak English," she remembers them saying. "From that day forward, I was made to feel less-than and embarrassed to speak the language of my family, my ancestors; the language I learned to speak first."

Part of her job, she says, is to find new ways to promote acceptance and inclusion in her classroom.

"The worldwide movement around social justice following the death of George Floyd amplified my duty as a teacher to learn how to discuss racial equity in a way that made sense to my little learners," she says. "It ignited me to help them see themselves in a positive light, to make our classroom family feel more inclusive, and make our classroom a safe place to have authentic conversations."

One way she did that was by raising money through DonorsChoose to purchase books and other materials for her classroom that feature diverse perspectives.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

The Allstate Foundation recently partnered with DonorsChoose to create a Racial Justice and Representation category to encourage teachers like Ms. Lopez to create projects that address racial equity in the classroom. To launch the category, The Allstate Foundation matched all donations to these projects for a total of $1.5 million. Together, they hope to drive awareness and funding to projects that bring diversity, inclusion, and identity-affirming learning materials into classrooms across the country. You can see current projects seeking funding here.

When Ms. Lopez wanted to incorporate inclusive coloring books into her lesson plans, The Allstate Foundation fully funded her project so she was able to purchase them.

"I'm a lifelong learner, striving to be my best version of myself and always working to inspire my little learners to do the same," she says. Each week, Ms. Lopez and the students would focus on a page in the book and discuss its message. And she plans to do the same again this school year.

"DonorsChoose has been a gamechanger for my students. Without the support of all the donors that come together on this platform, we wouldn't have a sliver of what I've been able to provide for my students, especially during the pandemic," she says.

"My passion is to continue striving to be excellent, and to continue to find ways to use literature as an anchor, depicting images that reflect my students," she says.

To help teachers like Ms. Lopez drive this important mission forward, donate on DonorsChoose.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

This story was originally published on The Mighty and originally appeared here on 07.21.17


Most people imagine depression equals “really sad," and unless you've experienced depression yourself, you might not know it goes so much deeper than that. Depression expresses itself in many different ways, some more obvious than others. While some people have a hard time getting out of bed, others might get to work just fine — it's different for everyone.

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Photo by Vanessa Garcia from Pexels

A professor's message to students has gone viral.

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A college student posted screenshots of a professor's message on Twitter with the comment "someone PLEASE check on my professor." It's simply incredible.

The message reads:

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