Char San Pedro is the founder of Good to be Good Foundation – a grassroots, non-profit community-based organization serving vulnerable and underserved persons and actively advocating for gender equality, social justice, and total equity. She is also a creative producer, music manager, writer, and model, who’s background has touched fashion, philanthropy, music, film and wellness. This gal can do it all.
In the lead-up to International Women’s Day 2020, when she will be hosting a panel of powerhouses at The Drake Hotel to discuss gender equality in this new decade, we sat down with Char to learn more about her work, the community surrounding Good to be Good, and how to fit in charitable work in the midst of hustle culture.
What inspired you to start Good to be Good?
Charity has always been an important part of my life and the moral makeup of who I am. My grandma nurtured the virtues of generosity and community and encouraged me to navigate through the realities of the world with eyes and heart wide open. In a world that promotes self-indulgence, cynicism, and individual isolation, my grandma knew life was so much more. I learned very early on that a life of serving is one of the most rewarding commitments you can ever make for yourself and for those you care about. The act of giving is more than the benevolent act itself – it’s an investment in the welfare of others that reaps lasting benefits for everyone. The concept of ‘charity’ has always been an evolving one for me, but this perspective has remained the same – no matter how small the deed may be, if it’s done with love and conviction, it will make a difference.
In 2015, I was volunteering at a local homeless shelter and I noticed the urgency for basic essentials. For my birthday, I asked my friends to bring canned goods, baby items, and new toiletries in lieu of gifts.
The tradition would continue for a year at any informal gathering we had going on. As an aside, it was during that time I noticed that a number of people really wanted to be of help and give back to their community but had no idea where to start. Upon reflecting, I realized that charity isn’t something we just do, it’s a vocation. A vocation that supports humanity; that brings people together; that turns intention into action; that helps advance common goals like making our communities more sustainable, inclusive, and equitable. I created the Good To Be Good Foundation in 2016.
During its inception, I considered the areas with the greatest needs, who we were going to serve, and our holistic approach to community-building. That was the springboard for our ongoing fundraiser events and localized initiatives – while staying rooted in our advocacy of gender equality, kindness, and how that all connects, together, on a larger scale.
Good To Be Good is more than a grassroots, non profit organization, we are a values-led movement that believes empowered and compassionate communities can generate social progress and that every person deserves to live a life free from violence, tyranny, and poverty. We’re still learning and listening, but at the core, we recognize that equality belongs to the responsibility of everyone and we honor that through the work we do.
Everyone seems to be busier than ever. Do you have any pointers for easy ways to make fitting in doing good into your schedule?
Doing ‘good’ doesn’t have to be a full-time job. You don’t need to have a certain income to make a pledge, or be well-versed in political policies to participate – you can do good just as you are!
Start by thinking about what matters to you and what concerns you. Have you noticed more people experiencing homelessness in your neighbourhood? Do you wish someone would clean up the park you walk by every day? Are you noticing your team members struggling with mental health issues? Maybe you witnessed someone saying a racial slur to the person next to you in the coffee shop. Just look around – there is always an opportunity to speak up and do something about the issues you care about.
An actionable step anyone can take is to volunteer. Finding time to volunteer for a worthwhile cause or community program is beneficial to those you are helping and can be great for you too. The biggest impact you can make with volunteering is by fulfilling the commitment so take a look at your schedule and priorities, and be thoughtful with your decision.
If you’re short on money or time, there are still ways that you can give and get involved. Donate unused items to a charity, check on an elderly neighbour, pick up trash in your building’s parking lot, adopt a vegan diet, celebrate a local female-founded business that has a give-back element, publicize your favourite organizations and events on social media. There are so many ways to care for the world we live in! Remember that you matter and what matters to you, matters. Therefore, no one act of kindness is ever wasted.
What are you looking forward to at our International Women’s Day panel on March 8?
I am looking forward to the dynamic conversations about the achievements and issues of gender equality that face us. Above all I’m excited to do this with some incredible people on the panel [Diviya Leonard, Paul Taylor, Karlyn Percil, Zahra Siddiqui]. I am equally excited to see the people in our community coming together to address and advocate what is important to us. I have every confidence that it’s going to be a wonderful event and that our panelists will leave a lasting impression on our guests.
What is the mission of Good to Be Good? Has this mission evolved over time since you started the foundation or has it always stayed the same?
Good To Be Good is a growing, non-profit organization based in Toronto. Our unabating mission is to ignite social change through the power of transformational goods, unbounded compassion, and action-based advocacy. We aim to strengthen the movement of lasting change and to break the cycle of poverty and injustice within our communities by supporting our local network of shelters and programs who work in the gender equality and humanitarian space.
The organization’s development goals are aligned with the SDG’s and we make this evident through our ongoing campaigns and fundraising efforts.
Since 2016, we’ve raised over $20,000 in critical donations and 25,000+ in-kind donated items for men, women, and their dependents in local communities who have been affected by systemic conflict, poverty, and marginalization. We are able to carry out our initiatives through the generous support of individuals, companies, sponsors, and partners.
Together with our community, we work toward a future where our fellow human beings can thrive in peace, liberty, and health so that they may have the opportunities to build the well-rounded lives everyone deserves.
What’s your favourite memory of The Drake?
I have this beautiful memory from when I was fiddling around with the idea of ‘Good To Be Good’ – it was during the holidays and I had this ritual of bringing all of my friends together for a “Friend-mas” brunch. As I mentioned earlier, I encouraged them to go to the store and buy non-perishable items for us to collectively stockpile and donate to a local shelter. It was an awfully cold Sunday afternoon, a time when most would prefer to be lazy snugly at home, and I had spent hours earlier that morning exhausting the feeling of no one showing up. I had reservations for 30 at The Drake’s famed main lounge and just as I had convinced myself that no one was going to come during one of the busiest seasons of the year and carry a bag of canned goods, friends started arriving and filling those seats. New friends, old friends, friends of friends – we were all there, huddled around each other, admiring each other’s presence while salivating over the dishes before us. We stayed for hours. I’ll never forget the feeling of being sustained by the joy that I experienced from being with loved ones and finding a way to do some good. It is preserved in my memory like a beacon in a lighthouse.